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As summer temperatures reach seasonal highs on the New South Wales north coast, the Screenwave International Film Festival (SWIFF) will afford adventurous film lovers respite from the heat with its annual programme of bracingly bold and socially conscious features from the global film community.

From January 10 to 25, the 2018 line-up will unspool at The Jetty Memorial Theatre in the holiday haven of Coffs Harbour, five hours drive north of Sydney; a second screening venue is located in the rainforest township of Bellingen, situated in the region’s magnificent hinterland. Now in its third year, the SWIFF experience has expanded on the back of strong local community support, festivalgoers willing to travel and an increasing number of industry figures, all of whom have responded to an event that Festival Director Dave Horsley describes in his program notes as, “a weird, ephemeral beast”.

The Opening Night honours have been bestowed upon Greg McLean’s South American survival epic Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe. The true story of Israeli tourist Yossi Ghinsberg’s descent into hallucinatory madness while lost in the Amazon represents a tour de force role for Radcliffe and addresses the relationship between man and the natural world in its most breathtaking and unforgiving form. Closing the Festival will be the Sydney odyssey Ellipsis, the directorial debut of attending guest David Wenham; the romantic drama, which follows two strangers (pictured, right; Emily Barclay, left, and Benedict Samuel) as they meander from Bondi to their inner-city digs, has drawn comparisons to Richard Linklater’s ‘Before…’ trilogy.

Over the festival’s 15 days, 73 features will screen, including six Australian premieres. These are Paul Farmer’s crusading medicos doc, Bending the Arc (USA); Donkeyote (Germany, Spain), Chico Pereira’s account of a man and his mule’s journey across the US; Johnathan Olshefski’s Quest (USA), an inside look at the experiences of an African American family striving for a unified community; The Judge (Palestine, USA), Erika Cohn’s drama that exposes the challenges faced, both professionally and personally, by the first woman appointed as Judge in a Shari’a court of law; French director Ilan Klipper’s debut film, The Starry Sky Above Me (France), a humanistic character study of an ageing author with deeply ingrained neurosis; and, the SXSW sensation A Bad Idea Gone Wrong (USA), a contemporary heist comedy thriller from director Jason Headley.

Artistic Director Kate Howat, who calls her 2018 roster, “15 days of cinematic immersion and discovery”, has undertaken to highlight women and LGBTIQ projects in her programming. The strand 'Hear Me Out' includes six films highlighting the experiences of sexual minorities, including God’s Own Country (UK) from Sundance Best Director winner Francis Lee, and Pulse from Australian director Stevie Cruz-Martin (who will attend with the film’s star Daniel Monks). The female voice will be heard loudly via the sidebar 'Women in Action', a five film strand that includes Mouly Surya’s revenge thriller Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts (Indonesia, France), and the female-maori empowerment drama Waru, from eight of New Zealand’s women directors.

Twenty films comprise the largest of the SWIFF strands, 'World Cinema', with works coming to Coffs Harbour from as far afield as Mexico (Michel Franco’s Cannes honoree, April’s Daughter); China (Liu Jian’s animated action romp Have a Nice Day); Lebanon (Philippe Van Leuw’s Syrian-set family saga Insyriated); Hungary (Ildiko Enyedi’s Berlin and Sydney prize winner On Body and Soul); and, Bulgaria (Valeska Grisebach’s Western). The Nordic film sector is afforded it’s own spotlight, with five films screening from the chillier climes of Europe, including the 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Square, from Ruben Ostlund.

Of course, a Coffs Harbour film festival would not be worth its weight in board wax if it did not embrace the omnipresent beach culture. The ‘Call of the Surf’ strand will feature one of the highlights of the event – a live soundtrack performance from Band of Frequencies to accompany the screening of Shaun Cairn’s Men of Foam and Wood (pictured, right), an epic documentary that chronicles the Australian surfing scene of the 70s and 80s. Also screening for what is sure to be a receptive audience is Nathan Oldfield’s The Church of The Open Sky, with the director in attendance; Ross Whitaker’s Between Land and Sea, a rare glimpse inside Irish surf culture; and, the double feature session comprising Alena Erenbold’s Blue Road and Chris Bukard’s Under an Arctic Sky.

The 2018 SCREENWAVE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL runs January 10-25 in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Full program and session details can be found at the event’s official website.

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