‘The Pool,’ ‘In Vitro’ to Make Sydney Film Festival Splash

Two new Australian films, both enjoying their world premiere, are among the first titles confirmed to play at the Sydney Film Festival in June.

“In Vitro,” a sci-fi mystery thriller set on a remote cattle farm in the near future, hails from directors Will Howarth and Tom McKeith (“Beast”) and stars Ashley Zukerman (“Succession”).

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With “The Pool,” director Ian Darling (“The Final Quarter”) paints a cinematic portrait of a year in the life of the iconic Bondi Icebergs, the pool and the people who cherish it.

They will be joined by New Zealand actor Rachel House (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”), who makes her feature directorial debut with “The Mountain,” which centers on three children discovering friendship’s healing power through the spirit of adventure as they trek through spectacular New Zealand landscapes. It is executive produced by Taika Waititi and will be eligible for Sydney’s recently announced First Nations Award, which offers the largest cash prize for First Nations filmmaking in the world.

The festival will run June 5-16 and announce its full lineup on May 8.

Other titles getting a jump on that announcement include “The Rye Horn,” winner of the Golden Shell for best film at San Sebastián, last year; Agnieszka Holland’s refugee thriller “Green Border,” which raised the ire of some Polish politicians and inspired protests before setting a box office record, and “Pepe,” which won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in February. The film tells the true-ish story of Pepe the hippo who broke free of Pablo Escobar’s private zoo.

“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.

One of the hits of Berlinale 2024, “Sex” 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.

Another unusual selection is “The Contestant,” a documentary story of a TV contestant left naked in a room, unaware his months-long challenge was being broadcast to millions via a Japanese television show. The film’s director Clair Titley and the contestant himself Hamatsu Tomoaki (aka Nasubi) will attend the Sydney festival as guests.

“Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros” sees documentary icon Frederick Wiseman (“City Hall”) return with an epic set in a three-Michelin-star French restaurant.

Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios (A Cop Movie, SFF 2021) recruits Rooney Mara and Raúl Briones in comedic drama “La Cocina,” set during the hectic lunch rush at a New York restaurant. “House of the Seasons” is an intergenerational family saga set in a tofu factory in Daegu, Korea, which was an award winner at the Busan festival last year.

Other early selections include documentaries “COPA ’71,” which presents the untold story of the 1971 Women’s Soccer World Cup and exposes systemic sexism with governing bodies, and Kenya-set “The Battle for Laikipia,” Olivier Assayas’ most personal film, “Suspended Time,” and Bhutan director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s Oscar-nominated “The Monk and The Gun.”

The festival is also planning film and live music event “Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser,” comprising 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.

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