The Royal Hotel to open SXSW Sydney 2023

The thriller, starring Julia Garner, has been described as 'deft reworking of the Aussie outback thriller, reoriented with a female gaze'.

The highly anticipated thriller The Royal Hotel will open the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival in October, the festival announced today.

Directed by Kitty Green (The Assistant, Casting JonBenet), co-written by Green and Oscar Redding (Van Diemen’s Land) and starring Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving and Toby Wallace, The Royal Hotel will feature as the Opening Night red carpet film at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Sydney’s Darling Harbour Theatre.

As per the film’s blurb: Searching for adventure and strapped for cash, US backpackers Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) take jobs and accommodation at a remote outback pub, The Royal Hotel. Relentless heat, unglamorous booze in a box, and lack of Wi-Fi don’t paint the idyllic picture of an Aussie holiday the friends had envisioned, but the real threat grows increasingly intense and volatile as they become acquainted with the town’s primarily male residents.

Read: The Royal Hotel – need to know

The spectrum of menace is cast wide as they get to know the curt pub owner Billy (Hugo Weaving), playfully charming Matty (Toby Wallace) and frighteningly chilling Dolly (Daniel Henshall). Filmed in Australia, The Royal Hotel takes the familiar down under backpacker hair-raiser and flips it on its head, examining drinking culture, toxic masculinity and gender politics through a distinctively female lens.

Ghita Loebenstein, SXSW Sydney’s Head of Screen, described the film as a ‘deft reworking of the Aussie outback thriller, reoriented with a female gaze’.

Read: SXSW Sydney screen festival line-up

‘We could not be more thrilled to open the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival with Kitty [Green] in attendance,’ Loebenstein said. ‘The film takes deliberate stabs at the more toxic shadows of the genre, and our culture, in sophisticated but ever entertaining ways.

‘Kitty is a local luminary gaining international acclaim as a writer-director with a fearless vision for nuanced storytelling and this film is the perfect opener to the Screen Festival, which seeks to amplify and celebrate bold voices in film.’

The Royal Hotel is produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See-Saw Films, the Academy and BAFTA Award winning team behind The Power of the DogLion and The King’s Speech, together with Animal Kingdom and The King producer and See-Saw Films’ Head of Film and Television (Aus) Liz Watts, and Scarlett Pictures’ Kath Shelper. The Royal Hotel is a Transmission Films release.

Read: Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles to have world premiere at SXSW Sydney

The festival’s red carpet premieres include The Royal Hotel and the previously announced Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles. They will sit alongside features, shorts, series, music videos and an XR showcase at the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival.

The Royal Hotel is a See-Saw Films production, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the South Australian Film Corporation and additional support from Screen NSW.

The inaugural SXSW Sydney runs from 15–22 October 2023. For more information, including early bird tickets, visit the SXSW Sydney website.

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites