NSW & ACTPioneer of the Year


In 1989, when Jenny Neighbour applied for the job of Senior Secretary/Assistant to the Director of the Sydney Film Festival, she was interviewed for the position by SFF Director Paul Byrnes and SFF Administrator Ross Barnard, who is now National Secretary/Treasurer of Cinema Pioneers.

Thirty four years later…

From the Sydney Film Festival’s bio for Jenny Neighbour:

“Sydney Film Festival’s International Documentary, Australian Documentaries, First Nations and many other programs, have benefited from Jenny Neighbour’s expert curatorial eye for many years.

As Head of Programs, and Documentary Programmer for the annual Sydney Film Festival, Neighbour is responsible for bringing the very best of the best true stories to Sydney audiences from all over Australia, and around the world.

In 2019, her 30th year at the Festival, Neighbour was honoured with the Independent Spirit Award by the Australian Independent Distributors Association in recognition of her lifetime contribution to the industry. Since 2000, Neighbour has programmed 2,000+ documentaries, presenting crucial contemporary issues and thought-provoking works from across the globe, to an ever-broader Festival audience.

In 2020, when Sydney Film Festival went virtual, and national, for the first time in its history, as a response to the pandemic, she secured the premier of 10 new Australian documentaries, in a program of 33 films and short films.

Jenny also takes the lead on the First Nations program and works with the Festival Director on the curation of Retrospective and special focus strands. She also manages the Festival’s programming teams, working closely with the Film Advisory Panel and curators of the Freak Me Out, FLUX: ART + FILM, Family, Retrospectives and Screenability strands.

Each year Jenny sees the best films of international festivals (in person or online during the COVID era), including the Berlinale, Göteborg, IDFA, London, imagineNATIVE, in search of powerful stories for inclusion in the Festival program. She also meets with key industry figures including sales agents, producers and other content providers to promote the Festival and secure sensational new films for our annual event.

To ensure world-class presentation standards are upheld during the Festival, Neighbour liaises with the SFF Guest & Industry Manager to develop a multifaceted Guests and Talks Program.

Neighbour joined Sydney Film Festival in November 1989, at a time when the Festival comprised a small team with very limited resources. As such, her role as Assistant to Festival Director & CEO Paul Byrnes encompassed a huge cross section of responsibilities: from programming to guest coordination, design, copywriting and marketing.

She has worked alongside five SFF Directors: Paul Byrnes, Gayle Lake, Lynden Barber, Clare Stewart and (currently) Nashen Moodley.

After studying fine arts at Goldsmiths College, London, she worked with the Greater London Council in human resources and events, before moving to Australia. In Sydney she worked on touring bicentennial art exhibitions, as well as the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition at the AGNSW.

Neighbour has been on the jury for AIDC and the Cork Film Festival, and in 2018 the AACTA Best Indie Film Grand Jury.”