Selections include Solondz’s Life During Wartime, Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, and Lucas’ Wasted on the Young.

Next month’s Sydney Film Festival will see the work of renowned filmmakers Todd Solondz and Michael Winterbottom competing for Australia’s richest cash film prize alongside debuts from directors born in Romania, Iran, the UK and Australia.

The competition is for “courageous, audacious and cutting-edge cinema” and the finalists were announced in Sydney this morning by festival director Clare Stewart.

She also revealed that Australian film South Solitary, written and directed by Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade) and starring father and daughter Barry and Miranda Otto playing a cantankerous uncle and niece, will open the festival on June 2.

The Kids Are Alright, the family drama by Lisa Cholodenko (High Art), will close the festival on June 14.

The world premiere in the competition is the stylish, homegrown debut high school drama Wasted On The Young; the remaining 11 competition titles are Australian premieres.

The other three debuts are Women Without Men, which earned Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat the best director award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Four Lions, a comic story about four British jihadists by the UK’s Chris Morris, and Romanian Florin Serban’s If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle.

Serban’s film won this year’s Berlin Grand Jury Prize and if it wins in Sydney it will mean only prison films have ever won the $54,600 (A$60,000) prize: Hunger took home the inaugural Sydney Film Prize in 2008 and Bronson in 2009.

If Four Lions wins it will mean only films from the British Isles have won the favour of the jury which is this year headed by producer Jan Chapman (The Piano).

Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper will visit Australia for the first time to do jury duty and the three other jurors are yet to be announced.

Three of the competition titles will come direct from Cannes being prolific Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, and French Julie Bertucelli’s The Tree, the French/Australian co-production that closes Cannes.

Four Lions, dir Chris Morris (UK)

Heartbeats, dir Xavier Dolan (Canada)

How I Ended This Summer, dir Alexej Popogrebski (Russia)

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, dir Florin Serban (Romania-Sweden)

The Killer Inside Me, dir Michael Winterbottom (US)

 Life During Wartime, dir Todd Solondz (US)

 Lola, dir Brillante Mendoza (France-Philippines)

Moloch Tropical, dir Raoul Peck (France-Haiti)

The Tree, dir Julie Bertucelli (Australia-France)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, dir Apichatpong Weerasethakul (UK-Thailand-France-Germany-Spain)

Wasted on the Young, dir Ben C. Lucas (Australia)

Women Without Men, dir Shirin Neshat (Germany-Austria-France)


This will be the second year that the Sydney Film Festival has awarded a prize for the best Australian documentary and the finalists are:

Cane Toads: The Conquest, dir Mark Lewis

Drive, dirs Bronwyn Purvis, Telen Rodwell

Eye, dir Andy Canny

Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens In Australia, dir John Hughes

Mind, dir Emma Crimmings

New Beijing: Reinventing a City, dir Georgia Wallace-Crabbe

The Snowman, dir Juliet Lamont

Strange Birds in Paradise – A West Papuan Story, dir Charlie Hill-Smith

Three Boys Dreaming, dir Michael Cordell


For 22 years prizes have been awarded for Australian short films and the finalists are:

The Adjustable Cosmos (animation), dir Adam Duncan

Bad Language, dir Viron Papadopoulos

Deeper Than Yesterday, dir Ariel Kleiman

Glenn Owen Dodds, dir Frazer Bailey

How to Lose Weight in 60 Seconds (animation), dir Dave Carter

The Kiss, dir Ashlee Page

The LostThing (animation), dir Shaun Tan

A Parachute in Siberia, dir Ian Meadows

Pop, dir Tobias Anderson

Suburbia, dir Antonio Orena Barlin