Sydney Film Festival 2015: Taking World Cinema to the City

Sydney Film Festival

Held annually, the Sydney Film Festival is an institution in the City of Sydney Calendar. Celebrating the love of film, culture and the city itself, the Sydney Film Festival provides the only opportunity to see films as varied, diverse and unique as the program offers on the big screen.

In preparation for the festival’s 40th year, The Reel Word attended a preview of what audiences would be treated to and sat down with the Festival’s current director, Nashen Moodley. We had the chance to speak to Nashen about his standouts in the upcoming weeks and what have been some of his favourite moments in the role thus far, as well as his hope for festivals to come.

“We choose movies and then a theme, rather than the other way around,” Moodley told us, explaining that this year’s theme, ‘We Are Movies’, reflects the inherently human experience that is movie going.

“Without even seeing a movie, people can often quote lines or retell scenes,” Moodley said, pointing to the cultural reach and personal resonance the art form that is cinema has on individuals. “As a curator, it’s one of the elements of cinema that I find most interesting.”

Appointed Director of the prestigious festival in 2011, Moodley said one of the most exciting parts of his job often comes down to the thrill of showing a film to a packed turnout – along with the filmmakers behind the film.

“Showing a director, the filmmakers, producers and people involved in the film just how their work is received by a full house is thrilling. We show the filmmakers the capacity of a theatre, which in itself is an impressive thing, but there is no better feeling than taking them back to show them that when it is full.”

Nashen Moodley, SFF CEO Leigh Small, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Racing Troy Grant, SFF Festival Chairman Chris Freeland

Nashen Moodley, SFF CEO Leigh Small, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Racing Troy Grant, SFF Festival Chairman Chris Freeland

Although the festival has been home to some momentous films, pictures that have gone on to win some of the world’s leading awards, it’s the ability to show films that may not have received the same recognition that ultimately drives Moodley. A personal standout during the last few years, Moodley remembers, is when the festival screened Mabo, the 2012 TV movie biopic on Eddie Koiki Mabo directed by Rachel Perkins (One Night the Moon, Bran Nue Dae).

“When we showed Mabo, we had our doubts about getting an audience or interest for the film because it was going to be shown on TV a few days after its scheduled screening at the festival. But, people surprised us. We had a full crowd and we got to have the cast, the director, producers and surviving members of the Mabo family attend, which was pretty special,” Moodley said.

“Then, after the film finished, everyone rose as the cast, directors and family took the stage to give them a standing ovation. It was very emotional, with a lot of crying and clapping. It was really special to tell such an amazing story, one that had such an important role in Australian history.”

The Sydney Film Festival has grown over the years to become an annual event that embodies so much more than great cinema, it’s about uniting a community of film lovers and bringing the city a taste of the world on celluloid. It has become a big event, no doubt about it, so what’s on the horizon?

“More people coming,” Moodley said. “It is about more than just having returning or recurring customers, it is about having the film become more accessible to wider audiences. Increased accessibility will help to drive new audiences to the festival, expanding its reach and ultimately affording filmmakers and others the chance to experience a diverse, unique and wide ranging variety of films from all over the world.”

Coming up, we line up some of the standout films of the festival…stay tuned.