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June 8, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Bloodfest Fantastique festival, Richard Wolstencroft (interview)


Published June 2011 by Beat magazine

Richard Wolstencroft, director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and the new Bloodfest Fantastique horror and sci-fi film festival, must have been every kid’s best friend when he was growing up.

My grandmother used to take me to the movies when I was really young,  and she used to take me to see whatever I liked. When the video revolution hit my parents would always let watch whatever I liked, and then [I’d have] all the neighbours’ kids around to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Skinner.”

It seems as though this partiality to horror and sci-fi led directly into the work he is doing now. “My house became notorious for [watching] whatever film you liked, and I think all the kids got banned from visiting my house.” says Wolstencroft. “It was like my first Bloodfest Fantastique.”

Wolstencroft is known by many as director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival since 2000. He also became well-known for defying an Australia-wide ban and screening gay-zombie porn flick La Zombie in 2010, which resulted in police raiding his house. His film direction credits include his 2010 release The Beautiful and Damned, and Bloodlust, which he co-directed with Jon Hewitt.

Bloodfest Fantastique is divided into three sections, which offers the audience an easy way to choose from a variety of offerings. “Bloodfest Bites” offers new shorts, while the “Bloodfest Neu” section presents new horror and sci-fi features. The third section, the themed cult retrospective of “Futurism and barbarism”, seems to be a pet project of Wolstencroft’s. “The ‘futurism and barbarism’ retrospective section was put together from my little archive of twisted and amazing science-fiction horror cinema,” he says. “The theme…just seemed to make sense…it just seems that…as we get technological progress and the wonders of technology that the world’s going to become a…peaceful place, but it seems that there’s unfortunately more horror and violence, more than ever in the world. I don’t think it’s going to go away…it’s not a good picture of the world, but it’s probably a true one!”

While the Bloodfest festival features deliciously-titled films such as Dead Hooker in a Trunk and Bikini Girls on Ice, it’s also dedicated to challenging the often over-simplified genre of horror. As Wolstencroft says, “[Horror] is one of the most serious genres, I think, because it deals with death and…the extremes of human behaviour. A well-made horror film is as informed as any other kind of film…I think it’s often a misaligned genre because it appears sensational [or subject to exploitation] at times, but I think it’s misunderstood. We’re definitely here to change people’s opinions about the genre.”

Bloodfest also showcases Australian films taking on the genre scene, including Come and Get Me, The Reef, and internet sensation The Tunnel. “You want to access dynamic individuals who do really amazing things, and that’s what we try and do at MUFF and…Bloodfest Fantastique.” The films in this festival are not your typical critically adored films. As Wolstencroft drily notes, Bloodfest films are “not people in the suburbs being bored and miserable.”

Given Wolstencroft’s track record for challenging cinema, it’s not surprising he’s a one-man production machine, directing MUFF later in the year and participating in numerous film projects. “I’m making my new film The Second Coming, which  is an adaption of a poem by William Butler Yates, and…I’ve got my new film The Beautiful and the Damned…that’ll be coming out later in the year on DVD.”

Above all, it’s his passion for engaging films that Wolstencroft seems keen to get across. “I’ve always loved sharing films with people…I’ve made four genres features in this country, and I’ll be continuing doing that. I’m the full threat, I’m Australia’s enfant terrible of genre cinema.”

Bloodfest Fantastique festival dates are June 10 to 18, at the re-opened Art Deco cinema venue Memo at 88 Acland st St Kilda (behind the RSL).

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