Fantastic Film Festival Australia Artistic Director Hudson Sowada Trips the Light (and Dark) Fantastic in this Interview

Fantastic Film Festival Australia (FFFA) 2024 presents an eclectic program of 24 feature length films as well as a program of 14 short films from Australia and around the world, promising a kaleidoscopic showcase of the world’s most exciting voices in cult, genre, arthouse, and alternative cinema.  

The festival returns to Ritz Cinemas in Sydney and Lido Cinemas in Melbourne, and for the first time a selection of FFFA titles will screen in Melbourne’s north at a new satellite venue, the Thornbury Picture House.

The festival will open with Kiah Roache-Turner’s Sting on April 17th in Sydney and on April 18th in Melbourne.

Nadine Whitney sat down with Artistic Director Hudson Sowada to work out what makes FFFA, and him, tick.

For the full program and tickets visit

What is your process when choosing works for the festival? What makes something “fantastic”?

Hudson Sowada: The selection process involves turning over all the rocks on the hunt for new discoveries. Talking to programmers, sales agents and filmmakers, diving into other festivals, tracking critics and audiences and of course the call for entries. I review and program all the feature films but have a few other killer programmers I work with to make sure my radar is turned into the right signals. 

The festival encompasses everything from horror, to exploitation, to neo-noir, to mythological stories, and science fiction animation. Plus Noé’s take on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Can you tell me a little more about what you are seeking? Is it transgressive cinema? Is it beyond-the-box cinema? Is it a particular avant garde approach?

HS: FFFA is a place where risks are rewarded for both filmmakers and audiences alike. The festivals specialises in cult, genre, arthouse, indie and alternative cinema. But beyond that each film is here because I genuinely believe it’s something you’ve never seen, a filmmaker trying something bold that’s pushing the medium forwards or also just cinema that is really damn fun. The festival has a post highbrow/low brow mentality and really about the joy in it. Whether it’s elevated high-end arthouse, or trashy pulp. That’s what makes a film fantastic to me. 

What made you decide to move into programming?

HS: I grew up around festivals. My dad, Richard Sowada programs Revelation Film Festival in Perth and so I grew up around underground and out there cinema. Spending all day at the festival watching as many films as I could cram into a week was just unreal and my taste was built from that time. From there I made some shorts, worked in cinemas, studied film and got given the opportunity to work on a festival at the Lido – a proto FFFA called Paracinema fest – and it kicked off from there. Now after five years I feel like we’ve carved out a spot in the Aussie festival landscape and hope we mean something to the punters that see cinema the way we do. 

On average, how many films do you think you watch a year? What gets your cinematic juices flowing?

HS: When I’m programming for the festival I normally watch a film each night. What gets my juices following is when I film really comes out swinging, puts the pedal to the metal and takes me over the edge. A film that feels urgent, dangerous, and marching to its own drum. So many films I see play it safe and don’t push the audience enough, aren’t trying anything new, or arguing for their right to exist. You’ve got me hooked if you blast out the gates and I can feel the joy that went into making it. 

You’ve programmed works which have developed a massive cult following. You were the first to bring Saint Maud to Australian cinemas. You made Quantum Cowboys famous here. I’m not sure whether it was you or Revelations who brought Chained for Life out first. How does it feel to be part of the vanguard in not only getting works to Australia, but also making sure people (re)discover things?

HS: As far as being in the vanguard goes, it’s always special to see audiences connect with the films. But I don’t subscribe to the idea that the festival ‘discovers a filmmaker’ – like the event is somehow the key factor for their success. The filmmakers are the one out there hauling ass, making it happen and creating the magic. The festival is a cerebration of that work – we’re just the host to the guest of honour. And if people who come to our party fall in love with that guest, that’s because of what that artist has achieved. We’re just thrilled to have been a part of that. 

What are your must-see picks for the festival?

HS: Divinity by Eddie Alcazar, New Life by John Rosman, Cannibal Mukbang by Aimee Kuge, The Deep Dark by Mathieu Turi, the Into the Void fifteen-year anniversary with a live soundscape from Sydney-based Filipina-Australian electronic music producer, Corin, The Last Stop in Yuma County by Francis Galluppi, Mars Express by Jérémie Périn, Vincent Must Die by Stéphan Castang, Metal Skin by Geoffrey Wright – restored in 2K, Krazy House by Steffen Haars & Flip Van der Kuil.

Festival guests in include Geoffrey Wright (Metal Skin) and Aimee Kuge (Cannibal Mukbang), and Kiah Roache-Turner (Sting).

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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