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Credit: Courtesy of Sonita, supplied via SFF

With 244 films from 60 countries (including 25 world premieres), the program for the 63rd Sydney Film Festival is bigger than Ben Hur.

Navigating the schedule every year is an exercise fraught with FOMO-inducing anxiety, so unless you know exactly what it is you’re looking for there’s a very real chance you’ll lose hours to the decision making process.

Enter Festival Director Nashen Moody, who has provided exclusively for GRAZIA his picks for the must-see movie moments from this year’s diverse cinematic offering, which kicks off on June 8.

Once you’ve taken in his recommendations, you can find out all the information you could ever need about this year’s SFF, including the full program, here.

Love & Friendship
Fans of both Whit Stillman and Jane Austen’s mannered domestic dramas will no doubt ask for the hand of Love & Friendship, an adaptation of young Austen’s lesser known mid-1790s novella, Lady Susan. Stillman has reunited his Last Days of Disco co-stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny for the tale of the widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), who escapes to the country estate of her in-laws to distance herself from rumours circulating polite society. Naturally, while waiting it out, she decides to bag a husband for both herself and her daughter. Cue bonnets and arched brows aplenty when Love & Friendship closes this year’s festival on June 19.

Embrace
Australian director, mother of three and body image activist Taryn Brumfitt describes her Kickstarter funded documentary Embrace as “a social impact documentary, which explores the issue of body image.” Embrace is told from Brumfitt’s point of view and traces the journey she has taken around the world since her unconventional before-and-after photos went viral, sparking an international media frenzy and a global crusade for the director to redress “a global body-hating epidemic”.

Kate Plays Christine
In 1974, television host Christine Chubbuck committed suicide while broadcasting live on air from her Sarasota, Florida, news station. While Chubbuck’s death, considered the first televised suicide of its kind, inspired 1976 Best Picture nominee Network, less is known of her, and the facts behind the event. Kate Plays Christine then takes as its subject matter the process actress Kate Lyn Sheil takes to prepare for the role of Chubbuck in a “cheap stylised 70s soap opera version” of Christine’s story. Robert Greene’s fascinating approach to telling both Kate and Christine’s stories promises an unparalleled festival experience.

Sonita
Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s Sonita tells the story of the titular 18-year-old undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living under the watch of her conservative patriarchal family in Tehran – a family that want to sell her as part of a forced marriage. Sonita, a vivacious artist, singer and musician, confronts the brutality of her situation with vigour as she attempts to record music videos on a small budget while working alongside her fellow child labourers. Sonita looks to be gripping, unmissable viewing.

Following the screening, the film’s director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and Human Rights Watch Afghanistan research assistant Ahmad Shuja will hold a Q&A at Town Hall’s Treasury Room to discuss the film’s important role in portraying Afghanistan’s current human rights landscape. You can purchase tickets for that event here.

Certain Women
Kristen Stewart continues to captivate festival audiences with her cerebral choices, and Certain Woman looks to be no exception. From independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt’s, who based her film on the short stories of Maile Meloy, Certain Women tells the stories of three unrelated women who are struggling to shape and understand the world around them as they battle through moments both mundane and world-changing. Boasting a stellar cast, including Laura Dern, Jared Harris and Michelle Williams, Certain Women was also executive produced by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There, Far From Heaven) – all of which almost guarantees the quintessential dramatic experience set against a stunning Montana backdrop.

Tile image: Courtesy of Certain Women, supplied via SFF
Cover image: Courtesy of Certain Women, supplied via SFF

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