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european women directors stand out at sydney's digital edition

In its fifth year of cooperation between European Film Promotion (EFP) and Sydney Film Festival (SFF), the programme of EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM has been given a special focus at this year's reduced digital festival edition. Ten selected European films and their outstanding women directors will be presented alongside otherwise exclusively Australian works at the 67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition and Awards from 10 to 21 June, 2020.

"We are thrilled that we will become an even more visible part of SFF in this challenging festival year. Our thanks go to SFF's festival director Nashen Moodley for giving us such great exposure within the programme as well as the final selection of films. This year's EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM casts strong curatorial and thematic light on multiple gender issues and preconceptions in Europe. We are also grateful to the Creative Europe - MEDIA Programme of the European Union and our member organisations, the national promotion institutes, who have made the programme possible", says EFP's Managing Director Sonja Heinen.

The selected films are: A Perfectly Normal Family by Malou Reymann (Denmark), A Year Full of Drama by Marta Pulk (Estonia, documentary), Charter by Amanda Kernell (Sweden, Denmark, Norway), Force of Habit by Kirsikka Saari, Elli Toivoniemi, Anna Paavilainen, Alli Haapasalo, Reetta Aalto, Jenni Toivoniemi and Miia Tervo (Finland), Kids Run by Barbara Ott (Germany), Lessons of Love by Malgorzata Goliszewska and Kasia Mateja (Poland, documentary), My Little Sister by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond (Switzerland), Sea Fever by Neasa Hardiman (Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, UK), They Call Me Babu by Sandra Beerends (The Netherlands, documentary) and Zana by Antoneta Kastrati (Kosovo*, Albania).

"Although we are unable to host Sydney Film Festival in cinemas this year, we are delighted to continue our partnership with European Film Promotion in co-presenting EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM at the 67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition and Awards. We are excited to bring to the Australian audience ten vital new works by European women directors, and while we are, of course, sad that we cannot host these directors in Sydney as usual, we look forward to presenting them, and their wonderful films, virtually", says SFF Director Nashen Moodley.

The national film promotion institutes supporting this year's edition of EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM are: Danish Film Institute, Estonian Film Institute, Finnish Film Foundation, German Films, Kosova Cinematography Center, Polish Film Institute, Screen Ireland, SEE NL (The Netherlands), Swedish Film Institute and Swiss Films.

EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM is supported by the Creative Europe - MEDIA Programme of the European Union and Eurimages and presented for the first time in cooperation with European Women's Audiovisual Network (EWA) and Festival Scope. The media partners are Screen International, Fade to Her and Fred Film Radio.


Sydney Film Festival is a major event on the New South Wales cultural calendar and is one of the world's longest-running film festivals. Sydney Film Festival is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW, the Federal Government through Screen Australia and the City of Sydney.

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The Film Selection 2020

Force of Habit follows the lives of various women throughout one day. Hilla is having a romantic vacation, Emmi is throwing a house party, and Milja is on her way to school when they're approached by a stranger and things take an unexpected turn. At the same time, Emppu, a young actress, is conflicted as she rehearses for the biggest role of her life. Elsewhere, Aleksi, an inexperienced prosecutor, is preparing for his first court case in haste; Niina, the victim of the crime, has been waiting years to see her case tried. Miia throws a company party, and the mood dramatically changes when her colleague Katja opens up about their boss coming on to her. Miia and a couple of her closest colleagues try to resolve the situation, but how do the others react?

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Force of Habit
Elli Toivoniemi, Kirsikka Saari, Anna Paavilainen, Alli Haapasalo, Reetta Aalto, Jenni Toivoniemi, Miia Tervo

An Indonesian nanny tells her remarkable life story, which plays out against the backdrop of World War II and her country's struggle for independence. As a young woman, Alima flees to the city to avoid an arranged marriage. She finds a job as a nanny, or 'babu', for a Dutch family who are about to leave on a trip to Holland. As conflict descends across the globe, Alima returns to the Dutch colony, surviving Japanese occupation and her homeland's battle for liberation, before finding her own place in the world. Sandra Beerends uses never-before-seen archive footage to construct Alima's partly fictionalised story, based on the lives of several Indonesian nannies of the era. The lyrical images of colonial society are hauntingly present, and Alima's alienation is palpable. Her gradual understanding of colonial society and her own position, exquisitely narrated, tells a universal story of women's empowerment.

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They Call Me Babu
Sandra Beerends
The Netherlands

Lisa, a brilliant playwright, has given up writing and moved countries to support her husband's career as the head of a prestigious school in Switzerland. Her twin brother, Sven, who's a famous theatre actor, remains in Berlin. Though physically separated, the twins become closer than ever when Sven is diagnosed with leukemia. Lisa refuses to accept Sven's prognosis and knows that in order for him to live he must return to the stage, where he feels truly alive. Neglecting everything she once held important, Lisa devotes herself to her brother, and finds a route to her own calling. Two of Germany's finest actors, Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger, give beautiful, emotional performances in this moving film about creativity and filial love.

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My Little Sister
Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond

After decades married to a "worthless fleabag" husband, and raising six kids, Jola has finally decided to let loose. Although, the immaculately garbed, primped and coiffed sexagenarian would never allow her appearance to slide! She leaves her abusive partner in Italy and heads to her native Poland, where she lounges on the beach with her girlfriends, takes singing lessons and writes poems. Then, Jola meets Wojtek at a Latin dance class and her head is turned. He's a gallant and considerate man, but Jola is hesitant to commit; "Should I try one more time, or are all men the same?" she muses. Filmmakers Goliszewska and Mateja have crafted a wonderfully cinematic and joyful account of a woman's battle to reinvent herself in her twilight years.

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Lessons of Love
Małgorzata Goliszewska, Kasia Mateja

Neasa Hardiman's suspenseful creature feature has acquired a new relevance since its world premiere at Toronto. Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen anchor the tale as a couple facing financial ruin unless their trawler snares a bumper catch on its next foray into the Atlantic. Joining them is Siobhán (Hermione Corfield, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation), a brilliant and socially awkward marine biology student. Hardiman's screenplay neatly combines tense human drama and monster movie terror when a massive underwater entity latches onto the vessel and begins to infect crew members with voracious parasitic spores. Siobhán's attempt to destroy the organism and prevent an apocalyptic pandemic lends an eerie, prescient quality to the film's exciting action.

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Sea Fever
Neasa Hardiman

In a small Kosovar village, Lume lives with her husband, Ilir, and mother-in-law Remzije. Lume's daughter was killed in the war a decade ago, and she has been unable to conceive since. Modern medicine has failed, and now her mother-in-law, desperate for a grandchild, is working on securing an eager new wife for her son. Lume is convinced to seek help from a traditional healer, but the suppressed traumas of a vicious war rear up to threaten her chance at happiness. With a tremendous central performance by Adriana Matoshi as Lume, Zana is a profoundly personal film from director Kastrati, a war survivor herself, and one that makes clear the lingering impact of war.

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Antoneta Kastrati
Kosovo, Albania

Charter opens with Alice (Ane Dahl Torp) arriving at a small town in Northern Sweden after receiving a troubling call from her young son, and being firmly told to stay away by her ex-husband. She hasn't seen her children in months. Following the messy divorce, she is embroiled in a custody battle in which the entire community seems pitted against her. Distressed, Alice abducts her kids and heads to a holiday resort in the Canary Islands. Kernell expertly plays with mystery and tension, always keeping the audience guessing as to the true motives of the key characters. Dahl Torp excels in a difficult and complex role, conveying both the intense desire for Alice to be with her children, and her reluctance to sacrifice her independence to do so.

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Amanda Kernell
Sweden, Denmark, Norway

Andi, a father of three young children, is always strapped for cash and ekes out a living as a labourer. Facing eviction, Andi turns to his ex-girlfriend Sonja - the mother of his youngest child - and borrows a large sum of money to avert his eviction. When he loses his construction job, Andi is unable to pay back the loan, and Sonja insists that he pays up or she will stop him seeing his child. Desperate, Andi decides that an amateur boxing competition, and its cash prize, is his only salvation. Kinetically directed by Barbara Ott, Jannis Niewöhner is tremendously good as the aggressive, moody Andi, who frequently makes bad decisions but wants nothing more than a decent life for his family.

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Kids Run
Barbara Ott

A job advert with a difference: seeking someone who's never been to the theatre to watch every production in one small country for a whole year. The successful candidate is a small-town girl from a Russian-speaking family (a fact that puts her on the periphery of Estonian society). Alissija hasn't been to the theatre since she was a small child, so she's about to immerse herself in and document a world she knows nothing about. It's not just the performing arts that are new to Alissija; she'll also be moving to Estonia's capital, Tallinn, and living away from family. As the months pass, she experiences everything from farce to the classics, and ends up questioning theatre's place in the world, as well as her unique role. Alissija's curious and courageous theatrical journey - 224 shows in 365 days (matinees included) - turns out to be a life-changing and true coming-of-age story.

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A Year Full Of Drama
Marta Pulk

For 11-year-old Emma, life appears to be completely uneventful until her dad, Thomas, decides to transition and live as a woman. Thomas becomes Agnete, and the pair must carefully renegotiate their relationship to nurture the closeness and deep love they always shared. Debut feature film director, Malou Reymann, inspired by her own childhood, says: "It's very true to how I experienced it back then... There was a sense of sorrow, sure, but also humour, a sense of love and loss - experienced at the exact same time." Using re-created home videos, and a terrific cast, Reymann beautifully captures a family working its way through a unique situation and finding themselves in the process.

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A Perfectly Normal Family
Malou Reymann