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Never Been To A Film Festival? Here’s How To Do Sydney Film Festival Right

Never Been To A Film Festival? Here’s How To Do Sydney Film Festival Right

sydney film festival 2019 guide

If you’ve never been to a film festival before, the Sydney Film Festival – one of the longest-running in the world – might seem daunting and expensive. It’s hard enough to choose a movie to watch on Netflix, let alone from a program of over 200 films.

Part of the joy of SFF, though, is that it features films you can’t just sit down and watch any time. It’s all about the energy of hundreds of people in the same darkened room indulging in the wonderful, unifying magic of movies.


Despite the red carpets, star-studded casts, and a solid chance of spotting Hugo Weaving in your row at the State Theatre, Sydney Film Festival is super accessible. Take a break from the real world and escape to new places – all without leaving the country. Here are a few ways to make the most out of the festival without breaking the bank.

Catching the flicks at Sydney Film Festival

Making a schedule is the hardest part of any film festival experience. It’s harder than ever to keep up with what’s coming out given the constant deluge of content, and the SFF program is full of titles you might never have heard of (yet).

Mixed in among big names like Bill Murray (The Dead Don’t Die), Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell) and Jeff Goldblum (The Mountain) are the treasures of the SFF program. How much you see depends on how busy you are, but there are plenty of post-work sessions during the week and the festival’s first weekend always includes the Queen’s Birthday public holiday – plenty of time to catch some flicks.


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The best way to get your money’s worth is to buy a Flexipass. Flexipasses come with 10, 20 or 30 tickets (for $162.50, $305 or $420 respectively – ie, from as little as $14 per ticket). They make tix much cheaper per film than a regular trip to the movies these days. You can use the Flexipass for yourself and whoever you go to the cinema with. Keep an eye out for ticket giveaways, too.

SFF’s June dates position it right after the end of the Cannes Film Festival, often allowing Australians to be the first to see some of the most raved about new films. It’s always worth keeping a few tickets spare for the late additions to the program, usually announced the week before opening night.

Tips for the best flick picks

If you’re having trouble narrowing your selection down, trying skipping films that have upcoming releases, like The Dead Don’t Die, Blinded by the Light, and Amazing Grace. The SFF website lists a film’s distributor if it has one, which typically means it will receive a theatrical release down the track. You can also check to see if something on your wish list is coming out soon. Many of the best SFF experiences involve seeing a film on instinct and being blown away by something you might never have otherwise gotten a chance to see.


And hey, if you just want to catch one film, that’s okay too. One of the benefits of film festivals is that a bunch of movies a bit different to the usual are on offer.

The place to be

Opening night at the State Theatre The 64th Sydney Film Festival 2017

Where you hang your hat during SFF depends on your circumstances. It’s true most films screen at CBD cinemas like the State or Event Cinemas George Street. But there are venues in surrounding suburbs, too, like Cremorne’s Hayden Orpheum, the Ritz Randwick, Dendy Newtown and Casula Powerhouse. Many films have screenings across several venues, so check the showing dates.

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If you’re travelling to Sydney for or during the festival, accommodation needs only be simple. If you don’t have a mate’s floor to sleep on, aim for a budget hotel in the CBD close by the two main venues. If you’re really going all out and seeing as many movies as you can, you won’t need much more than a place to sleep and shower before your next film.

Forget popcorn

Think of Sydney Film Festival as a cheat fortnight. If you’re seeing many films, the schedule can leave you with little time to eat between screenings. Prep some healthy snacks in advance, like sandwiches, muesli bars, dried fruit, or veggie sticks. Remember also that there’s a fair distance between some of the venues.

There are plenty of quick bites near the CBD venues, like Japanese at Dera-Uma in Skyview Plaza just down from Event, or Chat Thai in the Galeries. Food courts are your festival friend (but try to stick to light dishes!). Pho 236 is the perfect pre- or post-film dinner near Dendy Newtown.


Always bring water, a jumper, and check if you need an umbrella. SFF is notorious for heralding the arrival of Sydney’s winter rains. The State Theatre has baristas in the foyer, but other spots for a pick-me-up include Workshop Espresso, Coffee Pitt on Pitt Street, or Gumption in the Strand Arcade.

And if you just casually want to swing by the cinema of an evening, treat it as a night out and get dinner or some drinks before or after. Remember Vivid Sydney is on at the same time, too.

Five under-the-radar Sydney Film Festival picks

  1. In My Blood it Runs
  2. Sequin in a Blue Room
  3. Queen of Hearts
  4. Manta Ray
  5. This is Not Berlin

The Sydney Film Festival 2019 runs from June 5 to June 16. Tickets are on sale now.

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(All images: Supplied / Sydney Film Festival)

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