Stranger With My Face International Film Festival
Along with fellow Tasmanian filmmaker Rebecca Thomson, I founded a feminist horror film festival in lutuiwita/Tasmania in 2012. We were influenced by the global Women in Horror movement, which was supportive of our own shorts films, and as a programmer I was inspired and advised by genre champions like Heidi Honeycutt (Viscera Film Festival, Etheria Film Night) and Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women, and too many festivals to name).
As the director/programmer of Stranger With My Face International Film Festival (SWMIFIFF) from 2012-2017, I curated a showcase of the work of brilliant filmmakers from around the world, aided by colleagues including Kier-La Janisse, Mia Falstein-Rush and Jason James. As well as screenings of short films and features, including many Australian premieres, the four-day event included networking events, a symposium and an associated lab for filmmakers, as well as popular satellite events like the 48-Hour Tasploitaiton Challenge and the Tasmanian Gothic Short Script Challenge.
Named after the YA novel by Lois Duncan (with her gracious approval) , SWMFIFF ended up having a global reach despite its size and was influential to many filmmaking careers. It became a focal point for discussion of the evolution of horror and horror-adjacent cinema, as well as hosting plenty of cross-artform exchange (it included sidebar art exhibitions, play readings, music performances and workshops).
A unique experience for audiences, SWMFIFF was also deliberately a filmmaker-centric festival. The philosophy was to keep the two in close contact, developing a community around the event that grew from year to year. Primarily, SWMFIFF was about providing opportunities for women and other under-represented voices in dark genre, and this need was also an ongoing point of discussion. While there have been gains in this regard in the last few years, there are still too many talented filmmakers who lack appropriate platforms for their work (especially within Australia). For that reason, I am hopeful that the 4-day festival will return some day in the future. In the meantime, the SWMFIFF brand continues, as a vehicle for occasional collaborations and smaller one-off events.
Read a few snippets of press coverage below or see the festival website for some of the archived programs.
“Nothing short of magical. It was transformative for me. I wish I could be there every year.” - Jennifer Lynch (Chained, The Walking Dead), guest filmmaker
It's basically a very curious, idiosyncratic and meticulously curated event and if you're not in Tasmania it's the kind of festival that's worth flying half-way around the country for." - Jason Di Rosso, Radio National
”Stranger With My Face is not the sole female-focused genre film festival, but it’s easily the best...This Aussie hub in Hobart, Tasmania is where most of the year’s strongest women-powered genre fare tends to end up." - MovieMaker
”The screen sector’s creepiest weekend of fun."- David Tiley, ScreenHub
”Stranger With My Face has been such a vital incubator for women’s genre filmmaking in Australia." - Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, film critic
“Among the world’s best film culture events.” - Adrian Martin, film critic
”A revelatory experience of my RealTime years has been covering the remarkable Stranger With My Face International Film Festival in 2014, 2016 and 2017....Taking place at Salamanca Arts Centre in wintry Hobart’s historic quarter (fully living up to its Tasmanian Gothic promise), each festival ran for about four days, plunging participants into a stimulating miscellany of films, talks, play-readings and informal chat where horror was the order of the day: horror you weren’t used to seeing; horror that sprang from women’s experiences and perspectives; horror that forced you to reassess your assumptions of what it was; horror reconstituted, reappraised." - Katerina Sakkas, RealTime, 2017
”Not only is Stranger With My Face contesting traditional ideas of horror, it is also reinventing what a feminist film festival might look like, aiming to benefit filmmakers as much as fans... Watching the Attic Lab participants pitch their projects in the red glow of the Founders Room, it's easy to feel that you're glimpsing part of the future of Australian cinema, the emergence of an alternative to both a narrow fanboy model of pop culture and the equally narrow – and locally still dominant – conventions of arthouse social realism." - Jake Wilson, The Age/SMH, 2016
”Stranger With My Face International Film Festival is a unique event that’s far more than a girlie horror fan club. It’s a festival that combines screenings of new work by local and international genre filmmakers, as well as retrospectives, networking events, and an invitation-only mentoring program (The Attic Lab) designed to actually midwife new films into the world by pairing emerging talents with established guests. Voted one of the Top 5 Coolest Women’s Film Festivals in the world by MovieMaker Magazine in 2013, SWMFIFF has grown in scope and confidence, while retaining its intimate and cosy Tassie vibe. With just one big screen, this is the kind of festival where you can meet every other audience member and visiting filmmaker either in the cinema or at the bar. And, transcending its initial brief to feature horror, the program is now designed to have something for everyone – from hardcore horror to gentle, dreamy ghost stories, uncanny thrillers, and the odd comedic bloodbath thrown in." - Rochelle Siemienowicz, SBS Movies, 2014
”The Stranger with My Face Horror Film Festival was a successful introduction to female horror that is far from soft. It carefully explored the genre and with it created a platform from which to see films that aren’t programmed in multiplexes. Judging by the size of the enthusiastic crowd, this event fills a gap that has been largely ignored by other film festivals. Next year it is bound to be bigger and with the Tasmanian sense of community, hospitality, dedication, great food and wine and MONA just a ferry ride away, Stranger with My Face is one to attend.." - Donna McRae, ScreenHub, 2012