From Red Dirt to the Red Carpet: SXSW Sydney 2023 Screen Festival’s Opening Night Film Just Announced

August 24, 2023

We’re on the edge of our seats excited to announce the SXSW Sydney 2023 Screen Festival’s Opening Night film, the highly anticipated thriller The Royal Hotel.

This Aussie outback thriller is co-written and directed by Kitty Green (The Assistant, Casting JonBenet), who will grace the Opening Night red carpet at the ICC’s Darling Harbour Theatre on Sunday, 15 October.

The story, co-written with Oscar Redding (Van Diemen’s Land), goes a little something like this: armed with a sense of adventure but strapped for cash, US backpackers Hanna and Liv — played by Julia Garner (Inventing Anna, Ozark) and Jessica Henwick (Marvel’s Iron Fist) — take jobs and accommodation at a remote outback pub.

Turns out, working at the titular Royal Hotel is far from the breezy Aussie holiday the friends had in mind. The relentless heat, an unglamorous booze in a box and lack of wi-fi are the least of their worries as the real threat grows increasingly intense, and they become acquainted with the town’s predominantly male residents.

Enter: Hugo Weaving (Matrix, Priscilla Queen of the Desert).

The noted Aussie treasure plays Billy, the curt pub owner, and is joined by playfully charming Matty and the frighteningly chilling Dolly — played by Toby Wallace (Babyteeth) and Daniel Henshall (Defending Jacob, The Babadook). Filmed in Australia, The Royal Hotel takes the familiar down under backpacker hair-raiser and flips it on its head. From a distinctively female point of view, the film explores drinking culture, toxic masculinity and gender politics.

“Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel is a deft reworking of the ‘Aussie outback thriller,’ reoriented with a female gaze and we could not be more thrilled to open the inaugural SXSW Sydney Screen Festival with Kitty in attendance,” says Ghita Loebenstein, Head of Screen.

“The film takes deliberate stabs at the more toxic shadows of the genre, and our culture, in sophisticated but ever entertaining ways. Kitty is a local luminary who is gaining international acclaim as a writer-director with a fearless vision for nuanced storytelling and this film is the perfect opener to the Screen Festival, which seeks to amplify and celebrate bold voices in film.”

The Royal Hotel is produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See-Saw Films, the Academy and BAFTA Award winning team behind The Power of the Dog, Lion and The King’s Speech, together with Animal Kingdom and The King producer and See-Saw Films’ Head of Film and Television (Aus) Liz Watts, and Scarlett Pictures’ Kath Shelper. The Royal Hotel is a Transmission Films’ release.

The film joins the growing line-up with the first SXSW Sydney Screen Festival, including Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles, that will have our harbourside city buzzing with the best of the APAC region. The global premiere will be supported by special appearances by The Wiggles, including Q&A sessions and performances.

Secure your access today to be part of the action and connect with a global creative community. SXSW Sydney 2023 Screen Festival, including its Opening Night film, The Royal Hotel, is accessible to all badge holders and those with a Screen Wristband. Click here to discover the right level of access for you.