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Since graduating from the nation’s premiere acting school, Jenny Wu has forged a unique niche for herself in the Australasian sector as an actor determined to challenge the established stereotypes. The Chinese-born/Sydney-bred actress has crewed on an action blockbuster in the Gobi Desert; shot in the freezing chill of the northern Chinese countryside and on the steamy streets of Hong Kong; worked with two of this country’s most acclaimed directors; and, is preparing for her professional stage debut in a award-winning play being staged by Australia’s most respected theatre company. Ahead of what promises to be a rewarding 2017, Jenny Wu spoke with candour to SCREEN-SPACE about her craft, career and choosing the most challenging path as an artist…

SCREEN-SPACE: Having graduated from the the most prestigious training ground for actors in the country, what do you recall of your time at NIDA?

JENNY WU: The school is very strict, certainly sheltered, but you are very well looked after there. You don’t always get an idea of how tough the industry can be once you’ve graduated. The school is concentrating on your craft, so a lot of things the teachers say are very personal, the aim of which is to make you able to transform into as many characters as possible. But a lot of directors I’ve worked with want to see just ‘you’, a vulnerable you, not the technique you apply to become a character. I’ve spent a lot of time unlearning much of what I learnt at NIDA to get a job, then reapplying it, or combining it with my personal growth, when I’m on set or on the stage. You start to understand more fully what you’ve learnt at NIDA when you get out into the workforce and apply it in practical, working environments.

SCREEN-SPACE: Your studies in China led you to the set of Dragon Blade, the epic action film on which you served as Assistant Director, alongside filmmaker Daniel Lee and stars Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody. How did such a coveted role come your way?

JENNY WU: I was interviewed and months passed and I hadn’t heard from Dragon Blade, so I returned to Sydney only to get the call, meaning I had to fly back. When I arrived, I found out that they had only jotted one name down from all the interviews and that was mine, as I was the only one with the qualifications. I felt like I did a three-year film course in the seven months I spent on Dragon Blade (pictured, right: Wu on-set with actor John Cusack).

SCREEN-SPACE: Those years in China appear to have been both professionally rewarding and personally fulfilling, especially the role you played in Lin Bai Song’s rural romance The Promise I Made To You (那年我对你的承诺).

JENNY WU: My parents were ‘sent-down’ youth, city teenagers sent to the country to work as peasants as part of their social education during the Cultural Revolution. The Promise I Made To You is a kind of romantic comedy version of that experience, of two young people thrown together in the countryside and experiencing this incredible life-changing period with each other. I was able to visit northern China, a beautiful place that I had never experienced, and a place that my father had spent ten years as a sent-down young man. The movie resonated with my parent’s generation, as there a still a lot of them who recall the experience with very powerful emotions. Many did not return to the city, instead settling in the country and changing the course of their lives.

SCREEN-SPACE: Then you got mean and bloody as the lethal martial arts adversary in Chris Nahon’s US production, Lady Bloodfight, shot on location in Hong Kong. How much of that NIDA training were you able to apply to the action genre?

JENNY WU: (Laughs) It’s very much a knock’em’down, blood’n’guts type of role but she is still a fully-fleshed out character. I absolutely called upon my NIDA training to create a look and feel for this girl, who emerged as a punk-ish, streetwise, alternative-goth type of pickpocket who becomes a stripped-down and rebuilt martial arts weapon. Martial arts were new to me, so I had to put a great deal of trust in not only my amazing choreographer and stunt team but also my own instincts as a performer. I didn’t know I could be an action star before Lady Bloodfight. So much of the location work had to be in one, sometimes two takes, which makes you so aware of both your performance and the environment.

SCREEN-SPACE: In 2017, you co-star in two of the most anticipated local productions of the year, Kriv Stenders’ Australia Day and Jane Campion’s second season of Top of the Lake. Firstly, what insight into Jane’s technique can you offer from the set of Top of the Lake?

JENNY WU: Jane’s approach is to keep it simple, to not try to do anything. What she loves is actors who are really just ‘there’, who are living the role and living the moment. I interpreted that to mean, ‘Don’t act, just trust your own emotions and instincts and your body will respond to that truthfulness.’

SCREEN-SPACE: And what can audiences expect from what promises to be a confronting study of our society in Australia Day?

JENNY WU: It was the first script I’d read that had ethnic characters in complex lead roles, and that’s very exciting. I am very cautious that the roles I choose are not those that typically reinforce established stereotypes, like ‘the Asian doctor’ or ‘the Chinese computer nerd’. These are well-rounded characters in culturally sensitive and relevant narratives. Australia Day is going to redefine what an ‘Australian story’ is in this day and age and what it means to be Australian. My character is of Chinese heritage but her story, and the voice that it is told in, is very much from contemporary Australia. She is the new immigrant, defining her place in the country on her terms, and that will raise the question of what it means to be Australian in 2017. It’s a simple but quite radical approach and I don’t think any Australian artform has really approached it in this way (pictured, above: director Kriv Stenders, far right, with Wu and cast and crew on-set).

SCREEN-SPACE: And you take on another dramatic aspect of race and society when you make your professional stage debut in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, for director Kip Williams. Was it always your intention to go after roles that challenge racial boundaries and social issues?

JENNY WU: I think the play will inspire passionate discussion, which is one of the benefits of great art, in any form. It presents various viewpoints that offer a critique of both western and eastern cultures. I don’t mean to make any specific political statement, or statement on ethnicity, by taking on these roles. They are great roles that were presented to me that I find challenging and rewarding as an actor; they are characters with a purpose. I never intended them to define my point-of-view or dictate an agenda. When I approached them as characters, I did so by embracing their humanity, their vulnerabilities and insecurities, not as symbols for social change. My job as an actor is to make sure they live truthfully within the world provided for them (pictured, above: Wu with actor Jason Chong during Chimerica rehearsals).

CHIMERICA opens February 28 at Sydney Theatre Company; AUSTRALIA DAY and TOP OF THE LAKE will air on pay-TV provider Foxtel in 2017 (dates tbc). 

Main photo: Shane Kavanagh.




Despite earning A$22million at the domestic box office, a sequel to the 2011 hit Red Dog was never a sure thing. Surely producer Nelson Woss (Ned Kelly, 2003), with director Kriv Stenders and writer Daniel Taplitz, had captured the kind of lightning-strike chemistry that generally proves impossible to recreate? But when Taplitz pitched an inventive story treatment, Woss and his director were convinced there was a new narrative to be told and Red Dog True Blue, starring the charismatic kelpie Phoenix, was unleashed. 

SCREEN-SPACE spoke with Woss and the film’s head animal trainer, the renowned Zelie Bullen (Racing Stripes; Charlotte’s Web; War Horse) ahead of its European debut as the Opening Night film of the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus programme strand…

SCREEN-SPACE: Five years between a legitimate homegrown blockbuster and a sequel is an eternity in film terms. Why so long?

NELSON WOSS (pictured, left): A lot of people told us to quit while we were ahead (laughs). The director, Kriv Stenders and I both have young children and there was an opportunity to make what would very much be a family movie. We wanted to make a film that we could bring our kids to. And we are thrilled to be able to tell Australian stories on the big screen, to celebrate what is special about being Australian. We love films from Hollywood but I thought it was nice for our kids to have a bit of a spectrum and see stories about themselves. As a practitioner in the Australian film industry, we are just happy to work (laughs). So when we get an opportunity to make a film, we are going to make it, especially one that is located in such a beautiful part of the country.

SCREEN-SPACE: The first film’s star, Koko, was a natural in front of the camera. In True Blue, you’ve recaptured that casting magic with Phoenix. What is your leading man’s pedigree?

ZELIE BULLEN: Phoenix was born and raised by Carol Hogday, the same lady who bred Koko. He was chosen by the production because he’s a distant cousin of Koko. He’s a very sweet, happy, responsive dog. He loves doing all the publicity, meeting and travelling, but he was also very hard working on the set. He loves to work and be led, feeling that sense of belonging and contributing, like a lot of dogs. (Pictured, right; Bullen, with Phoenix)

NELSON WOSS: Filmmakers aren’t too bright. We did an Australian-wide search for the sequel’s star then ended up going back to Carol, whose home had just had a litter of pups from which we chose Phoenix. He’s got the same abilities and star-like character as Koko.

SCREEN-SPACE: How many different tricks or cues did Phoenix have to learn before the shoot?

ZELIE BULLEN: A lot of animal work on film is clearly defined behaviour in a small area. Even in the vast outback setting of the Red Dog films, we need to be very specific about directing actions; which leg he’s lifting, which way he’s looking, how many steps forward he needs to take to hit his mark or still be in the correct lighting. The training is intimate, very precise. In that regard, he’s less a ‘trick dog’ and more a technically proficient actor.

SCREEN-SPACE: The chemistry between star Josh Lucas and Koko in Red Dog was crucial to the film’s success. What needed to be done to ensure that level of mateship was recreated between Phoenix and your new star, Levi Miller?

NELSON WOSS: Levi and Phoenix (pictured, right) spent time together before the shoot and, like the pros they are, they immediately bonded, and that is clearly evident on-screen. There is that classic ‘boy and his dog’ connection in their performances, which enhances the ‘coming of age’ elements in the story.

ZELIE BULLEN: Levi is a similar kind of character to Phoenix, in many respects. He’s that soft, kind, loving boy. I remember one moment when Phoenix jumped sideways – someone had stood near his tail, I think – and Levi was beside himself, not willing to keep filming until he was assured Phoenix was ok. He is a very compassionate, caring young man, which Phoenix responded to.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the film’s great moments is a scene featuring two of our acting legends, Bryan Brown and John Jarratt…

NELSON WOSS: No spoilers! (laughs) But, yes, how amazing to have two living legends of the Australian film industry together. Bryan loved the first film and has a passion for music as well, and both films have some iconic Australian music, so given the chance to play the banjo in the film…well, he hit it out of the park.

ZELIE BULLEN: And he loves dogs and clearly loved working with Phoenix. There were times when I had to step in and say, “Bryan, I have to take him and work him now,” and Bryan would say, “No, no, I’m patting him now, just a minute.” (laughs)

SCREEN-SPACE: More broadly, how would you define the relationship between the working dog and the people of the interior? What did you have to capture to honour that bond?

NELSON WOSS: With these films, and it was the same with Ned Kelly, you’ve got to capture the heart and soul of the people and the place. We don’t have the big budgets that allow for effects trickery, so we come from the heart. It is an authentically Australian story that people from the heartland will understand. But it is also a story that travels well and, very much like Red Dog himself, was always going to roam.




AMPAS has responded to one of last year’s most hashtagged controversies with a 2017 Oscar ballot rich in such diverse visions as Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures.

Seven minorities have been pegged in the four acting categories, including three African American women in the Best Supporting Actress race – a new standard for the Academy. A third nomination for Viola Davis for her role in Fences (previously, for Doubt in 2008 and The Help in 2011) represents a first for a black actress. Other strong showings amongst Hollywood’s minority artists include Arrival cinematographer Bradford Young (only the second black DOP ever nominated); 13th director Ava Duvernay (the first black woman to earn a Best Documentary nod); La La Land editor Joi McMillon (the first ever black woman Best Editing nominee); and, Manchester by The Sea producer Kimberly Steward (only the second black woman to represent a Best Picture nominee).

While the 2017 nominee list is more culturally vast than recent Oscar races, there is no argument that the diversity issue is still a long way from resolved. No woman made the cut in the Best Director category, despite critically lauded films from Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) and Andrea Arnold (American Honey); the sole woman to feature in either Screenplay category is Alison Schroeder, who shares a nomination with Theodore Melfi for their Hidden Figures script. But it is telling that the post-announcement analysis of those snubbed is a largely all-white affair, noticeably Amy Adams (no Best Actress consideration for either Arrival or Nocturnal Animals), Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood (denied any love for Sully), Hugh Grant (no Supporting Actor mention for Florence Foster Jenkins), Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor Johnston (Nocturnal Animals, again), Jim Jarmusch and Adam Driver (total shut-out, Paterson) and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash).

No surprise at all was the record-tying 14 nominations bestowed upon Damien Chazelle’s La La Land (pictured, above); in AMPAS history, only Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) have achieved that honour. With 8 nominations apiece, Dennis Villeneuve’s sci-fi drama Arrival and Barry Jenkin’s African America LGBT-themed Moonlight offer the most resistance to the jazz musical’s award season momentum. Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, Garth Davis’ Lion and Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by The Sea scored six nominations; Denzel Washington’s Fences and David McKenzie’s Hell or High Water earned four. Three nominations apiece went to Hidden Figures and Jackie; dual nominees include Deepwater Horizon, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana, Rogue One A Star Wars Story, Kubo and The Two Strings and Passengers.

The Australian industry had one of the strongest showings of any international sector, with Garth Davis’ Lion emerging as a legitimate contender in Best Film, Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman), Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies), Cinematography (Greig Fraser), and Original Score (Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelmann); surprisingly, Davis himself was bumped from the Best Director category. Mel Gibson returns to the Oscar fold after a controversy-filled absence with Hacksaw Ridge, the World War II drama that was shot in Oz with a full local crew and financial backing. Most endearingly, Australia earned its first ever Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee with Tanna (pictured, above), the Vanuatu-set romantic drama co-directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, shot entirely in the Nauvhal language.

Other fascinating facts to emerge from the 2017 nominations include Meryl Streep resetting her own Oscar nomination record, notching up her 20th with a Best Actress mention for Florence Foster Jenkins; veteran producer Todd Black, whose IMDb page list 33 production credits dating back to 1988’s Spellbinder, earning his first Best Picture nomination for Fences; and, the late playwrite August Wilson earning a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Fences, twelve years since his passing in 2005.

Web indignation is rife following the snubbing of Adams, whose one-two 2016 acting punch in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals appears to have split her vote. The wave of goodwill for Deadpool and its star Ryan Reynolds came to nought, the film a no-show on the nominee list (while the critically-derided Suicide Squad and Passengers both earned nods). Annette Bening (20th Century Women; pictured, right) and Hayley Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen) felt the pinch of an unusually strong year for lead actress contenders. Other works that must have come close to nomination glory include John Carney’s Sing Street (potentially Film, but undoubtedly Song and Score), Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson (a notable Best Documentary omission), Chan-wook Park’s The Handmaiden (a Foreign Film certainty at one point, with costume and production design credentials to boot) and Robert Egger’s The Witch (surely a cinematography, set and/or production design contender). And Pixar’s grasp on the Best Animation category was loosened slightly with the snubbing of their billion-dollar sequel Finding Dory, bumped by Mouse House stablemates Zootopia and Moana, foreign toons The Red Turtle and My Life As a Zucchini and Laika Animation’s Kubo and The Two Strings.

The full list of 2017 Academy Award nominations:

Best picture:
Arrival; Fences; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Hidden Figures; La La Land; Lion; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight.

Lead actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Denzel Washington, Fences.

Lead actress:
Isabelle Huppert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie; Emma Stone, La La Land; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins.

Supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals.

Supporting actress:
Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea.

Best director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land; Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge; Barry Jenkins, Moonlight; Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea; Denis Villeneuve Arrival

Animated feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings; Moana; My Life as a Zucchini; The Red Turtle; Zootopia.

Animated short:
Blind Vaysha; Borrowed Time; Pear Cider and Cigarettes; Pearl; Piper.

Adapted screenplay:
Eric Heisserer, Arrival; August Wilson, Fences; Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures; Luke Davies, Lion; Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight.

Original screenplay:
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women; Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water; Damien Chazelle, La La Land; Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster; Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea.

Bradford Young, Arrival; Linus Sandgren La La Land; Greig Fraser, Lion; James Laxton, Moonlight; Rodrigo Prieto, Silence.

Best documentary feature:
13th; Fire at Sea; I Am Not Your Negro; Life, Animated; O.J.: Made in America.

Best documentary short subject:
4.1 Miles; Extremis; Joe’s Violin; Watani: My Homeland; The White Helmets.

Best live action short film:
Ennemis Interieurs; La Femme et le TGV; Silent Nights; Sing; Timecode.

Best foreign language film:
A Man Called Ove (Sweden); Land of Mine (Denmark); Tanna (Australia); The Salesman (Iran); Toni Erdmann (Germany).

Film editing:
Joe Walker, Arrival; John Gilbert Hacksaw Ridge; Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water; Tom Cross La La Land; Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon Moonlight

Sound editing:
Arrival; Deep Water Horizon; Hacksaw Ridge; La La Land; Sully.

Sound mixing:
Arrival; Hacksaw Ridge; La La Land; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

Production design:
Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte, Arrival; Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh, Hail, Caesar!; David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land; Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena, Passengers

Original score:
Mica Levi, Jackie; Justin Hurwitz La La Land; Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion; Nicholas Britell, Moonlight; Thomas Newman, Passengers

Original song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” from Trolls — Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster; “City of Stars,” from La La Land — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; “The Empty Chair,” from Jim: The James Foley Story — Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting; “How Far I’ll Go,”  from Moana — Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Makeup and hair:
Eva von Bahr and Love Larson, A Man Called Ove; Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, Star Trek Beyond; Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson, Suicide Squad.

Costume design:
Joanna Johnston, Allied; Colleen Atwood Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins; Madeline Fontaine, Jackie; Mary Zophres, La La Land.

Visual effects:
Deepwater Horizon; Doctor Strange; The Jungle Book; Kubo and the Two Strings; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.



As the daughter of 50s Hollywood A-listers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, a young Carrie was born into the insanity of the showbusines elite. From her film debut as the teen seductress of Warren Beatty in Shampoo to her iconic role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy to unforgettable support parts in films such as The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally and The 'Burbs, Carrie Fisher always made a big impression on-screen. Off-screen, she was unique industry figure; open and forthright about mental health and addiction issues, she was revealed to be a gifted writer, her caustic wit and achingly honest assessment of her own foibles and the vacuousness of the world around her resulting in such classics tomes as Postcards from The Edge, Wishful Drinking and her latest, The Princess Diarist. No one has chronicled her life more eloquently than the lady herself. Vale Carrie Fisher.

On growing up famous:
If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.

I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.

My parents had this incredibly vital relationship with an audience, like muscle with blood. This was the main competition I had for my parents' attention: an audience.

Acting engenders and harbours qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence. 

I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish. 

You know, by birthright I’m eccentric. My only role models were people who knew how to get attention.

On Shampoo:

At the time I did Shampoo, I was a virgin. I knew nothing. They would kid me. Warren [Beatty], Hal [Ashby] and Robert [Towne] would all fall apart laughing, and I would, too. My line to Warren was “Want to fuck?” and I was supposed to be hostile and mean and power-crazy. I would say that line and fall apart, because Warren had told the others that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that was very funny to them. 

Warren…was asked by the costume department if he wanted me to wear a bra under my tennis clothes or not. Warren squinted in the general direction of my breasts. ‘Is she wearing one now?’ ‘Yes,’ responded Aggie, the costume designer. Warren pursed his lips thoughtfully. ‘Let’s see it without.'

On Star Wars:

I thought: it'll be fun to do. I'm 19! Who doesn't want to have fun at 19? I'll go hang out with a bunch of robots for a few months and then return to my life and try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. 

People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.

Along with aging comes life experience, so in every way that is consistent with even being human, Leia has changed.

All I can say is that when millions of plastic dolls of you are being sold each day and an equal number of teenage boys are masturbating over you each night, it's bound to do something screwy to your psyche.

On addiction:

Sometimes you can only find heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.

Anything you can do in excess for the wrong reasons is exciting to me. 

You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses? Well I took masses of opiates religiously.

I'll never be known for my work with boundaries. 

On mental health:

One of the great things to pretend is that you're not only alright, you're in great shape. Now to have that come true - I've actually gone on stage depressed and that's worked its magic on me, 'cause if I can convince you that I'm alright, then maybe I can convince me.

I'm very sane about how crazy I am. 

I went to a doctor and told him I felt normal on acid, that I was a light bulb in a world of moths. That is what the manic state is like.

My inner world seems largely to consist of three rotating emotions: embarrassment, rage, and tension. Sometimes I feel excited, but I think that's just positive tension.

I'm actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I'm a PEZ dispenser and I'm in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can't have it all?

On writing:
I always wrote. I wrote from when I was 12. That was therapeutic for me in those days. I wrote things to get them out of feeling them, and onto paper. So writing in a way saved me, kept me company. I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn't know.

I am a spy in the house of me. I report back from the front lines of the battle that is me. I am somewhat nonplused by the event that is my life.

I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there's something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it's not something that you're in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience. 

You're only as sick as your secrets. Either it comes out their way or my way. I talk about myself behind my back. And I'm funny about it.



There was once a time when dabbling in the horror genre or grabbing a paycheck for some tawdry ‘B-thriller’ suggested an actor’s status was on the slide. One only need skim the star power on offer at Monster Fest 2016 to know that the richest characters and most compelling narratives in contemporary film exist amongst international cult cinema’s weird and wonderfully eclectic palette.

Newly appointed festival director Kier-La Janisse has adhered to a half-decade of high standards and festival traditions, topping and tailing the fifth edition of the four-day event with two of the year’s hottest horror titles. Opening night honours have been bestowed upon Julia Ducournau’s Raw (read the SCREEN-SPACE review here), the teen-cannibal shocker that has left a trail of rattled audiences since scoring the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes in May; closing out the programme will be Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, a bona-fide cult sensation that The New York Times noted, “overflows with extravagant flatulence, frenzied gore and preposterous copulation.”

Audiences drawn to name talent will seek out the frenzied gunplay of Free Fire, a collaboration between director Ben Wheatley, producer Martin Scorsese and the dream cast of Oscar winner Brie Larsen (pictured, top), Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Australia’s own Noah Taylor (also fronting Nick Jongerius’ backpacker slasher pic The Windmill Massacre); Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch in The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the gory mortuary-set English language debut of Troll Hunter director André Øvredal; and, Patrick Wilson, Jim Belushi, Ian McShane and an unhinged John Leguizamo in Spanish auteur Gonzalo López-Gallego’s bloody neo-western-noir, The Hollow Point (pictured, right).

Also certain to sell tickets are director Paul Schrader’s insanely anarchic Dog Eat Dog, a blackly comic crime thriller that stars Willem Dafoe and Nicholas Cage; Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton in Chris Peckover’s Yuletide home-invasion thriller, Safe Neighbourhood; a masterfully maniacal lead turn by Natasha Lyonne, opposite an against-type Chloe Sevigny as her trailer–trash bestie, in Danny Perez’s paranoid fever-dream, Antibirth (trailer, above); and good ol’ boy icon Burt Reynolds in documentarian Jesse Moss’ The Bandit, an adoring insider’s take on the late director Hal Needham and his 1977 blockbuster, Smokey and The Bandit.

The industry respect afforded Melbourne’s premiere genre showcase has meant the presence of international guests is all but assured. In 2016, the big draw is Ted Kotcheff, one of Hollywood’s most revered and respected directors. In addition to an ‘In Conversation’ event with director and genre expert Mark Hartley, Kotcheff will present rare screenings of some of his most enduring works, including the Australian classic Wake in Fright (1971); the iconic Sylvester Stallone thriller, First Blood (1982; pictured, right, Stallone and Kotcheff on-set); the cult favourite, Weekend at Bernie’s (1989); and, a digitally-restored print of his little-seen ‘religious cult’ drama, Split Image (1982), featuring Peter Fonda, Michael O’Keefe and Karen Allen.

In addition to Raw director Julia Ducournau and the stars of The Greasy Strangler, Michael St Michaels and Sky Elobar, guest attendees include director Neil Edwards, fronting for the Australian debut of his documentary Sympathy for The Devil: The True Story of The Process Church of The Final Judgement; Lao filmmaker Mattie Do, director of Dearest Sister, and the only woman to date to helm a feature film in her homeland; director Matthew Holmes and key cast members from the Australian bushranger saga, The Legend of Ben Hall (trailer, below); veteran producer Anthony I. Ginnane (Turkey Shoot, 1982; Thirst, 1979; Harlequin, 1980), who will front the panel, ‘Australia After Dark: Tales from The Golden Age of Ozploitation’; Jai Love, the young director of Dead Hands Dig Deep, a moving profile of 90s alt-music great, Kettle Cadaver frontman Edwin Borsheim; and Evrim Ersoy, festival programmer of the Texan genre event, Fantastic Fest.

Alongside the screening schedule, the sidebar Monster Academy will present a series of panels and Q&As, several of which offer free admission. In addition to the Ted Kotcheff talk, events will include a panel of women directors and festival programmers discussing ‘Genre Matters: Women Genre Filmmakers’; exploring the ins-&-outs of film festival strategizing, curating and presenting in Film Festival 101; and, a retrospective look at genre on the small-screen, including rare screenings of the Australian anthology series The Evil Touch, a witchcraft-themed episode of 70s cop drama, Homicide, the British ‘real life’ haunted house telemovie Ghost Watch, and a legitimate appraisal of the role of the supernatural in soap operas, called ‘Diedre Hall is The Devil’.

Monster Pictures boss Neil Foley will himself front one of the highlights of the week when filmmaker Geoffrey Wright leads an evening of 25th anniversary recollections of his controversial classic Romper Stomper, in which a young Foley had a small role as a skinhead neo-Nazi.

Monster Fest runs November 24-27 at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn; Monster Academy runs at several venues from November 23-24. All session and ticketing information at the official website.

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