Sydney Film Festival archival imagery

Celebrating 70 years of cinema: the Sydney Film Festival’s enduring legacy

6 June 2023
How the University of Sydney contributed to the development of a cultural event
In its 70th year in 2023, the Sydney Film Festival reflects on its remarkable journey, and it may come as a surprise to many that its origins can be traced back to the University of Sydney.

The Faculty of Arts and Social Science takes great pride in its partnership with the Sydney Film Festival, which not only celebrates the Festival's rich history but also recognises its deep-rooted connection to the University. On 11 June 1954, the inaugural Sydney Film Festival opened to a sold-out audience of 1200 film enthusiasts at the University of Sydney. Organised by a passionate group representing Sydney’s film societies, the three-day festival featured a modest selection of only nine films. In 1957 the festival expanded its horizons beyond the University of Sydney and found a new home in various venues across Sydney. Today, the festival is bigger than ever, with the 2023 program boasting over 200 films, screened across 12 days and 11 venues in Sydney.

As part of its 70th-anniversary celebration, Sydney Film Festival is proud to have revitalised its Living Archive website, which is dedicated to documenting the festival's history, creating an interactive and accessible record that spans its seven decades, including its longstanding connection to the University of Sydney. The new website was unveiled during the Sydney Film Festival Program Launch event on 9th May in the presence of esteemed guests including Dr Anna Broinowski, Director of the Master of Moving Image program, Dr Susan Potter, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, as well as current Media and Communications students. For Dr Broinowski the festival holds personal significance, as it played a pivotal role in her own journey from actor to filmmaker, igniting her passion and shaping her career. “Sydney Film Festival made me want to be a film maker,“ she recalls.

The partnership between the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Sydney Film Festival has enabled many opportunities for our students. Four students from different disciplines, including Film Studies, Master of Moving Image, Theatre and Performance Studies and English have been selected to complete internships at the Sydney Film Festival. Additionally, two Media and Communications students have the privilege of attending the grand opening of the Festival, providing firsthand coverage through social media takeovers. A selected number of students’ work will be featured permanently on the Sydney Film Festival’s Living Archive website.

Beyond its role in showcasing talented filmmakers, the Festival serves as an inspiration for those aspiring to pursue a career in the film industry. Dr Susan Potter emphasises the myriad opportunities available within the field, stating, “You can work in film editing, you can be a writer, a film critic, you can also work behind the scenes. We have a lot of alumni who have gone off to work in animation studios or to work in film distribution”.

For those passionate about film and considering a major or minor in Film Studies at the University of Sydney, Dr Susan Potter highlights the invaluable skills and knowledge that you can gain “You will come out with the capacity to think about film in all its global contexts, but also be able to be really driven by your own passions and interests”.

Film Studies at Sydney

Strategic Partnerships and Engagement

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Brennan MacCallum Building (A18), The University of Sydney

Related articles