Sydney Film Festival fanfare

Kurt seeks to find his authentic voice as an artist in Never Look Away.

As cameras go behind the scenes to document the intriguing lives of some well-known Jewish figures, this year’s Sydney Film Festival (SFF), which runs from June 5-16, also celebrates Jewish talent in filmmaking. Sophie Deutsch reports.

Never Look Away

Revered German painter Gerhard Richter forms the inspiration for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away.

Spanning three decades, the romantic historical drama follows Kurt witnessing prejudices and persecution under Nazi Germany, before falling in love with a fellow art student, whose father is an ex-Nazi, in East Germany, and then enjoying the freedoms of expression afforded by West Germany.

Through it all, Kurt strives to speak the truth through his magnificent works of art.

In Synonymes, a former IDF soldier yearns, above all, to replace his Israeli identity with a French one.

Synonymes

Award-winning Israeli film writer Nadav Lapid doesn’t only direct from the sidelines. His life story is featured front and centre in Synonymes – an autobiographical film tracing a young Israeli man’s assimilation into Parisian society at the expense of his Israeli identity.

Synonymes won the Golden Bear for best film at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

Lapid’s film The Kindergarten Teacher was screened in last year’s SFF.

Frank Lowy visits Auschwitz where his father was killed in What Will Become of Us.

What Will Become of Us

Real estate mogul Sir Frank Lowy is well-known for founding the shopping mall giant Westfield.

After starting a small, family-run business when he came to Australia after WWII, Lowy grew Westfield into a modern-day business empire.

Less well-known in the public domain is the complex role he navigates daily while caring for his wife, Shirley, who lives with severe dementia.

In What Will Become of Us, directed by Oscar-nominated Steven Cantor, Lowy reflects on his present-day life, past achievements and future, going back to his roots as a young Jewish boy in 1930s Czechoslovakia, in an attempt to gain a fresh perspective on whether he should sell his multi-billion dollar business – the culmination of his life’s work and passion.

In a dated suburban Chinese restaurant, tensions between father and son boil to the surface in Snare.

Snare

Over steamed dumplings and chicken chow mein, a punk-rock father and his rockstar son express their need for the other’s support in order to pursue their respective dreams.

Directed by Madeleine Gottlieb, who is also the co-producer and co-writer, Snare raises compelling questions around ambition, the expectations placed on parents, the role of children and familial ties.

Jeff Goldblum stars as Doctor Fiennes in The Mountain.

The Mountain

A pang of uneasiness befalls most of us when we hear the word “lobotomy”, and The Mountain, directed by Rick Alverson, certainly does not shy away from the brutal treatment mental health patients were succumbed to in 1950s America. 

Doctor Wallace Fiennes, played by Oscar-nominated screen legend Jeff Goldblum, is strangely enthusiastic about performing the increasingly controversial practice, and equally eager for Andy, a young, introspective photographer, to record each step of their asylum tour across America.

As they travel from hospital to hospital, Andy becomes concerned about the disastrous effects Fiennes’ lobotomies are having on patients.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 5-16. Tickets at sff.org.au.