Australian auteur director Rolf de Heer has agreed to be president of the competition jury for the 2009 Sydney Film Festival (SFF).

The competition rewards new directions in film and organisers use words such as audacious, courageous, cutting-edge and emotional to describe the kind of films sought. It was launched this year and the first prize is A$60,000 in cash.

An award winning director himself, including the Cannes' 2006 Un Certain Regard special jury prize, De Heer is a strong advocate of the importance of competitions:

'For me the prize itself, whether the money or just the winning of it, is not significant. But it is significant that it gives to the filmmaker confidence, freedom and opportunity for their next project and the next,' said de Heer.

De Heer has served on juries in Naples and Goa. In Sydney he will lead a jury of two local and three international people. The others are yet to be appointed. De Heer was invited to be involved last year but declined for family reasons.

The 2009 SFF runs from June 3 to 21, although the option of eventually moving the festival to another time of year is still under consideration.

'No decision has yet been made,' SFF president Virginia Gordon told 'Our priority is to bed down the competition, consolidate the festival and secure sponsorship in what is a tricky financial environment.'

Traditionally, the program has had to be locked down before Cannes took place and shifting the event is seen by some as a way to secure fresher content.

But, according to Gordon, festival director Clare Stewart has outdone her predecessors on this front: Hunger came direct from Cannes and won Sydney's inaugural competition.