It says a lot that Mitch Davis has a cinema in his basement. Fantasia selects films that are meant to be seen on the big screen, not videos best suited for laptop viewing and social media marketing campaigns. The festival was not founded by classicist cinephiles, but thrill-seeking fans of the weird and different, and it’s reflected in their programming.
There’s a real freshness to it. And it feels like a lot of the inspiration comes from outside the echo chamber and the usual channels audiences get served up on the festival circuit. The programming team often selects films that would normally be overlooked, due to their challenging, un-conservative, personal nature. A lot of films possess a unique madness that can only be attributed to the filmmaker that made it. There’s no appetite for broad-strokes, box-checking cinema here.
– Co-Director General, Programmer and Marketing Director of Fantasia, Marc Lamothe
Former music journalist, Co-Director General, Programmer, Marketing Director of Fantasia and all-around cool guy, Marc Lamothe, always keeps a loose equation in mind: “If we played one Disney film, to balance that out, we would play three films that nowhere else would play”.
So how has Fantasia grown over the years, and maintained its core ethos and identity? Having talked to a number of filmmakers with features at the festival, it became apparent that almost all of them previously had shorts there. The festival has always had an eye on the future, willing to cultivate relationships with filmmakers, but also on the lookout for forging fresh new ones.
With a high filmmaker, press and industry turnout, and festival passes providing entry to most of the films, and the go-to drinking venue of the Irish Embassy just around the corner, the opportunity for the big-shots to mix with the up-starts couldn’t be easier.
Fantasia also really looks after its own, and supports the filmmaking infrastructure of its home province and country. Canadian filmmakers can submit their films for free, and seven shorts programmes are dedicated to Quebecois filmmakers, lending them legitimacy, encouragement and vital access.
In 2012, Fantasia went ahead and organised FRONTIÈRES: “an international co-production market and networking platform specifically focused on genre film financing and co-production between Europe and North America”. It now leads the field and has extended through partnerships with Cannes and Amsterdam. FRONTIÈRES successes include Julia Ducornau’s Raw, which premiered at Cannes, and Turbo Kid, which had its world premiere at Sundance.
FILMS & DIRECTORS TO LOOK OUT FOR
DRIB is a real discovery and probably the best satire you’ll see this year. Part meta-documentary, part dramatic reconstruction, Kristoffer Borgli’s top-drawer takedown of branding culture possesses meticulous camera plotting, an acerbic script with fantastic dialogue and memorable performances from the supporting cast, including Brett Gelman (whose workhorse character acting career has been starting to pay dividends), and Under The Skin’s Adam Pearson.
TRAGEDY GIRLS – it’s taken over twenty years to find a worthy successor to Scream, and almost fifteen years to find one for Mean Girls. But writer-director, Tyler MacIntyre and writer, Chris Lee Hill have done it. It’s fun, poppy, subversive and fresh, with up-to-date social commentary on the narcissistic social media generation. And it’s packed with entertaining and inventive deaths, wirth brilliant supporting roles for Craig Robinson and Josh Hutcherson. Tragedy Girls is the best slasher film made in years, and a clear announcement of Alexandra Shipp (Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse) as a big movie star of the future. Don’t be surprised if this is a smash hit.
ASSHOLES – on arriving at the airport, we were already hearing rumours that Peter Vack’s gross-out comedy must have slipped onto the programme without the sponsors noticing. The screening of this film is testament to Fantasia’s bravery and pluralism in terms of its programming. Imagine throwing Woody Allen, Lena Dunham, Bret Easton Ellis, John Waters and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia into a blender. And what you get is Assholes. Its unity of concept is astounding. And equally shocking, is how Vack managed to convince his sister (Betsey Brown), his mother, his father, and even himself, to act in it.
Betsey Brown puts in a shameless, powerhouse performance, and should be on everyone’s radar soon. It would be very interesting to see which distributors and cinemas have the guts to take on this film. We dare ya.
GOOD TIME received two standing ovations. And with Robert Pattinson and the Safdie Brothers in attendance, the crowd was raucous. Shot on 2-Perf 35mm film, Good Time is imbued with the feel of a hard-edged New York City film from the 1970s Golden Age, and can best be described as Dog Day Afternoon meets After Hours.
Tense, frenetic, bizarre, funny and always shifting gear from minute to minute, it’s a thrill ride you just can’t get off, but also a film that poses some painful questions on what separates selfishness and love. The Safdies have proven themselves, and Pattinson is consistently demonstrating he’s not only a very interesting actor, but a great producer in the making who gets daring and unique projects from exciting filmmakers off the ground.
BAD BLACK demands you to forget everything you think you know about cinema. In this Ugandan action thriller, director Nabwana I.G.G. will teach you the rules all over again. Want proof? Here’s the film’s opening scene:
Self taught and using salvaged equipment, Nabwana works in the realm of $150 – $200 budgets for feature films. In 15 years, he’s racked up 40 features. The fact we are hearing about him is no joke or coincidence. This guy’s an inspiration, along with his collaborators working out of ‘Wakaliwood’, the nickname for a slum district in Kampala.
Bad Black is never lacking humour, thanks to VJ (Video Jockey) Emmie on commentary, taking liberties as he translates the dialogue and adds his own little affectations and interpretations, constantly knocking on the 4th wall. The child actors have guts and range, and the martial artists involved are certainly talented. All this earned the film a Best Director award in the action genre and the Audience Award at Fantastic Fest 2016. Bad Black is a window to another world.
GAME OF DEATH is an all-out visual party tanked up on narcissism, campiness, nihilism and invention by Montreal filmmakers Sebastien Landry and Laurence “Baz” Morais-Lagacé. Like any party, it takes 10 minutes to warm up but once the game has started, you’re fully in a Cronenbergian, Raimi-esque, ticking, mass-murder-spree time bomb, with some Coen Brothers thrown in.
It has colour, fun, practical effects and a number of ingenious shots, but it’s the structure and rhythm that keeps all of these things alive, and makes the two young directors stand out. An effective action movie inherits its DNA directly from suspense films. Not everyone remembers this, or fully appreciates the implications, but Landry and Baz do, as they allow a sense of promise to build up and deliver on. Game Of Death owes to its previous form as a web-series, resulting in a rhythm that shimmies and shakes, keeping you second-guessing and engaged throughout.
TERREUR 404 plays on the internet error code page that comes up when you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist. On the same lines as The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, this Quebecois 85-minute anthology is divided into eight playful, irreverent and scary episodes, united in tone by the direction of Sébastien Diaz, and the writing of Samuel Archibald & William S. Messier. The anthology is bound to the core theme warning against the dangers of the internet and how it could impact our everyday lives.
Diaz and his writing team demonstrate their understanding of the mechanics of horror. Each episode is impressively economic, as every shot is considered and propels the plot, without betraying the tone. Diaz, Archibald and Messier are future satirical arthouse horror darlings. But throw anything at them and they will, no doubt, do a great job. Terreur 404 can be watched here.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is Takashi Miike’s 100th film. This one’s produced by Jeremy Thomas and has an effortlessly cool trailer.
AND WHY WERE WE THERE?