Program guide: SWIFF artistic director Kate Howat shares her Top 6 festival picks

Excited about the festival? In fact, so excited that you can’t decide which films to go to, which are unmissable, and which of the more leftfield ones are worth a look? The Screenwave team is here to help. Here’s our artistic director Kate Howat with her Top 6 film picks of the festival…

Western film


Kate says: This film is a real stand-out for me. I’m a huge fan of authentic performances which usually means a great director is at the helm. Teaming up with co-producer Maren Ade (from Toni Erdmann fame – my favourite film of SWIFF ’17), German director Valeska Grisebach offers a very human story with Western. Set against a breathtaking landscape of the Grecian–Bulgarian border, the cast is all non-professional actors and that’s where the authenticity really rings true. With standoffs between surly men and silent types this is a stunning and intelligent retelling of the classic American genre.

12.30pm, Thursday 18 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | Book tickets here

I Am Not a Witch

Kate says: When I first heard about this film and witch camps I was immediately intrigued. While Shakespeare’s Macbeth and English folklore sprung to mind, witch camps actually exist in Ghana and are settlements providing refuge to women accused of being witches. This is at the centre of Nyoni’s feature debut about a nine-year old girl accused of witchcraft and exiled to a witch camp (which doubles as a tourist attraction) under the threat that if she escapes she will be turned into a goat. One of the most assured feature debuts of recent memory, this is a wonderfully absurd tragicomedy where you won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

5.30pm, Wednesday 24 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | Book tickets here 

The Square

Kate says: Eccentric, outrageous and uncomfortable, The Square is a hilarious social satire about the art world that stayed with me for days and I can’t wait to see it again. There are so many memorable scenes in Ruben Ostlund’s Cannes d’Or winner but the donor dinner showstopper is simply a work of genius. I needed to speak to someone about it immediately after the credits rolled. What I really love about this film (and Ostlund’s Force Majeure) is the questioning of social mores; the thin veneer of civilised behaviour that’s often only one slippery slope away from disappearing entirely. A can’t-miss movie of the festival.

6.30pm, Friday 12 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | 7.30pm, Friday 19 January, Bellingen Memorial Hall | Book tickets here

The Work

Kate says: I was so incredibly moved by this documentary; a real-life look into one of America’s most notorious prisons where members of the public participate in group therapy sessions with prison inmates. Taking out the Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award, this is observational documentary filmmaking at its best, from the directors’ first-hand experiences. The audience is asked to simply listen and bear witness to what unfolds on screen. Riveting viewing and a strong testament to the power of therapy and rehabilitation for even the most hardened of men.

2.30pm, Saturday 20 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | Book tickets here

Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves

Kate says: You will not see a more audacious film in the festival than the longest running and longest titled, Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves. I found the premise really interesting of what happens to revolutionaries once the revolution begins to fade? But I wasn’t prepared for what came next. Packed full of ideas, provocation and incredible aesthetic choices, this film is guaranteed to provoke discussion. A bold and exciting new work of Canadian cinema that burns like a Molotov cocktail.

7.15pm Wednesday 17 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | Book tickets here 

On Body And Soul

Kate says: I love this film for its originality and darkly playful take on the romantic comedy genre. An unconventional love story from Hungary set in a Budapest abattoir, about two co-workers who discover they share the same dream, appearing as majestic animals. Winner of several film critics’ and film festival awards, including the Golden Bear top award at Berlinale, this is a very different piece of filmmaking with a human story at its core about love, connection and existentialism that deserves to be seen on the cinema screen.

3.30pm Wednesday 23 January, Jetty Memorial Theatre | Book tickets here