Emma Diaz in Friends and Strangers (2021)
Emma Diaz in Friends and Strangers (2021)
Friends and Strangers (2021) Bonsai Films

ACMI Presents

Friends and Strangers

Opening night live Q&A with director James Vaughan

James Vaughan | Australia | 2021 | MA15+

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Friends and Strangers, the feature film debut from Sydney filmmaker James Vaughan, makes its Melbourne premiere after having charmed audiences on the festival circuit in Europe, Asia and the US.

James Vaughan’s Friends and Strangers had me cackling at its dry and gleeful absurdity… It’s mumblecore par excellence but laced with a satire of white Australia and its historical amnesia.

The New York Times

Our opening night screening on Thu 10 Mar will feature a live Q&A with director James Vaughan

Twentysomethings Alice (Emma Diaz) and Ray (Fergus Wilson) take a spontaneous camping pitstop on a road trip home to Sydney. They’re not romantic interests, they’re not really friends, so what are they doing there, lying side-by-side in a tent in the middle of nowhere...? How do we find ourselves in these situations, and for that matter, why do any of us do anything, ever? Friends and Strangers is a chaotic and contemplative exploration of colonialism, privilege and existential ennui in 2020s Australia – the new Australian ‘mumblecore’.

Vaughan’s capture of Sydney focuses on a particular slice of Aussie ‘ordinariness’. From pretty seaside jaunts, to the expansive living rooms of affluent Eastern-suburbanites, there’s a spectrum of white Australia on display, romantically shot by cinematographer Dimitri Zaunders. There are fleeting moments that show off that glorious Harbour, and even more fleetingly, the sweaty inner-city, working-class backstreets, the only place that appears purposed with activity.

There’s a deliberate disaffection built into this film, a generalised ‘drift’, and much like the open-plan houses and loose, care-free days, the dialogue, quintessentially Aussie, has an infinite ellipsis at the end of each sentence. It’s as if the characters have forgotten something, or everything.

Gleefully absurd, deadpan and unobtrusively political, Friends and Strangers marks the arrival of a bold new voice in Australian cinema.

– Curated by ACMI Film Programs

Format: DCP
Language: English
Source: Bonsai Films
Courtesy: Bonsai Films
Duration: 84 mins


84 mins



Strong coarse language


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Q&A with James Vaughan

Meet the director of Friends and Strangers on opening night (Thu 10 Mar)

James wrote and directed the short film, You Like It, You Love It (2013) which screened in competition at the Berlinale, Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, where he received the Swinburne Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker and ATOM award for Best Experimental Film. In 2015 he was recipient of Screen Australia’s  Talent Escalator: Director’s Acclaim fund. James was involved in establishing the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s Contemporary Film Program in 2016, which brought together a range of critics, curators and practitioners to exhibit a free weekly program of bold, new cinematic voices. He founded Leitourgia Films in 2018.

Filmmaker James Vaughan

Learn more

READ: James Vaughan introduces his film Friends and Strangers
James Vaughan, MUBI Notebook, Nov 2021

READ: Ray and Alice Go Hiking
Nicolas Rapold, The Metrograph, Feb 2022

LISTEN: Interview with director James Vaughan
Jason di Rosso, The Screen Show (ABC Radio National), Aug 2021

WATCH: Friends and Strangers Q&A with James Vaughan
Florence Almozini, Film at Lincoln Center, Apr 2021

Emma Diaz as Alice in 'Friends and Strangers' (2021)

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