THIS year’s Over the Fence comedy film festival in Fremantle could be the most surreal yet with one movie featuring the ancient spirit of a demented cow.
Featuring 16 hand-picked shorts from across Australia and beyond, the festival tackles everything from being the lonely guardian of a treasure cave to Kiwi birds taking over New Zealand during the apocalypse.
First held in Fremantle more than 27 years ago, Over the Fence doesn’t do dumbed-down Rob Schneider and instead screens original, subversive films that push the comedy envelope and make you think as well as laugh.
“I think this year’s selection is particularly absurd compared with previous years,” says festival director Greg Coffey.
“It’s interesting to see trends in comedy over the years and it’s clear to me that the younger generation’s more surreal sense of humour is starting to trickle through.
“I think it’s a really exciting time for comedy in that regard, and the creativity and wit with which it can be done is outstanding.”
Films showing include Vegan, about a guy who goes on a date with a vegan and must hide he is a meat-lover, The Day Care about a retired SAS veteran and his son who use an unorthodox approach to deal with abusers, and the intriguing Man Cow: Demon of the Cream which features a man who buys the wrong milk and is at the mercy of an ancient evil.
It’s clear that Coffey likes surreal comedy with a dark, ironic twist and many of the films he selects wouldn’t be out of place in The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.
“Hubbards is my favourite film of this year,” Coffey says.
“I think it’s a true reflection of the ways in which comedy is evolving to be more surreal in a landscape where it is increasingly hard to surprise your very media-literate audience.
“The incorporation of a dramatic search for a long lost brother together with a satirical advertisement is an unexpected and hilarious combination.”
While the festival does feature some international fare, Coffey was keen to showcase Australian filmmakers and not fall into the trap of thinking foreign flicks are always more sophisticated, funny and original.
“We make a continuous effort to prioritise Australian films because we think it’s important to steer away from cultural cringe that is so prevalent in Australian culture,” he says. “That being said, we still make an effort to incorporate films from a wide array of countries because I think including them is a great demonstration of how humour can bring together people of very different backgrounds and often dispel stereotypes of different countries and ethnicities.”
It’s testament to Over the Fence’s popularity and Coffey’s passion and unwavering commitment to comedy, that the grassroots festival has been running continuously for nearly three decades with invaluable support from the local community and a motley crew of volunteers, film lovers and fans.
In classic Coffey fashion, this year’s festival will simultaneously open on April Fools Day (Saturday April 1) in Victoria, South Australia and WA, where it is held at DADAA Theatre on Adelaide Street in Fremantle. Over the Fence is held over two days with tickets at trybooking.com
by STEPHEN POLLOCK