Anticipation is building. In fact, only one sleep to go before the cinephiles amongst us can immerse themselves in the world of film. The sixth Screenwave International Film Festival (SWIFF) launches Wednesday 14th April with the most ambitious program to date, described by SWIFF Co-Director Dave Horsley as “a reflection of what’s been an absurdly interesting year, by having a slate of absurdly interesting films.”
Dave and fellow Co-Director Kate Howat (pictured above) initially created SWIFF because “going to the cinema has always been our favourite thing in the world.” This is one sentiment with which I concur. And in a year that has seen way too many cancellations, I think all of us are brimming with excitement.
On the eve of the main event on the Coffs Coast Calendar, we managed to catch up with Dave to see how it feels six years on and get the inside guide to this year’s festival…..
SWIFF is now in its sixth year. Back in the beginning did you ever predict that this would be such an important event in our region?
We didn’t know what SWIFF would become. When you create a festival, you do it out of a want to share something you love – and going to the cinema has always been our favourite thing in the world. It’s always fun when the lights go down and the anticipation builds up for the film you’re about to watch.
With the festival, it’s a two way street. SWIFF has grown because audiences have bought tickets and attended. It’s our job to help people navigate the line-up and see something they might not have seen otherwise – and in a festival environment in cinemas full of movie-lovers.
How has SWIFF evolved over the past 6 years?
Well it’s bigger! It turns out people really dig movies with subtitles! First year was around 2000 people, and last year was around 10,000 people. So the way that SWIFF has evolved has been linked to that. The number of sessions has grown – there is a little over 120 feature film screenings this year – and as a result the wider film industry has started coming along too. Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds just confirmed for the festival with My Name Is Gulpilil, and that wouldn’t have been possible in the first year.
This year you are staging films at 2 venues in Coffs. What will the Chec Theatre add to this year’s event?
We are putting a lot of love into the experience at CHEC. The Coffs Harbour Education Campus is this untouched gem of a place for festivals. Big open space for a proper beer garden, events space, and it’s already got a café with a full menu, so we are designing it as one of the main venues for SWIFF. We have also focused on making the cinema experience there really immersive for audiences, and to do right by all of our filmmakers. CHEC Theatre will be the largest at 350 capacity too.
Jack Thompson has been named as the SWIFF’21 Festival Patron. How will his involvement impact on the SWIFF journey going forward?
Jack came along to the last SWIFF and loved it. He has been one of the best ambassadors and advocates for the wider Australian film industry – so it’s been really humbling working alongside Jack to take SWIFF to the next stop on its journey. Kate and I still have to pinch ourselves a bit – and so we have curated a program in tribute to some of Jack’s pivotal films: Wake In Fright 50th anniversary with live soundtrack, The Sum of Us, High Ground (with Q&A), Sunday Too Far Away, and on ANZAC Day we will have a special screening of Breaker Morant, with Jack in attendance for Q&A as well.
How would you describe this year’s program?
This year’s program is the most diverse, spanning over 30 countries and all continents (even Antarctica gets a look in!). There are 70 different feature films, 120 sessions, SWIFF Talks, Nextwave Youth Film Awards and two different SWIFF Live film/music hybrid events. A killer Closing Night Gala with the NSW Premiere of MOGUL MOWGLI, followed by a live set by Coco Varma, Bobby Singh, and Ben Walsh will get the afterparty happening at CHEC.
What are your personal predicted highlights for SWIFF 21?
For films: Another Round, The Furnace, Jumbo, Supernova, SWIFF Live: Wake In Fright, Dinner in America, Possessor, Falling, Judas & The Black Messiah, David Byrne’s American Utopia, and the Australian Surf Movie Festival presenting SWELL CHASERS.
For events: the SWIFF x Hilltop Degustation Wine Dinner, the Nextwave Youth Film Awards, the Grigoryan Brothers performing a live soundtrack to A Boy Called Sailboat, the creative industries networking events, and the Closing Night Gala.
For the full SWIFF Program and to purchase tickets CLICK HERE