Sydney Film Festival and awards to go online for 2020 with slimmer program

The new virtual festival will focus on its local awards show

Following the lead of film festivals around the country, Sydney Film Festival has announced its 2020 event and awards show will be held online.

Back in mid-March, SFF was one of the first film festivals to announce its physical cancellation after public gatherings restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus were instituted, pre-empting Melbourne International Film Festival. The original event was set to screen over 250 films at ten different venues,

Now, the 67th overall and first online edition of SFF will focus primarily on its awards program for Australian-made films, with 20 features and 13 short films in four strands. The emphasis on local films is designed to support the struggling industry through the pandemic.


This year’s virtual event will see ten new feature-length Australian documentaries, including eight world-premiers, screen as part of Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Australian Documentary.

These include the third film in Jakeb Anhvu’s Vietnam trilogy, A Hundred Years of Happiness, a profile of the Multicultural Community Liaison Officer for the NSW Police Rosemary Kariuki, and Descent – a film about the world’s only professional ice free-divers who swim in freezing cold water without a wet suit, directed by Nays Baghai.

The Weather Diaries, directed by Kathy Drayton, is a six year study of her daughter Imogen as their relationship changes when she moves away from classical to pop music. Imogen now performs as a musician under the moniker Lupa J.

Elsewhere in the festival, ten finalists for the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films will also screen, as well as three short films for Screenability – a category for screen practitioners with disability.

The films will be available to watch on the SFF Festival website on demand, from June 10-21. Tickets for the streamed festival are on sale now here.


SFF will run a curated selection of 40 features and documentaries that have screened at the festival in recent years on SBS On Demand, including The Square, Certain Women, Frances Ha, Ali’s Wedding, Toni Erdmann and many more.

As previously announced, SFF will join forces with 20 major film festivals around the world for the We Are One: A Global Film Festival, to screen free over ten days on Youtube. SFF will contribute Mabo dir. Rachel Perkins and Mystery Road dir. Ivan Sen.

Last year’s SFF saw director Bong Joon Ho attend took home the festival’s $60,000 Sydney Film Prize for his now Best Picture Academy Award winning film Parasite. The festival also drew controversy with the Australian premiere of Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. The screening sparked walkouts over its brutal depictions of rape and murder in colonial Australia. Moodley and Kent both defended the film to the ABC at the time, claiming only “20 and 30 people” walked out of each screening of 600 and 800 people respectively.