Sydney Film Festival announces Casey Affleck and Whitney Houston films

Still from the film A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara
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A haunting drama that has Casey Affleck as a ghost under a white sheet, a documentary that looks at Whitney Houston’s tragic death and a drive-in screening of An American Werewolf in London will feature at Sydney Film Festival in June.

Director Nashen Moodley has announced the first films in the program – 15 features and 13 documentaries – and revealed the 64th festival will include an extra cinema.

While still based in its traditional venues in the city – the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street and Dendy Opera Quays – the festival has the Randwick Ritz joining Dendy Newtown, Cremorne Orpheum, the Art Gallery of NSW and Casula Powerhouse for an event that attracted more than 170,000 patrons last year.

Moodley expects one of the highlights to be David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, a drama that has Affleck as a musician who dies in a car crash then returns to the home he shared with his grieving wife, played by Rooney Mara.

“It’s very a minimal film and, as you can tell from the sheet, very lo-fi,” Moodley says. “But it’s a really moving love story.”

English documentary maker Nick Broomfield will be a guest at the festival – and present a masterclass – for the screening of Whitney: Can I Be Me, which charts Houston’s rise to become one of the world’s biggest female singers then her downfall and death in 2012.

“Just like in Amy [the Oscar-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse],we see things going wrong,” Moodley says. “It’s a tragic story but also one that features the absolute beauty of her voice.”

An American Werewolf in London, the comic horror film from 1981, will screen under a full moon at the Skyline Drive-in at Blacktown.

The first n film to be announced is the comedy That’s Not Me from a husband-and-wife filmmaking team, writer-director Gregory Erdstein and writer-star Alice Foulcher. She plays twin sisters who are both actors in a film that was made for just $60,000.

“It’s an independent film that’s very clever and very funny,” Moodley says. “They say it’s inspired by Bridesmaids and Girls and that’s certainly the case but it has a certain Curb Your Enthusiasm type awkward humour as well.”

At a festival that is traditionally strong on documentaries, another highlight looks to be Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, which was up for best feature documentary at the Oscars this year. Based on an unfinished manuscript by American writer James Baldwin, it is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

Also screening are Jennifer Peedom’s follow-up to the acclaimed Sherpa, the documentary Mountain; the acclaimed Swiss-French animation My Life As A Zucchini, which was up for best animated feature at the Oscars; the documentary Winnie, about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela; Waiting For Giraffes, which is described as an inspiring documentary about a zoo caught in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the Mexican film The Untamed, which Moodley describes cryptically as “sci-fi erotica meets social realism.”

While yet to decide on an opening night film, he is “about halfway” through finalising the competition for “courageous, audacious and cutting edge” cinema.

The rest of the program will be announced on May 10, with the festival running from June 7 to 18.

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