Sydney Film Festival 2024: first films revealed

The 71st edition of the Sydney Film Festival has revealed the first 17 picks of the program, including two Australian films.

The Sydney Film Festival has announced the first 17 films of the upcoming 2024 program, with two Australian flicks leading the lineup.

In Vitro, a feature thriller, and In The Pool, an observational documentary, will both have their world premieres at the festival. Directoors Will Howarth, Tom McKeith and Ian Darling will attend the Festival to present their films.

‘This first look at the 2024 program delves into the profound and the peculiar, from remarkable true
stories to works of fiction and ingenious hybrid films that land somewhere in between,’ said Nashen Moodley, Sydney Film Festival Director.

‘This selection, though diverse in setting and scope, reveals some common themes: resilience
foremost amongst them. These films offer a taste of a Festival program rich with discovery and
insight, poised to captivate and inspire.’

Read: Cinema guide: new films in Australia in April 2024

In Vitro and In The Pool

In Vitro is a highly anticipated sci-fi thriller from directors Will Howarth and Tom McKeith (Beast), and stars Succession‘s Ashley Zukerman in a ‘cattle farm mystery’. On an isolated cattle farm, a couple experimenting with biotechnology have their lives upended when they discover a disturbing presence on their property.

In The Pool, directed by Ian Darling, documents a year in the life of the Bondi Icebergs pool and its swim club.

Other films to catch

The Mountain

The Mountain is the directorial debut of actor Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Heartbreak High). Executive produced by Taika Waititi, the film centres on three children ‘discovering friendship’s healing power through the spirit of adventure’.

The Rye Horn

Directed by Jaoine Camborda, The Rye Horn is the story of a rural Galician midwife who flees after an illegal abortion goes awry. It won the Golden Shell for Best Film at San Sebastián.

Green Border

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Venice, Agnieszka Holland’s refugee thriller Green Border raised the ire of some Polish politicians and inspired protests before setting a box office record. In the treacherous and swampy forests that make up the so called ‘green border’ between Belarus and Poland, refugees from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach the European Union are trapped in a geopolitical crisis cynically engineered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.


Pepe won the Silver Bear at Berlinale 2024. The film tells the true-ish story of Pepe the hippo who broke free of Pablo Escobar’s private zoo, featuring narration from the multilingual hippo himself. Director Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias will attend the festival to present his film.

Explanation for Everything

Explanation for Everything is a Hungarian satire about the culture wars where a student accidentally becomes a figurehead for the right when he is embroiled in a national scandal. The film won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival. Director Gábor Reisz will attend SFF to present the film.


Sex, a Norwegian film by Dag Johan Haugerud, follows two married and ostensibly heterosexual chimneysweeps who are unmoored when one of them sleeps with a man and the other begins to question the recurring dreams he’s been having about David Bowie.

The Contestant

This true story of a Japanese reality TV star left naked in a room for more than a year, tasked with filling out magazine sweepstakes to earn food and clothing, prompts innumerable questions about our culture of oversharing. The film’s director Clair Titley and the contestant himself Tomoaki Hamatsu (aka Nasubi) will attend the festival as guests.

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros sees documentary director Frederick Wiseman (City Hall) return with a mouth-watering epic set in a three-Michelin-star French restaurant.

La Cocina

From Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios (A Cop Movie, SFF 2021), La Cocina is a comedy starring Rooney Mara and Raúl Briones. It is the lunchtime rush at The Grill, a New York tourist trap that serves thousands of customers on a regular Friday like today. Money has gone missing from the till and all the workers are being questioned.

House of the Seasons

House of the Seasons, directed by Oh Jung-min, is an intergenerational family saga set in a tofu factory in Daegu, Korea. The film was an award-winning highlight of the Busan International Film Festival.

COPA ’71

COPA ’71 is a documentary directed by James Erskine and Rachel Ramsay. It presents the untold story of the 1971 Women’s Soccer World Cup and exposes systemic sexism with governing bodies determined to undermine women’s soccer.

The Battle for Laikipia

The Battle for Laikipia is a documentary by Daphne Matziaraki exploring the tensions in Kenya’s Laikipia region among herders, landholders, and conservationists against a backdrop of drought, politics, and colonial history.

Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser

Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser will give audiences the opportunity to experience Clive Barker’s 1987 extra-dimensional horror classic, re-scored live by EBM explorers Hieroglyphic Being and Robin Fox, and a synched laser-art show at City Recital Hall.

Suspended Time

Touted as Olivier Assayas’ (Irma Vep, Personal Shopper) most personal film yet, Suspended Time is about art, memory, and love in the time of COVID. April 2020––Lockdown. Etienne, a film director, and his brother Paul, a music journalist, are confined together in their childhood home with their new partners Morgane and Carole.

The Monk and The Gun

In The Monk and The Gun, Bhutan becomes the last country in the world to connect to the internet and television, and now faces the biggest change of all: democracy. To teach the people how to vote, the authorities organise a mock election, but the locals seem unconvinced. Travelling to rural Bhutan where religion is more popular than politics, the election supervisor discovers that a monk is planning a mysterious ceremony for the election day.

The full Sydney Film Festival program will be announced on Wednesday 8 May 2024. The festival itself takes place from 5-16 June 2024. See the SFF website for more info.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports