Sydney Film Festival: the non-film event guide

The sixty-fourth annual Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is back in a big way in 2017. This year’s massive program boasts an incredible mix of independent films, Australian and international works, documentaries, short films and world premieres. It includes a total of 288 films from 59 countries, and runs from June 7 – 18.

For SFF director, Nashen Moodley, “The [SFF] is a collection of perspectives from many of the world’s most interesting storytellers, who reflect our shared desire to understand today’s world – from refugees and gender rights, to attitudes about country and community,” he said at the launch event.

“A film festival is the one place where all of these perspectives come together and offer us a temperature reading of the global zeitgeist: of who, what, where are why we are today.”

However, the SFF is not all film. The program also includes an array of fantastic events, giving festival-goers the chance to listen in on live talks with directors, actors and curators from some of this year’s most anticipated films, as well as take in some of Sydney’s best art and entertainment.

Sydney Film Festival Opening Night 2016 at State Theatre.

Sydney Film Festival Opening Night 2016 at State Theatre.


Opening Night Gala

The SFF Opening Night Gala will be celebrated at the majestic State Theatre on Wednesday, June 7, with the world premiere of Warwick Thornton’s We Don’t Need A Map. Festival-goers who attend this event will be able to celebrate the festival in style, walk the red carpet with the stars, and gain exclusive access to the after party at the Centennial Hotel with the Opening Film Night + Party package. This event is your chance to rub shoulders with SFF’s international and Australian celebrity guests and film industry personalities at one of the city’s most beautiful theatres.

Wednesday 7 June, 7:30pm, State Theatre

Closing Night Gala

The Closing Night Gala will also be held at the State Theatre on Sunday, June 18, featuring South-Korean film, Okja, by director Bong Joon-Ho. Before the closing night’s film, this event will feature the annual awards ceremony honouring the winners of the Sydney Film Prize, the Documentary Australia Award, and many more. The gala night is the perfect way to bid farewell to 2017’s amazing festival – with acclaim and applause.

Sunday 18 June, 7:30pm, State Theatre


The Festival Hub at Sydney Town Hall is a 360-degree Festival experience, complete with filmmaker talks, panels, contemporary art and a virtual reality program, and runs for the entire festival.

VR and Art

For those with an interest in technology, the highly immersive experiences offered by VR collective, BADFAITH, introduce a whole new level of engagement – featuring playful, imaginative and intimate VR pieces including Japanese robots, dance battles on the streets of Sydney, an Antarctic dive and the story of evolution itself.

Sydney Contemporary’s Barry Keldoulis has also curated the works of four painters (Sam Holt, Jess MacNeil, Rochelle Haley and Ron Adams) to be showcased against the backdrop of VR, creating an engaging and beautiful juxtaposition of space in Sydney’s iconic Town Hall.

Free Parties

Sydney_Film_Festival party

Sydney Film Festival 2016 – Photographed by Rocket K.

The Hub is also hosting three massive parties throughout the festival. First up, to celebrate the premiere of Kate Hickey’s Roller Dreams documentary about California’s skate-dance scene, SFF is bringing Venice Beach to Sydney with the Roller Boogie Party on Sunday, June 11, featuring DJs Phil Toke and Alex Dimitriades, and real life skate dancers.

Next, following the screening of Derek Jarman’s 1978 cult classic, Jubilee, on Monday, June 12, The Hub is hosting a punk party featuring Australian band Nancy Vandal alongside former The Damned roadie, DJ Richard Kuipers. Celebrate the Queen’s birthday with what is sure to be a colourful and crazy night.

Finally, Australian indie icons, The Go-Betweens, will be venerated in a party that celebrates their musical legacy. Some of Australia’s best DJs will be covering everything in the band’s repertoire at the final party of the festival on Thursday, June 15.


All events at The Hub are free, apart from the VR sessions. The Hub is open to visitors on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 4.30pm to midnight during the festival dates.

Additional opening times:
Saturday 10 & 17 June: 11.30am – midnight  
Sunday 11 June: 11.30am – midnight
Sunday 18 June: 11.30am – 6pm


This year’s free festival talks create a space for audiences, filmmakers and industry professionals to progress a dialogue about the important topics and issues that the festival’s films aim to explore. The 2017 Free Talks program is presented at The Hub in conjunction with Vivid Ideas.

David Wenham at the Sydney Film Festival Program Launch 2017

David Wenham, Sydney Film Festival Program Launch 2017. Photographer: Belinda Rolland © 2017

Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture

This lecture is a free public event presented every year, commemorating the contribution of the man who helped establish the SFF in 1954, and served on the Festival Board until 1977. This year, David Stratton, former director of the SFF, film critic and author, is in conversation with one of Australia’s most respected actors, David Wenham – this huge event featuring two Australian film industry icons will not be one to miss this year.

Monday June 12, 4pm, Art Gallery of NSW

In Conversation with: Ben Mendelsohn

Following the screening of Mendelsohn’s latest film, Una (also starring Rooney Mara) he and director David Caesar will discuss both the film and Mendelsohn’s extraordinary career from its beginnings in Australia to his more recent international successes.

Saturday June 10, 2pm, The Hub Downstairs at Town Hall

In Conversation with: Vanessa Redgrave

At the age of 80, Oscar-winning actor and political activist Vanessa Redgrave has directed her first film, Sea Sorrow, a heartbreaking documentary in response to the refugee crisis. Following the screening of this directorial debut, Redgrave will be in conversation live with film commentator Margaret Pomeranz about its creation and message, as well as her long spanning, highly successful acting career.

Saturday June 17, 2pm, The Hub Downstairs at Town Hall

Still from I Am Not Your Negro

Image via SFF

Extended Q&A: I Am Not Your Negro

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro is a mesmerising, Oscar-nominated film that channels the impassioned work of writer James Baldwin, one of the most incisive commentators on race in America. This live Q&A following the film’s screening will see producer Hebért Peck in discussion with Documentary Australia Foundation’s Mitzi Goldman.

Tuesday June 13, 2.30pm, The Hub Upstairs at Town Hall

For more information on other free live talks happening throughout the festival, or for the SFF’s full program, visit the site here.