Sydney Film Festival (SFF) 2023 – Official Competition

Greta Lee & Teo Yoo in Past Lives Directed by Celine Song

Sydney Film Festival (SFF) 2023 – Official Competition: SFF has a spectacular line-up of international premieres and compelling stories. And in 2023, SFF is set to mark another significant milestone. It commemorates 15 years of honoring the most audacious, cutting-edge, and courageous films with the prestigious Sydney Film Prize (the Official Competition). Each year, this esteemed competition seeks out that exceptional cinematic gem that pushes the boundaries of artistry. These remarkable films are known for their innovation, provocation, and often controversial nature, offering fresh perspectives that expand our understanding of the world and deliver important messages through original storytelling.

Over the years, the Sydney Film Prize has been awarded to a diverse array of thought-provoking films that have left a lasting impact on audiences and the industry. Recent winners include “Close” in 2022, “There is No Evil” in 2021, and the groundbreaking “Parasite” in 2019. Other notable winners have included “The Heiresses” in 2018, “On Body and Soul” in 2017, and “Aquarius” in 2016. The prize has also been bestowed upon films like “Arabian Nights” in 2015, “Two Days, One Night” in 2014, and “Only God Forgives” in 2013, to name a few.

The Sydney Film Prize is the highlight of the festival’s Closing Night awards ceremony, which takes place at the Grand State Theatre. This prestigious accolade recognizes the exceptional achievements of filmmakers who dare to challenge conventions, break new ground, and deliver profound cinematic experiences that resonate with audiences on a profound level.


Paula Beer & Thomas Schubert in Afire Directed by Christian Petzold
Paula Beer & Thomas Schubert in Afire Directed by Christian Petzold

FEATURE Silver Bear winner in Berlin, Christian Petzold (Undine, SFF 2021; Barbara, SFF 2012) returns with a tragicomic romp about four young people trapped at a holiday house as a fire draws near.

Art College 1994

FEATURE Liu Jian’s gorgeous 2023 Berlinale-selected animation is a slacker comedy-drama about a group of art students in China in the ’90s – a time of great change for the nation.

Bad Behaviour

SFF Official Competition 2023 - Jennifer Connelly & Alice Englert in Bad Behavior
Jennifer Connelly & Alice Englert in Bad Behavior

FEATURE Alice Englert’s Sundance-selected debut stars Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw and Englert herself, in a dark comedy about spiritual retreats and a turbulent mother-daughter relationship.


FEATURE Straight from Cannes, Kim Jee-woon’s (A Tale of Two SistersThe Age of Shadows) latest is a deliriously funny and clever film about a director obsessed with re-shooting the end of his completed film. Stars Song Kang-ho (Parasite, SFF 2019).

The Dark Emu Story

DOCUMENTARY A thought-provoking, revelatory and inspiring documentary telling the story of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu – the publishing phenomenon that challenged Australia to rethink its history and ignited a raging debate.

Fallen Leaves

SFF Official Competition 2023 - Alma Pöysti & Jussi Vatanen in Fallen Leaves Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Alma Pöysti & Jussi Vatanen in Fallen Leaves Directed by Aki Kaurismäki

FEATURE Straight from the Cannes Competition, the Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki’s compassionate comedy has two lonely people meet by chance and then try, in turbulent times, to find love.


FEATURE Direct from the Cannes Competition, Monster is an intense, mysterious and morally complex drama from Kore-eda Hirokazu (Shoplifters, SFF 2018; Broker, SFF 2022), told through multiple perspectives.

The Mother Of All Lies

DOCUMENTARY Direct from its Cannes Un Certain Regard premiere, Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s audacious feature melds fact, fiction and captivating figurines to lay bare a hidden personal and national history.

The New Boy

FEATURE Warwick Thornton’s Cannes-selected new film stars Cate Blanchett, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair and newcomer Aswan Reid in a beguiling story of spirituality and survival set in 1940s Australia.

Past Lives

FEATURE In this delicate, spellbinding romance, two school friends explore a lingering, deep connection that appears to transcend time and distance. Sundance and Berlinale 2023.


FEATURE This joyous, inventive Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner follows a 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone until her estranged father (Harris Dickinson, Triangle of Sadness, SFF 2022) turns up.


SFF Official Competition 2023 - Manoj Bajpayee in  Joram dir. Devashish Makhija
Manoj Bajpayee in Joram dir. Devashish Makhija

FEATURE A laborer in Mumbai goes on the run in this edge-of-your-seat survival thriller that deftly weaves political intrigue with a stylish and propulsive cinematic sensibility.

Check more details about the movies in the Official Competition of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF 2023).

Nafees Ahmed

Either overly obsessed or deeply disinterested. A high functioning procrastinator who passionately writes on films. Juggling with passion, dreams, heartaches, career, survival and pissing on life.