On June 6, Sydney joined the nine other international film festivals to have reached their 50th year.

It was hardly a sparkling evening, however. And even though Larry Clark's controversial festival entrant Ken Park had been banned by the national censors only days before, no mention was made in the bland opening speeches.

Projection difficulties resulted in the occasional loss of sound or vision in the under rehearsed warm-up presentation. And the opening film - introduced by co-writer and co-producer Rick Kolowski as "a little comedy about ordinary people" - was disappointingly slight and unadventurous.

The Sydney Festival usually opens with the world premiere of a new Australian feature: Lantana triumphed in 2001. This year the opening film was The Honourable Wally Norman - the second production from Ocean Pictures following its world success with Rabbit-Proof Fence and preceding the much anticipated Frank Sinatra story The Night They Called It A Day.

An extremely odd choice for such a proud event, Wally Norman hit a minor note of home-brewed, TV-style jollity unlikely to have the slightest international appeal.

Running until June 20, the festival awards three prizes: two audience awards for Best Film and Best European Film and a FIPRESCI prize for best documentary. The event closes with Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool.

Festival director Gayle Lake has also scheduled a new directors program, a wide-ranging program of contemporary world cinema, and a spotlight on new Indian cinema, which will include director Buddhadeb Dasgupta presenting A Tale Of A Naughty Girl.