Ten of the 15 feature films in competition at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island Film Festival are debut films, which fits the competition aim of giving attention to emerging directors.

Filmmakers from 15 countries, including Paraguay, Croatia, Brazil and Russia, are in the running to receive best feature billed as an “award of encouragement for a new force in world cinema”.

Australia’s newest film competition — organisers are also billing it as the “biggest”, presumably because of the number of films in contention — is being staged from Oct 24 to 28 on an island in Sydney Harbour.

Cockatoo Island has some amazing industrial architecture - in one of its former lives it was a centre for boat building and the producers took advantage of this during the making of X-Men Origins: Wolverine - and some of these buildings are being converted to cinemas for the festival.

There are also 10 contenders in the documentary competition including some on very topical subjects: 1/2 Revolution is about those caught in the crossfire of the Arab Spring; No Man’s Zone explores the immediate aftermath of the Japanese tsunami; The Oath of Tobruk tracks French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy’s involvement in the Libyan uprising; and Sons Of The Clouds, is a chilling account of the dispossessed Sahrawi people, produced by actor Javier Bardem.

Co-directors Allanah Zitserman and Stavros Kazantzidis, the entrepreneurial couple behind the Dungog Film Festival, which screens Australian films only, are the brains behind the Cockatoo Island Film festival. They are also rolling out festivals in regional towns.

US film The Master, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, is opening the event and a gigantic picnic, a classic yacht race around the island and various industry events are included in the programme.

There is a jury prize, a young filmmaker of the year award and an award for best Australian short as well as the feature and documentary prizes. The recipient of a new indigenous documentary fellowship will also be announced during the event.

The competition films are:


  • 7 Boxes [pictured] (Paraguay), Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schembori
  • About The Pink Sky (Japan), Keiichi Kobayashi
  • Breathing (Austria), Karl Markovics
  • Broken (UK), Rufus Norris
  • Can (Turkey), Rasit Çelikezer
  • Dead Europe (Australia), Tony Krawitz
  • Donoma (France), Djinn Carrenard
  • Father’s Chair (Brazil), Luciano Moura
  • Four Suns (Czech Republic), Bohdan Sláma
  • In The Fog (Russia), Sergei Loznitsa
  • Night Boats (Croatia), Igor Mirkovic
  • Smashed (US), James Ponsoldt
  • The Most Fun You Can Have Dying (New Zealand), Kirstin Marcon
  • Practical Guide To Belgrade With Singing And Crying (Serbia), Bojan Vuletić
  • Turn Me On, Dammit! (Norway), Jannicke Systad Jacobsen


  • 1/2 Revolution (Egypt/Denmark), Omar Shargawi
  • Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (UK), Stevan Riley
  • First Comes Love (US), Nina Davenport
  • My America (Australia/US), Peter Hedegus
  • My Brother, the Serial Killer (Australia/US), Mike O’Neill, David Monaghan
  • No Man’s Zone (Japan), Toshi Fujiwara
  • Paul the Psychic Octopus (US/Germany), Alexandre O. Philippe
  • Sons of the Clouds (Spain/Africa), Álvaro Longoria
  • This Ain’t California (Germany), Marten Persiel
  • Trains of Thoughts (Austria), Timo Novotny