From a water generated superhero (Vincent) to tragedy in the Himalayas (Sherpa), ‘gaybys’, Scientologists, the global housing crisis and a secretly filmed movie from Iran, plus classics like Far from the Madding crowd and Madame Bovary, this year’s Sydney Film Festival has surpassed itself in diversity and movie treasures.

Last week’s media launch gave a taster of what the 62nd Festival holds. The launch was held at Customs house, a grand building that fronts on to Circular Quay, flanked by the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Troy Grant and the Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore prefaced their opening speeches by honouring the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait custodians of the land around Sydney, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.

Just as the Sundance film festival supports Native American films as part of their annual programme, Aboriginal story telling is showcased in The Sydney Festival’s Screen Black segment, this year including indigenous art, song, dance and body painting as well as the programme of films. At the other end of the spectrum, the grand tradition of European cinema is represented by a special retrospective of Ingmar Bergman films.

Festival director Nashen Moodley spoke proudly of the Festival’s growth to 250 titles drawn from 68 countries and a doubling of world premieres from 15 to 33. Australia’s home grown films are well represented in both the opening and closing night films, Reuben Guthrie and Holding the Man, the latter a tragic and inspiring story of an enduring romance between two men, described as a ‘compelling argument for equality and the end of prejudice.’ Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving star in the Australian/Irish production Strangerland, a film about parents who lose their children in outback Australia and The Daughter stars Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neil in a modern adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck.

British films make their mark in Slow West and Far From the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan. Russell Brand turns up in two offerings, an iconoclastic collaboration with Michael Winterbottom in The Emperor’s New Clothes and the biopic Brand: the Second Coming. The wonderful Kim Longinotto, award winning director of documentaries on social justice including Pink Saris and Sisters in Law, brings Dreamcatcher, an inspiring look at a Chicago ex-prostitute working for intervention in the lives of girls at risk.

Other British co produced documentaries include Listen to Me Marlon (on Marlon Brando), the origins of Greenpeace in How to Change the World, Palio and the Russian Woodpecker. Amy, the story of Amy Winehouse, is another UK offering from the team that created the fabulous Senna.

The scene is set for Sydney to become party central with the launch of Vivid Sydney, a light show that transforms the CBD, Harbour Bridge and Opera House into a technicolor fantasy. Vivid starts up on 22 May and overlaps with the Film Festival’s opening weekend 6th-7th June, making the city a fairytale destination.

Apart from the cinema venues in and around the city, the appropriately named The Hub at Sydney Town Hall acts as headquarters for gallery, bar, lounge and party space throughout the festival. This year features a video art exhibition and a programme of talks and panels. Discussions include ‘Why do we need to engage with difficult films?’ ‘Can documentaries change the world?’ and ‘The History of Animation.’

An especially anticipated event is ‘Alex Gibney in Conversation.’ Gibney, a prolific and controversial film maker whose previous work includes ‘Wikileaks : We Steal Secrets’ brings to the festival ‘Going Clear’ his documentary on Scientology, and also premieres ‘Mr Dynamite: the Story of James Brown.’

Now the programme is revealed, the estimated 156,000 plus audience are fast buying tickets and getting ready for red carpet glitz, gritty documentaries, classics and schlock-horror, light shows and restaurants, after-parties, awards nights and the buzz that is Sydney’s 10 day film festival.

To quote Festival Chairman Chris Freeman, ‘Enjoying the latest in film from Australia and around the world, sharing unique experiences and community with fellow film lovers and filmmakers, rubbing shoulders with the best and brightest of our local film industry;  why would you want to miss out on any of that?’

The festival runs from the 3rd to 14th June. For the full programme and information on the festival visit the website.