The Sydney Film Festival this morning (May 14) announced the 12 films chosen for competition including Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric, which is the festival’s opening film.

The festival, which runs from June 3 to 14, will also close with a UK film, Lone Scherfig’s An Education Also, which is also in competition.

Five of the films in competition have strong European credentials besides Loach’s latest. They are Peter Brosens and Jessica Hope Woodworth’s Altiplano, a co-production from the region, Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine’s Louise-Michel from France, Tsai Ming-liang’s French/Taiwanese co-production Face, and Nicholas Winding Refn’s Bronson, from the UK.

Henry Selick’s Coraline and Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, both from the US, Alexey German Jr’s Paper Soldier, from Russia, and Sebastian Silva’s The Maid from Chile are also in competition.

Three Australian films round out festival director Clare Stewart’s selection. They are Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace, which won the critics award at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, Rachel Ward’s Beautiful Kate and Khoa Do’s Missing Water.

The official competition was introduced last year and recognises new directions in film and courageous, audacious and cutting-edge work. It carries a cash prize of $45,000 (A$60,000), the biggest film prize in Australia.

Stewart said: “It celebrates films that make you think and feel differently about both cinema and the world, and recognises bold ideas and decisions on the part of the creative teams.”

Beautiful Kate and Missing Water, a local films made in Western Sydney last year, will both have their world premieres in Sydney, as will a number of other new Australian films including Serhat Caradee’s debut Cedar Boys and David Caesar’s Prime Mover.

International guests at the festival will include Hong Kong director John Woo, whose historical epic Red Cliff will get its Australian premiere in Sydney, Teri Hatcher, who voiced both the good and the evil mothers in Coraline, and Sebastian Silva, director of The Maid.

Program strands include: Girls 24/7, a selection of films from the Sixities and Seventies by female directors; Sustainability, which celebrates the personal action that can be taken to stop the destruction of Planet Earth; Sounds on Screen; Family Films; and Accessible Cinema, a selection of titles about disability.

Stewart also announced the launch of a competition for Australian documentaries and released the names of the finalists for the Dendy Awards for short Australian films.