The New Boy, Dark Emu feature at Sydney Film Festival

·2-min read

The Sydney Film Festival will open with Warwick Thornton's latest feature starring Cate Blanchett, just a few weeks after its world premiere at Cannes.

The New Boy is set in 1940s Australia, the story of a nine-year-old Aboriginal orphan who arrives at a remote monastery run by a renegade nun.

Also featuring Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, and newcomer Aswan Reid, Thornton's project was filmed in South Australia.

"To me he's one of the world's greatest filmmakers and starring Cate Blanchett is even better, we are really excited," festival director Nashen Moodley told AAP.

It's the 70th anniversary of the SFF, which starts in June, and Moodley feels a responsibility to entice people back to the cinema after a tough few years for the industry.

The 2023 program is massive, featuring 238 films from 67 countries, including 33 world premieres, with many made in Australia.

"While we need a great deal of support for Australian cinema, I think we can see from the selection that there is also a great deal of filmmaking talent," Moodley said.

The documentary The Dark Emu Story will also screen.

Produced by Blackfella Films and directed by Allan Clarke, the film looks at the groundbreaking and controversial research of Bruce Pascoe, whose best-selling Dark Emu changed people's understanding of traditional Aboriginal ways of life.

Critics of the book are given a chance to air their views, while First Nations people also share their stories.

"I think it's an absolutely incredible film. One that's really going to cause people to think deeply about these issues," Moodley said.

Both The New Boy and The Dark Emu Story will screen as a part of the festival's official competition with a $60,000 prize.

Other films competing include Christian Petzold's feature Afire, Charlotte Regan's Scrapper, the drama Monster from Kore-eda Hirokazu, and comedy Fallen Leaves from Aki Kaurismaki.

Of course, there are other big names straight from Cannes, with Wes Anderson's Asteroid City starring Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks, and Wim Wenders' Perfect Days.

Succession's Sarah Snook stars in the psychological thriller Run Rabbit Run, about a troubled single mother whose daughter grows distant.

From acclaimed choreographer Benjamin Millepied comes a retelling of the classic opera Carmen, starring Paul Mescal and Melissa Barrera shot in NSW featuring artists from the Sydney Dance Company.

The documentary slate features the world premiere of Climate Changers, which looks at the work of scientist Tim Flannery, as well as The Defenders, about former Socceroos captain Craig Foster's fight to rescue fellow player Hakeem al-Araibi.

There's also Keeping Hope, featuring Indigenous actor Mark Coles Smith's journey home to the Kimberley to interrogate the region's alarming suicide rates, and The Last Daughter, Wiradjuri woman Brenda Matthews' investigation of her government-ordered abduction as a child.

The 70th Sydney Film Festival runs from June 7-18.