Sydney Film Festival is here, so while you might still like to set aside at least a couple of hours to salivate over the huge list of captivating films, we’ve compiled a few titles that are local, civic and social-minded.

1. The Chinese Mayor

A city known as one of the ugliest in the world is set for radical return to its once triumphant past, if the utopian vision of its radical mayor is to come to pass.

Controversial Communist Party Mayor of Datong Geng Yangbo believes the future of his city with a population of 3.5 million lies in culture. His plan is to recreate Datong’s four great ancient walls to restore the city’s ancient legacy, which means large-scale demolition and displacement. This film questions the balance between development and protection, individual and collective interests and sacrifice for an uncertain future during China’s greatest era of change.

2. Bikes vs Cars

A debate responsible for drawing battle lines at dinner tables and offices across Sydney. This vocal film tackles a conspicuous global crisis – the earth’s cities being swallowed up by dirty, noisy traffic gridlock. From a filmmaker born in bike-friendly Malmo, this film takes us across to the world to show us the benefit of transport on a human scale.

3. Women He’s Undressed

Costume designer Orry-Kelly is a three time Oscar winner for An American in Paris (1951), Les Girls (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959) and dressed stars like Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart – and he hails from Kiama. Learn about this fascinating individual, who worked openly as a gay man in Hollywood at a time when homosexuality was socially objectionable. And the film premiers on a ship in Sydney Harbour!

4. Freedom Stories

This is a film that puts one of Australia’s biggest current social issues at its centre, made by local filmmakers and featuring Australian stories. The documentary explores the impact made by former asylum seekers who arrived by boat around 2001 – a watershed moment in Australian politics infamous for the Tampa affair, the Pacific solution and the children overboard tragedy. This poignant film showcases the often unheard stories of resilience of ‘boat people’, whose perilous, decade-long journey of settling in a new country have since dropped out of the media spotlight.

There’s also a nice collection of films with stories of Indigenous people, including seven short films specifically featuring Indigenous filmmaking talent; a chance to revisit remastered classics; and an Ingmar Bergman retrospective curated by David Stratton.

Sydney Film Festival is on 3-14 June. Go to

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