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Our Big Screen Scene

September is no doubt the most exciting time in the Northern Territory for film lovers and makers, as Darwin International Film Festival (DIFF) illuminates the silver screen to showcase local, national and international cinematic gems. 

With a bounty of special guests, filmmakers and actors, plus huge opportunities for the NT’s thriving film industry, DIFF is the most anticipated event on the Territory's big screen scene. And 2023 delivers one of the most impressive programs to date. 

By Tierney Seccull

Earning its stripes as the home of Territory cinema, offering a varied selection of films throughout its annual program, Deckchair Cinema somehow manages to up the ante over 11 flick-filled nights each September with a diverse DIFF program. Curated by a passionate Festival Programming Committee, which includes members of the local film industry, they’ve sure had their work cut out for them. 

“It’s a massive challenge. Over the years, the Deckchair programming has progressed and improved, and the programmers are looking at the release schedules from the festival line-up in Cannes, so DIFF needs to go above and beyond normal Deckchair programming,” says DIFF Manager James Parker, also Deckchair General Manager. 

Regardless of any challenges, DIFF continues to punch above its weight, with national and international premieres, and screenings of films handpicked from the international film festival circuit such as Cannes, Sundance and Berlinale. As well as the iconic Deckie, satellite screenings are held at Darwin Waterfront, BCC Cinemas in Casuarina, and the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT. 

One of the many benefits of DIFF is that it diversifies the audience experience, opening a world of genres, stories and formats – even cultures – one mightn’t have thought to explore. 

“We’ve got films from every continent – things you have never seen before, or that could be out of your comfort zone. We have a film from Sudan – Goodbye Julia, which looks fantastic – just as an example of something that you likely wouldn’t come across in your normal viewing,” Parker says. 

Also lighting up the big screen is Australian family flick Scarygirl, Japanese drama Perfect Days, French crime and drama feature Anatomy of a Fall, and horror film Tiger Stripes, a creative collaboration between Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore. There's also a hefty short film program. 

In what could be one of the biggest events in DIFF history, closing night screens Australian film The Rooster, the directorial debut from actor-turned-filmmaker, Mark Leonard Winter. He's one of the evening’s special guests and brings with him an entourage of creatives of the film, including legendary actor, Hugo Weaving. Huge. 

In addition to the exciting film program, DIFF presents the welcome opportunity for the local film industry to grow through development opportunities at the two-day Northern Territory Screen Summit. Presented by Screen Territory, it allows anyone from screen professionals to emerging filmmakers to chat film production and engage with industry experts. 

But any filmmaker, producer or actor will tell you there’s no better feeling than seeing your work on the big screen, and the chance to witness talented Territorians up in lights is what it’s all about in the Spark Film Showcase. 

“Spark has seen a record investment from Screen Territory in 2023, supporting four films by local filmmakers. It’s always a highlight in the festival and one of the most fun nights … Friends, family and people that know the filmmakers come along and they’re really into the films, there’s an amazing energy,” Parker says. 

At DIFF HQ, Deckchair offers a nightly all-in feast for the senses. Head in early to dine on flavours from around the world with dishes from local eateries, or hang back afterwards for late night sweets and hot chippies. Take a tipple at the pop-up gin bar and enjoy live tunes from local legends. If you’re keen to embrace all that DIFF has to offer, treat yourself with a multi-film Festival Pass or Full Access Pass. 

September is for the screen. Settle in under the stars – with the stars – and soak up some of the best titles in cinema across the globe, right here on beautiful Larrakia Country. 

Click here to read our exciting interview with Hugo Weaving!

Darwin International Film Festival 

Spark Film Showcase

Four teams of emerging Territory filmmakers received funding and support from Screen Territory to produce 10-minute films, created especially for DIFF. You're invited to join the filmmakers at their world premieres at the home of Territory cinema. 

After another argument with her long-suffering dad, 15-year-old Xanthe storms out of the house and stumbles upon a rusted-out old robot in the bush. Balancing humour, drama and heartbreak, Rust proves that making new friends isn’t always easy – even when you have an instruction manual. 

It's the end of the world and everyone knows it. Determined to uphold a sense of order, Zara drags her parents to the high school's last concert. But emotions run high, and when nothing goes as planned, Zara is forced to embrace the chaos.


First Drop
Set in Alice Springs, reclusive and bitter retiree Ted is tasked with caring for his Pakistani neighbour’s 8-year-old daughter, Saleha. Keen to limit his engagement with her, Ted’s defences come down as he realises the two share a mutual love of cricket, thus begins the blossoming of an unlikely friendship. 

Two actors meet in a tent to discuss a film they are working on – a younger man playing Hephaestion, and a more mature one playing Alexander, the Great. As the thespians dissect their roles, Hephaestion argues against the use of friendship as a label to hide genuine romance. 

Spark Film Showcase
COST $10-$20 

DIFF Highlights

Shayda - Opening Night 
Shayda tells the story of an Iranian woman trying to create a sense of normalcy for her daughter while trying to escape an abusive husband. This special opening night event also features short film Dipped in Black / Marungka Tjalatjunu, with special guests Osamah Sami (Shayda), and Derik Lynch and Duncan Graham (Dipped in Black). 

COST $15-$25 

Best of Annecy Kids 
It’s a film festival for the kids! The Best of Annecy Kids assembles funny, touching and poetic short films, just for the young ones. Films from the Official Selection, as well as a tailor-made Annecy opening sequence by the students of Gobelins, l’école de l’image, make up this special program to enchant children six and over. 

COST $10-$15 | FREE 5-15 

NT Screen Summit 
The thriving NT Screen Industry gets together under one roof for two days of networking and presentations with local and interstate speakers and guests. Highlighting the program are some of the biggest names in the industry, with representatives from Screen Australia, Studio Canal, NITV, Paramount, Melbourne International Film Festival and Madman. 

Guest creatives include directors Rolf de Heer and Mark Leonard Winter, alongside the filmmakers from the 2023 Spark program. 


Thumbnail & inset: Photo: Nicholas Gouldhurst 
Header: Past Lives Screening at DIFF | Sat 23 Sep, 7pm 

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