SYDNEY, June 4 (Xinhua) -- With a gala to be opened Wednesday night in Sydney, featuring a hybrid documentary of legendary Australian singer Nick Cave's 20,000th day on earth, the 61st Sydney Film Festival (SFF) has revealed a rich focus on China program featuring six feature films and one short film.
Running from June 4 to June 15 across Sydney, the festival is part of Sydney's cultural fabric and one of the world's longest- running film festivals in the world. "We've selected the widest variety possible of the best new Chinese films", said SFF Focus on China guest programmer, Shelly Kraicer.
Kraicer, the guest programmer of SFF's Focus on China, is a China-based writer, critic and film curator, who has written for Cinema Scope, Cineaste, The Village Voice and Screen International.
His eclectic selection of Chinese cinema reflects the growing fascination here with Chinese culture.
While China has become Australia's key trading partner -- with two-way trade topping 120 billion U.S. dollars last year accounting for a third of Australia's total exports -- it is the collision of culture in modern China that now holds the torch for so may Australians young and old.
Since 2007 Kraicer has been a programmer at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and has worked as a consultant for the Venice, Udine, Dubai, and Rotterdam film festivals, he told Xinhua the SFF's Focus on China program tries to bring together as dispirate and eclectic a collection of Chinese modern cinema as possible.
"We offer the glossy commercial hit Up in the Wind's pointed examination of middle-class anxieties; homespun indie doc Beijing Ants'ground-level view of marginal urban existence; Dancing in the Room's romantic but blackly comic take on youthful boredom; Mothers' nuanced look at bureaucracy; Lake August's starkly beautiful portrait of death and love in the hinterlands; and 'Til Madness Do Us Part's epic ode to passions that thrive in the remotest corners of the state," Kraicer told Xinhua.
"In our official competition, the noir-mystery-arthouse mash-up of passion and murder in Black Coal Thin Ice landed it the prestigious Golden Bear at the Berlinale. Chinese cinema offers unlimited delights: its rebels, ghosts and romantics come to life through its screens to our imaginations."
Former SFF Director Lynden Barber said "The last couple of Sydney film fests have shown 'hybrid' documentaries -- mixing reality with fictional techniques -- to be one of the most exciting trends in filmmaking." "This year the tendency gets major official recognition with the gala opening night and official competition slot given to this acclaimed UK film about Nick Cave, made by artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard with the singer-writer's cooperation, and imagining his '20,000th day on earth',"Barber said.
The SFF also presents 12 films that vie for the official competition, a respected international honor that awards a 60,000 Australian dollars cash prize.
This year's Official Competition Jury, features Australian filmmaker Rachel Perkins as Jury President, film critic Shelly Kraicer (Canada), producer Oh Jung-wan (South Korea), director Khalo Matabane (South Africa) and actor Rachael Blake (Australia).
The winning film will be announced on June 15.
"The Official Competition selection celebrates film that pushes the boundaries of the art form," SFF Festival Director Nashen Moodley told Xinhua. "This year's selection offers some true surprises, and I look forward to the audience reactions to these amazing films."
"Sydney Film Festival will always be special to me," said SFF Jury President Rachel Perkins. "I screened the first movie I directed at the festival almost 20 years ago and I can still remember the terror of watching the film in front of its first real audience. Anyone who even completes a movie deserves an award in my view ...How on earth my fellow jurors and I will decide who gets the prize is yet to be seen, but I am looking forward to the challenge."
The films scheduled for special screenings are: Cannes Palme d' Or winner Winter Sleep, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan; the Jury Prize winner Mommy, directed by Xavier Dolan (whose film Tom at the Farm will also screen at SFF 2014); the werewolf romance When Animals Dream, directed by Jonas Alexander Arby; the Ecumenical Jury Prize Winner Timbuktu, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako and Special Jury Prize Winner The Salt of the Earth, directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders.
Moodley said he is thrilled to deliver special screenings to Sydney audiences. "These are some of the most interesting and important films from the recent Cannes Film Festival and we encourage audiences to add them to their SFF experience," Moodley said.