SWIFF Staff Picks – Festival Director Dave Horsley’s top picks

Big changes this year for SWIFF. The Jetty Memorial Theatre has installed a brand new screen and 2k digital projector, just in time for SWIFF 2019. This new setup has opened up film options to a whole new catalogue of cinema, previously unreachable.


This year’s line-up has an incredible 60 feature films – if you’re looking to see something a little outside of the ordinary, and perhaps adjacent to your comfort zone, then here are my picks to fill up your 12 Film Pass. – Dave Horsley


You Were Never Really Here

Kate and I scouted this one together at its New York premiere back in March. Director Lynne Ramsay deserves some serious Best Director Oscar buzz for You Were Never Really Here. It’s dark and gritty and utterly immersive. Joaquin Phoenix, well-deserving of his Best Actor gong at Cannes for this performance, drags you into his world – and Jonathan Ames story keeps you there on the edge of your seat until the credits.

Leave No Trace

Ben Foster is one of my favourite actors. He has gone from strength-to-strength with 3:10 To Yuma and Hell Or High Water, amongst an ever-growing filmography. This time around he plays a hermetic PTSD-suffering ex-soldier that has returned home after war, isolating himself and his daughter – played brilliantly by newcomer Thomasin McKenzie – away from civilisation. Great back-to-back screening in Coffs with You Were Never Really Here. 

Becoming Colleen

Coffs Harbour’s very first World Premiere – and a local story to boot. It’s a real honour for filmmakers to find their maiden voyage at your film festival, and Becoming Colleen will be sensational. Many locals will know about Colleen, a woman who transitioned from male to female at 82 years old. The filmmakers will all be here, with veteran journalist Debbie Spillane chairing the panel.

Sisters For Sale

Imagine finding out your overseas friends had been kidnapped and sold off for marriage in a foreign country. For filmmaker/photographer Ben Randall this was a reality. His two female Vietnamese friends had been taken and sold to Chinese men for marriage – and this documentary is about his decision to travel to China and bring them home to their families. Australian Premiere.

Three Identical Strangers

A truly unbelievable story. In the same way that David Farrier’s Tickled (SWIFF 2017) starts out a light-hearted pop doc, Three Identical Strangers takes an early turn down the rabbit hole, making it one of the most compelling, eye-popping documentaries of 2018. Watch out for this one in the Oscar nods. 

Under The Cover Of Cloud

Ted Wilson’s directorial debut is a breath of fresh air for Australian films, that so often have their content tied to finance obligations. His film, in which he has cast his entire family to play themselves in a fictitious story, flips conventions on its head – and it works. Every Australian should see this film.


One of the reasons I like film fests is that you get to challenge your comfort zone – watch films you might not otherwise see on a big screen. The young French dance troupe, finishing up their final dance assessment for the year, oozes sexuality and unburdened exhibitionism…..and then it all goes pear shaped. Climax manages to delight and excite and make your skin crawl all at the same time. 

The House That Jack Built

I haven’t seen this one yet – it’s one of Kate’s picks. But reading up on The House That Jack Built – and knowing Lars Von Trier’s other work – has me excited to see Matt Dillon make a comeback as a deranged serial killer. Let’s see if the standing ovation or audience walkouts were more justified.

Discover the full program for yourself at swiff.com.au.

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