Published by: Sydney Film Festival | 13-May-2019
The 66th Sydney Film Festival announces the first slate of stars and filmmaker guests to attend the Festival 5-16 June.
These distinguished industry guests will attend the Australian and World Premieres of their films, walk the Festival's red carpets, introduce their films and participate in talks, panels and Q&A sessions. Please note: for the most up-to-date list of festival guests, visit

The Festival, together with Vivid Ideas - part of the world's largest festival of light, music and ideas, Vivid Sydney - will present five FREE talks at the Festival Hub at Town Hall, and HOYTS Entertainment Quarter.

Highlights include:

Renowned Australian director Rachel Ward, along with key cast members, will be in attendance to present their uplifting drama/comedy Palm Beach on Opening Night. Ward will be interviewed by film critic David Stratton for the annual Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture (Monday 10 June, 6:30pm) at the Festival Hub.

Australian documentarian Ian Darling will introduce The Final Quarter, tracking the last three years of Adam Goodes' career. He will also take part in The Final Quarter panel on (Sunday 9 June, 11:30am) as part of Vivid Ideas. Hosted by Marngrook Footy Show's Shelley Ware, Darling will be joined by Indigenous and non-Indigenous media, political and sporting commentators, to discuss the implications of this powerful film.

Brazilian actor Wagner Moura (Narcos) will introduce his directorial debut Marighella, a thrilling biopic of the Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella. He will also participate in a post-screening Extended Q&A (Sunday 9 June, 5:00pm) with film journalist Sandy George at the Festival Hub.

Internationally renowned US comedy stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish will attend the Festival to introduce the Australian premiere of The Secret Life of Pets 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to the record-breaking 2016 family smash hit.

Director Steven Vidler and Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte (Standing Up for Sunny) will attend as guests to introduce the World Premiere of their film. Mitte will also be joined by other Screenability filmmakers, including three Australian short filmmakers selected as part of the Screenability Filmmakers Fund from Create NSW, for a Meet the Filmmakers talk with Sofya Gollan at HOYTS Entertainment Quarter (Saturday 15 June, 4:00pm), discussing the importance of authentic representation in film.

Other guests associated with Official Competition titles are: Oscar-winning director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Never Look Away); Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite); Brazilian co-directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles (Bacurau), New Zealand director Hamish Bennett (Bellbird), Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak (Dirty God), and Macedonian director Teona Strugar Mitevska (God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya).

Henckel von Donnersmarck will discuss his approach to crafting his Oscar-nominated epic Never Look Away with film critic David Stratton in an Extended Q&A (Tuesday 11 June, 6:15pm); and Bong will also take part in a post-screening Meet the Filmmaker talk with Festival Director, Nashen Moodley (Sunday 16 June, 2:15pm).

Australian director Mirrah Foulkes, producers Nash Edgerton and Michele Bennett, and cast members Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman will introduce the Australian premiere of their film Judy & Punch, and participate in a Meet the Filmmakers talk at the Festival Hub (Sunday 9 June, 1:30pm).

Australian filmmaker Ben Lawrence (Ghosthunter - DAF winner at SFF 2018) and cast members including Hugo Weaving will attend the Festival to introduce the World Premiere of Hearts and Bones. Lawrence will also discuss his debut feature at a Meet the Filmmakers talk (Sunday 16 June, 11:30am) with Sydney Morning Herald's Garry Maddox.

Australian director Kriv Stenders (Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan) and members of the film team will attend the Festival to introduce their film, a visceral exploration of a key battle in the Vietnam war.

New Zealand director Julia Parnell and The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps (The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps) will attend as guests to introduce the screening of their documentary, about the ups and downs of one of New Zealand's most beloved bands.

Five of the nine directors from the South Pacific of Vai will attend as guests to introduce their eight-part portmanteau film: Becs Arahanga, Matasila Freshwater, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Nicole Whippy and Sharon Whippy.

Director and son of Merata Mita, Heperi Mita and producer Chelsea Winstanley will introduce Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen; and Indigenous director Erica Glynn (In My Own Words, SFF 2017) will attend with her mother and film subject Freda Glynn to introduce their documentary She Who Must Be Obeyed Loved.

Filmmakers from both films will also take part in The Work of Freda Glynn and Merata Mita. Hosted by UNSW Arts & Social Sciences, the talk will discuss the ground-breaking work of these two trailblazers at the Festival Hub (Friday 14 June, 8:15pm).

Other filmmakers from the Festival's Focus on New Zealand attending as guests are: director David Stubbs (Daffodils); Rebecca Tansley (The Heart Dances) and Justin Pemberton (Capital in the 21st Century).

New Zealand filmmaker Ant Timpson will also attend to introduce the Australian Premiere of his film Come to Daddy starring Elijah Wood, screening as part of Freak Me Out.

Jialing Zhang, US co-director of One Child Nation, will be in attendance at the Festival. Zhang will also participate in a post-screening discussion on the making of her award-winning documentary (Friday 7 June, 4:00pm), hosted by The University of Sydney.

Japanese director Hiroshi Okuyama and Tokyo-based Aussie comedian Chad Mullane will be guests of the Festival to introduce Jesus, Okuyama's strikingly original debut presenting Jesus Christ (played by Mullane) as the tiny friend of a young boy.

UK filmmaker Victoria Stone will attend to introduce The Elephant Queen, her stunning documentary narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, about an elephant mother leading her family on an epic journey across the African plains.

Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki will attend the Festival as a guest to introduce the Australian Premiere of Saturday Afternoon, based on the Holy Artisan Bakery terrorist attack by Islamist extremists.

Australian filmmaker Richard Lowenstein and producer Sue Murray will be in attendance to introduce Mystify: Michael Hutchence, about INXS' lead singer, with a cornucopia of rarely-seen footage.

Sydney-based French director Partho Sen-Gupta will attend the Festival as a guest to introduce Slam, a tense mystery set in Western Sydney tackling Islamophobia. Following the film's screening will be Poetry Slam in the Hub (Saturday 15 June, 4:45pm), a thrilling slam poetry showcase featuring poets from across Sydney.

New Zealand director Samuel Van Grinsven and members of the film team will attend the Festival to introduce the World Premiere of their queer coming-of-age tale Sequin in a Blue Room, about a teenage boy with a hook-up app obsession.

Australian filmmaker Imogen McCluskey and her film team will attend as guests of the Festival to introduce the Australian Premiere of Suburban Wildlife, an authentic depiction of suburban angst among post-Uni Australians.

The Meet the Filmmakers: Suburban Wildlife & Sequin in a Blue Room party at the Festival Hub (Saturday 8 June, 1pm) will be an opportunity for under-25s to meet the emerging Australian filmmakers behind Suburban Wildlife and Sequin in a Blue Room. Find out how these young filmmakers got their first features off the ground, and hang around afterwards for a chat and a snack.

The five directors of Dark Place will attend to introduce the World Premiere of their Indigenous horror anthology: Björn Stewart, Perun Bonser, Kodie Bedford, Liam Phillips, and Rob Braslin.

Australian director Sophie Hyde and producer Rebecca Summerton will be guests of the Festival, introducing their hilarious film Animals, featuring Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias).

Melbourne director Lawrence Johnston and producer Susan Mackinnon will attend the Festival to introduce their documentary Eternity about Arthur Stace, a Sydneysider who famously chalked the word ‘Eternity' on his hometown's streets.

Emu Runner director Imogen Thomas will attend as a guest to introduce her film about an Indigenous girl who forms a special bond with a wild emu along with cast members Rhae-Kye Waites and Stella Carter.

Filmmaker guests for all 10 Documentary Australia Foundation films will attend the Festival to introduce their films, including: Maya Newell (Gayby Baby, SFF 2015), Sascha Ettinger Epstein (The Pink House, SFF 2017), and artist and filmmaker George Gittoes.

Filmmaker guests for the Essential Australian Women Directors - 10 Trailblazers Selected by David Stratton will attend the Festival to introduce their films: Nadia Tass (Malcolm), Gillian Armstrong (High Tide); cast member Genevieve Lemon (Sweetie); Jackie McKimmie (Waiting); Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade); Ana Kokkinos (Blessed); Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate), and producer Kristina Ceyton (The Babadook).

Filmmakers from Europe! Voices of Women in Film presenting their films to Festival audiences are: Swedish filmmaker Carolina Hellsgård (Endzeit - Ever After), Greek director Marianna Economou (When Tomatoes Met Wagner), Icelandic director Asthildur Kjartansdóttir (The Deposit), Cypriot filmmaker Tonia Mishiali (Pause), Dutch director Esther Rots (Retrospekt), and Austrian director Elina Tikhonova (Caviar).

The six emerging women directors from Europe will also participate in the public talk In Conversation: Europe! Voices of Women in Film (Sunday 9 June, 3:00pm) at the Festival Hub, discussing their experiences, and what steps towards gender parity have been made in recent years with Screen International's Sarah Ward.

The full Sydney Film Festival 2019 program can be found online at

Sydney Film Festival runs 5 - 16 June 2019. Tickets for Sydney Film Festival 2019 are on sale now. Please call 1300 733 733 or visit for more information.

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