“99% of the films you’ll see in the Festival, you won’t have access to them at the cinema usually. They’re non-commercial films and they tell stories from people who we might not hear from otherwise.”

Canberra International Film Festival (CIFF) Director Alice Taylor sat down in the lead up to the Festival’s launch later this week, now in its 20th year, to chat about this year’s program and exciting first-time venture Curator’s Corner, designed to directly engage patrons with diverse screen content.

“It’s an online open channel of short films where audiences can come in, sit down but select what they want to watch out of a Festival playlist,” said Taylor. “People have become curators themselves in the way that they access screen content online, they’ll search amongst everything on offer and pick out what they want to watch and they’ll share what they’ve enjoyed with their friends on social media so we’re embracing the new ways that people engage with screen content.”

The Curator’s Corner will also serve as a forum for local filmmakers to showcase their latest works, with films screening alongside a number of workshops including a Works in Progress segment where filmmakers can exhibit projects they’re currently developing and get feedback from industry professionals.

“We’re using it as a way for emerging filmmakers to show their films; we’ve got short films from Canberra filmmakers that aren’t in the main program but will be in the Curator’s Corner open channel and that means they can bring their family and friends along to see a film that they’ve made and sit in a proper theatre and watch it on the big screen,” said Taylor. “It’s an approach to include the community of filmmakers and community of film lovers in Canberra, to make film more owned by the audience where audience participation is being encouraged… Its recognising the ways that people now choose films and bringing that to the Festival along with the more traditional feature program that will be in the main cinema.”

A number of locally-produced films will screen at the Festival, including a preview of the highly-anticipated Blue World Order starring Billy Zane ahead of its world premiere.

“They shot this film around Canberra but they’ve turned the bushlands and landscape into this post-apocalyptic world. They’ve created this action sci-fi film seemingly out of nothing, it’s a really impressive film,” said Taylor. “The Canberra community especially are very excited to see Blue World Order, it sold out within a week of tickets going on sale so we’re looking at opening up a second screening because it’s the first time that people will have access to see it.”

“It’s got Andrew Barr, the ACT Chief Minister has a cameo and I think people will have a lot of fun seeing him on screen. He plays a mind-controlled peasant type character, how they got him to do that I don’t know but I think Mr Barr has enjoyed the process.”

Australian documentary Footprints on our Land will also have a special screening on Thursday prior to the official Festival opening.

“It’s part of recognising the traditional owners of the area that Canberra is in and tells the story of Aunty Agnes Shea, a really highly regarded Ngunnawal Elder who has done a lot of the significant welcome to country ceremonies in Canberra and she’s got her own story to tell,” said Taylor. “It’s a nice time to celebrate her legacy and what she’s done for reconciliation in the ACT area between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We programmed it to be the very first film ahead of the opening night film Zoology so that it’s almost like an acknowledgement of country.”

“Aunty Agnes will be coming with her daughter and her granddaughter and it’s a way we can celebrate her story, she’s just so highly regarded in our community so I hope it’s also a chance for people to recognise what she has done locally and she will be there as part of a panel Q&A after the film.”

Coinciding with Halloween, the Festival will air a number of horror films including (Rob Zombie’s) 31 to coincide with screenings around the country on October 31st, in addition to The Frankenstein Complex, a documentary about the most famous of movie terrors.

“All the most familiar, iconic creatures and monsters that you can imagine in films from Aliens to Gremlins to Jurassic Park, all of these creatures are in this documentary,” said Taylor. “It goes through robotics, animatronics and puppetry and CGI and its really quite a fascinating film. Its scheduled directly before the horror films on Halloween and ties into the whole theme.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how people engage with the opportunities rather than just coming to see a film, also taking part in the celebrations as well. There is a community feel around this festival, it’s the 20th anniversary year so there are people looking back and feeling quite proud about where it’s come from and excited about what changes have been made and where it’s going.”

The Canberra International Film Festival screens from Oct 27- Nov 6, 2016