Sydney Film Festival 2021: 233 films from 69 countries include 5 from India

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By Neeraj Nanda

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE, 18 October 2021: The 68th Sydney Film Festival 2021 (Nov 3-14 2021) is gearing up massively, becoming the first major festival to be held in Sydney’s CBD as most pandemic restrictions have been removed.

In 2021 the Festival will have 233 films from 69 countries, bringing together hundreds of international and local stories. There are 111 feature films, including prize-winners from prestigious festivals around the world; 50 documentaries tackling crucial contemporary issues from established and upcoming documentarians; and 72 shorts. Of these films, almost half are directed or co-directed by woman filmmakers.

From South Asia, only India and Bangladesh are at the Festival. India has 5 entries and Bangladesh one.



DOCUMENTARY – Writing with Fire

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The struggles and triumphs of low-caste journalists in India’s only all-female newspaper, Khabar Lahariya;
• Winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema – Documentary, and World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact and Change, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary at Sundance Film Festival in February 2021;
• Follows the women as they adapt from print to digital to stay relevant, all the while exploring their struggles and reporting of stories the mainstream media won’t do;
• The women get into trouble for being journalists, but they are determined to tell their stories as many don’t have other opportunities;
• Directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas;
• Reviews: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter
• Language: Hindi
• Screener Available On Request;
• Aus Distributor: Madman;
• Aus TR Date: TBC;
• Sub themes: Female Director, Class Inequality, Sexual Violence
• Cultural/Language affiliation: India/Hindi

FEATURE – Just Like That

The recently-widowed Mrs. Sharma decides to live her life to the fullest – despite the cultural traditions and expectations she’ll be breaking along the way;
• As writer-director Kislay’s debut feature, the film offers a clear and unflinching look at female agency in India;
• Nominated for multiple Best Film awards at various international film festivals;
• Reviews: The Hollywood Reporter;
• Languages: Hindi;
• Screener Access: TBC;
• No Aus Distributor;
• Aus. TR Date: TBC;
• Sub-themes: Seniors, Feminist
• Cultural/Language affiliation: India

FEATURE – Last Film Show

• A coming-of-age story following 9-year-old Samay who hitches a train ride as it passes through his remote village in India, opening his eyes to a world of theatre and entertainment;
• Inspired by the big screen, Samay rebels against his conservative father’s views on the immorality of cinema and goes to extraordinary lengths to maintain his cinema fix;

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• Directed by Pan Nalin (Angry Indian Goddesses –
SFF 2016), who transports the viewer back to the awe and innocence of childhood;
• Starring Richa Meena (Ghumantu – The Wanderer); debuting Rahul Koli and Bhavin Rabari;
• Reviews: Indiewire;
• Language: Gujarati;
• No Aus. Distributor;
• Aus TR Date: TBC;
• Sub-themes: Youth, Cinema
• Cultural/Language affiliation: India

DOCUMENTARY – The Seeds of Vandana Shiva

Following Indian social activist and physicist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, often referred to as the “Ghandi of Grain,” for her role in the anti-GMO movement;
• Dr Shiva stood up to the corporate powers at agricultural giant Monsanto by suing them in 1999 for their illegal GMO Bt cotton strain trials in India;
• These seeds are controversial as they are expensive, lose effectiveness after one generation, and later become resistant to fighting certain pest infestations – leading to poor yields and heavy debts for local farmers;
• Dr. Shiva won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010 for her work;
• Featuring two key perspectives on managing the exploding world population: one that’s controlled by corporates, and
one focusing on organic/ local food systems;
• Directed and produced by Camilla Denton Becket (Diagnosis
Epilepsy: Now What?) and James Becket (The Best Revenge);
• Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers) appears in the film;
• Reviews: NA;
• Language: English;
• Screener TBC;
• No Aus. Distributor
• Aus TR Date: TBC;
• Sub-themes: Sustainability, Human Rights, Social Justice, Women
• Cultural/Language affiliation: India (Dr Vandana Shiva), Australia, United States (dir. James Beckett), South Africa (dir. Camilla Becket)


• Directed by five women: Fadia Abboud (Les Norton), Lucy Gaffy (The Spa – SFF2016), Julie Kalceff (First Day), Ana Kokkinos (Blessed – SFF2019) and Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson- SFF2021);
• Produced by Sheila Jayadev (Ali’s Wedding—SFF2017);
• Set in Blacktown, Western Sydney and written by eight
emerging Australian writers from different cultural backgrounds, to hear the different perspectives of living in the country;
• The writers workshopped their stories with experienced directors and producers;
• A dramatic anthology of stories — in which a baby being kidnapped from a hospital sets off a series of events that brings complete strangers together over a single day;
• Starring Arka Das (Spice Sisters – SFF2016), Rahel Romahn (Down Under – SFF2016), Leah Vandenburg (Stupid Stupid Man), Geneviève Lemon (Sweetie – SFF2019) and more;
• Reviews: N/A
• Language: English;
• Screener TBC;
• Aus Distributor: Mind Blowing World; • Aus TR Date TBC;
• Sub themes: Western Sydney, Multiculturalism
• Cultural/Language affiliation: Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Burma, Kurdish, India, Lebanon, Philippines, Vietnam

BANGLADESH FILM at SFF 2021 – Rehana Maryam Noor

Directed by Abdullah Mohammad Saad 2021 Bangladesh 107 minutes 15+


The first Bangladeshi film to make the Cannes Official Selection. A searing drama about a medical professor’s fight for justice against a colleague she believes has abused a student.
Rehana, an assistant professor at a medical college, is meticulous in her work and as stern with her students as she is with her layabout brother and her young daughter. Struggling to maintain a balance between her work and family life, Rehana is constantly under pressure. When she comes across a tearful student leaving a professor’s office, Rehana is convinced she has witnessed an abuse of power. She sets about convincing the reluctant student to lay a formal complaint. But Rehana comes up against powerful resistance and a system that places reputation above everything. Her life begins to spiral out of control. Absolutely gripping and complex, with a fiery performance by Azmeri Haque Badhon as Rehana, this is a provocative and timely film.

Bangladesh, Singapore, Qatar
In Bengali with English subtitles
Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Jeremy Chua
Azmeri Haque Badhon, Kazi Sami Hassan, Afia Jahin Jaima
Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Tuhin Tamijul
Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Asia, Focus on Women, Gender & Sexuality, Indian subcontinent
Australian Distributor: POTH Productions & Deshievents

The Festival will also present SFF On Demand, a virtual offering of 56 feature-length films and 13 shorts from the wider program available to stream nationally from 12-21 November.


Neeraj Nanda

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