Interview with Festival Director Frances Hill (Down Under Berlin Film Festival)

Down Under Berlin was established in 2011 and is a project of the not-for-profit association Down Under Berlin – Australian Film Festival e.V. Since 2011 it has developed into the largest film festival in Europe dedicated to Australian and New Zealand film. As such it provides not only a window to storytelling and cinematography from Down Under but also a platform for filmmakers, who want to present their work to German audiences. The festival showcases a wide range of films including Indigenous cinema, short films, documentaries, experimental and feature films. Down Under Berlin is a member of festiwelt, the Berlin Network of Film Festivals.

Interview with Festival Director Frances Hill

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Frances Hill: Down Under Berlin Film Festival gives Australian and New Zealand filmmakers a new platform for their films in Europe.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

FH: A range of high quality shorts across all genres, strong independent feature films, entertaining and moving documentaries, and a selection of features from established directors.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

FH: The films, the directors, or the subject matter must be connected with Australia or New Zealand. We encourage submissions that show off the high standard of filmmaking that can be found Down Under, as well as films that give varied perspectives on these countries and their cultures.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

FH: A film festival is always a showcase of many different films, which makes it hard to highlight each and every film that is screened. It’s also a matter of audience and press interest: those films that have bigger names attached to them will be easier to market. But supporting up and coming filmmakers who have produced quality films is just as important, audiences appreciate good films regardless of budget and celebrity.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

FH: The Down Under Berlin team is passionate about bringing new and unseen films to Berlin, we want to show our international audience films they cannot see anywhere else. We also see the appreciation from European and German audience members for the cultures of Australia and New Zealand and want to support indigenous filmmaking from Down Under in Europe.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

FH: Our first festival included mostly shorts with a few longer documentary films, which was a result of our reach at the time. We are now part of the Berlin film festival network and are also gaining recognition in Australia and New Zealand for our work. We have increased the number of films and audience members steadily over the years, and are proud to bring great films to Berlin, which otherwise would not be seen in cinemas.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

FH: We hope to take Down Under Berlin to other cities in Germany, maybe to other countries too. We would like to work more with film schools from Australia and New Zealand whose students are producing amazing films, which we believe should be seen in Europe too.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

I think The Castle from Australia and Run Lola Run from Germany.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A compelling story with captivating visuals.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

In Berlin the film scene is great, we have studio productions next to independent projects, film school shorts alongside visiting directors from all over the world. Also we have many independent cinemas screening a diverse range of films, including short film nights. Berlin is a fantastic place to make and see films.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.