Two Upcoming Genre Film Festivals Put Women In the Spotlight Down Under

By  · Published on February 14th, 2016

We here at Film School Rejects love film festivals of all kinds, but if pressed I’d gleefully admit that genre fests – ones that celebrate horror, action, dark fantasy/sci-fi, thrillers, and the absurd – are my festivals of choice. Austin’s Fantastic Fest is my favorite (and most-frequented), and Montreal’s sixteen-week-long Fantasia International Film Fest has quickly locked in second place, but the list of genre festivals I still hope to experience remains daunting – Sitges, PiFan, Brussels, Fantaspoa, Film4 Frightfest. Too many film fests, too little time, and now I have two more to add to the list!

Both Tasmania’s Stranger With My Face and Australia’s Monster Fest are relatively young, but they’re making a name for themselves through a clear affection for genre cinema, filmmakers, and fans. They’re also making strides to highlight women in horror in different ways – the former is focused on female-centric stories and films directed by women, while the latter has recently (and wisely) announced Kier-La Janisse as this year’s Festival Director. Keep reading for more information on both upcoming film fests.

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Tasmania’s Stranger With My Face International Film Festival will return for its fourth edition from April 14–17, 2016.

Named after the dark YA novel by Lois Duncan, Stranger With My Face focuses on female perspectives in genre film, with an emphasis on showcasing the work of women directors. Held over four days in Hobart, Tasmania’s picturesque capital city, the festival hosts screenings, lectures, workshops and exhibits, as well as satellite events year-round.

The event taps into the state’s evolving artistic tradition of “Tasmanian Gothic,” a product of its dark history and isolation from mainland Australia. Initiated as a grassroots event to celebrate Women in Horror Month in 2012, the event has grown rapidly to become a key event for those looking to genre filmmaking for new ideas and voices. Past special guests have included Jennifer Lynch and Penny Vozniak for Despite the Gods and Chained, pioneering Laotian horror filmmaker Mattie Do with Chanthaly, a presentation by horror scholar and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical History) and Aussie vet Ann Turner, who opened the festival with her 1989 cult classic Celia in 2014.

Stranger With My Face also has a strong focus on production initiatives, as is evidenced by the success of its two annual filmmaking challenges – the Tasmanian Gothic Short Script Challenge and the 48-Hour Tasploitation Challenge. Winning projects from these competitions have gone on to enjoy industry success, in some cases acting as a catalyst for a career change into the area of genre production.

The Tasmanian Gothic Short Script Challenge is open internationally to participants who wish to write a 6-page script in 48 hours, to be assessed and awarded by a panel of judges including Simon Barrett (writer of You’re Next and The Guest), Stephanie Trepanier (producer of Turbo Kid and Director of Development for Snowfort Pictures) and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg (film critic for Sight and Sound, Twitch and programmer for Film4 FrightFest). The winning script of the inaugural Script Challenge in 2012, Heidi Lee Douglas’ Little Lamb, went into production and screened internationally as a festival hit. The Challenge welcomes both experienced and novice screenwriters, as well as writers from other disciplines such as playwriting and fiction. Applications open Monday February 1, 2016 – please visit for registration and contest details.

The call for submissions is now open, with both feature length and short films made after January 1, 2015 eligible for consideration. The festival takes a broad approach to horror, with dark fantasy, Gothic melodrama, horror comedy, dystopian sci-fi, animation, documentary, and experimental hybrids all qualifying for the selective festival lineup. While submissions are open to filmmakers of all genders, only films by those who identify as women are eligible for awards.

The Extended Deadline is February 26, 2016. Submissions are open through Film Freeway:

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Australia’s premier festival of cult, horror and the fantastic, Monster Fest is thrilled to announce the appointment of its new Festival Director, renowned Canadian film programmer and author Kier-La Janisse.

Returning to Melbourne’s Lido Cinemas for its sixth edition, Monster Fest 2016 has been scheduled for to take place November 24–27.

Monster Fest has also announced that submissions for Features, Short Films and Expanded Cinema Projects open on February 26 with an Early Bird Deadline of April 29, a Regular Deadline of June 3 and a final, Extended Deadline of August 12, 2016.

Acclaimed author of the autobiographical House of Psychotic Women, Janisse comes to Monster Fest after nearly two decades of experience on the genre festival circuit, having worked for such prestigious events as Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, and founding Canada’s first horror film festival, CineMuerte (1999–2005) as well as co-founding revered Montreal micro-cinema Blue Sunshine. In addition to her Monster Fest duties, Kier-La also runs Spectacular Optical Publications (Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s) and founded the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, which has branches in Montreal and London, with a US branch opening later in the year.

“The appointment of Kier-La signals a real intent on behalf of Monster Fest to permanently etch its way into the Australian cinema landscape” says Monster Fest founder Neil Foley. “In recent times genre film festivals have emerged to become among the most exciting, important and well-attended screen culture events on the planet, both in terms of launching new talent, and celebrating their more established counterparts. Kier-La brings a dynamic mix of experience, knowledge and vision to the festival that we are confident will see Monster Fest take its place alongside some of the world’s finest film festivals. If you’re a fan of sensational genre cinema, whether from behind a camera, or in front of a screen, then this is an exciting day!”

“I can’t wait to start plotting out this year’s event with the Monster Fest team,” remarks Janisse. “I was wooed by the vibrant Australian genre film community when I visited Monster Fest as a panelist two years ago, and I feel this is an incredible opportunity to let my inner ‘monster kid’ out to play. The pool of local collaborators include some of the most important voices in genre criticism today, constituting a veritable brains-trust that ensures that this year’s festival will be a curatorial powerhouse and a massively fun event.”

Monster Fest was established in 2011 as the exhibition arm of Monster Pictures, and since that time has garnered a reputation for showcasing some of the finest new independent genre films in the world, and giving Australian audiences an opportunity to see them on the big screen.

Submissions for Monster Fest 2016 can be processed via Film Freeway, Without a Box and Film Festival Life. Details and submission guidelines are available at

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Stranger With My Face runs April 14–17 in Hobart, Tasmania. Monster Fest runs November 24–27 in Melbourne, Australia.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.