The 18 I saw at Sydney Film Festival 2012

The Sydney Film Festival really does get better every year. I didn’t even know if I’d be here for it this year, and bought 10 tickets anyway. A week into it, I bought 7 more, being gifted the final ticket by the new festival director himself, Nashen Moodley.

What a lineup Nashen and his team put together, surely encompassing everything cinema has to offer, and challenging audiences at the same time. The last minute addition of Holy Motors was the exemplifying cherry on top!

As I did with my end of year recap last year, I’ll group the films I saw by star-rating out of 5, alphabetically within the groupings, including original tweets about each, and links to extended reviews, where I’ve written them.

Firstly, a disclaimer. Actually, I don’t even know why I’m calling it a disclaimer, since I thought I was over this whole preciousness of awarding an arbitrary rating to a film, but clearly it looms over me.

I overwhelmingly loved and/or connected with each and every one of the films I’ve given 5 stars to, for many different reasons. If there were faults in them, I did not see them. I’m not one to go back and retrospectively analyse each against a set of criteria.

I’ve also realised I’m a real sucker for emotional gut punches.


Unconditional, heart-breaking love, and all that it means. Filled with a million delicate moments.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Exhilarating. Powerful. Evocative. Two insane central performances. How can the Sydney Film Festival be topped?!

Absolutely devastating. This needs to be screened in every school and seen by every parent. No one knows how bad it is.

Gangs of Wasseypur
The vicious cycle of violence, ambition and love in this sprawling, masterfully told epic! What an end to the Sydney Film Festival.

Holy Motors
Sensory overload, but so much to think about beneath the pure WTF of it all! This is what the medium of film is meant for. Give Lavant the Oscar now! And Carax, while you’re at it.

Searching for Sugar Man
A man getting paid his dues 20 years later in the most magical of ways. Simply remarkable!


Monsieur Lazhar
Gently, but respectfully deals with loss through great all-round performances and poignant writing.

The Law in These Parts
The disgusting actions and absurd double standards of the Israeli Supreme Court and military judges in the laws and rulings handed down over the last 40 years in Occupied Territories.


For Ellen
Paul Dano and his emotive face are utterly captivating in this bittersweet indie fare.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Slow burning, but oh-so-absorbing! A most beautiful look at the mundane that is life.


A surprisingly sweet-natured story on giving up “freedom” for happiness. Was expecting a psychological breakdown :/

Caesar Must Die
A skillful blurring of documentary and scripted material in this meta, exploratory take on ‘Julius Caesar’.

I really liked this. I didn’t love it though, the main reason being I didn’t feel I got to know the characters, and form that emotional attachment, not following them on their journey as much as I’d like to have.

An utterly depressing look at the bureaucracy a woman contends with in Iran. A great, nuanced, lead performance.

Just the Wind
Created an amazing sense of dread and despair in its climax, but too uneven overall.

Neighbouring Sounds
A wonderful mix of direction, sound design, classes and characters in this suburban microcosm of Brazil.

The Angels’ Share
You’ve seen the plot before, you’ll still love it. The audience reaction to *that* scene was priceless!


Morbid, absurd and completely messed up. I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning on identity waiting to be gleaned, but it became an exercise in the weird for me, and one that I couldn’t look past.

A fine lesson in self-destruction that meandered too often between some nice uncomfortable moments.

Alps won the official competition. I’m not quite sure how. Then again, I’m not a film critic.

I said it last year, and I’ll say it again. There’s a real sense of community created by the #sydfilmfest hashtag. All the familiar avatars from last year were back again, with a few new additions. I’m totally oblivious to what this lot are up to the rest of this year, but come June, it really adds to the festival experience.

Oh, oh, the Sydney Film Festival Hub! This thing rocked! Bring it back next year please!


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