15 Years of Fantastic Discoveries: 2008-2010
In 2011, The Fantasia International Film Festival celebrates its 15th Anniversary. It’s been a wild ride full of amazing, eye-scorching, boundary-busting cinema, and we’ve had some of the genre’s leading lights with us along the way. For this summer’s anniversary edition, we’ll be posting festival overviews highlighting each year’s premieres, special guests and thematic retrospectives, accompanied by rare event photos and personal reminiscences from many of our past guests and collaborators.
- FANTASIA 2008 -
Fantasia 2008 opened with a red carpet screening of the World Premiere of Kim Nguyen’s Truffe, followed by a sold-out screening of Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django. Martial Arts fans gave standing ovation to legendary kung fu star Gordon Liu, here to present the international premiere of the restored print of the Shaw Bros classic Disciples of the 36th Chamber, and was the recipient of the first -ever Hero of the East prize.
From Thailand, directors Banjoong Pisanthanakum and Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter) arrived to present the Montreal premiere of award winning Alone, and – along with co-directors Paween Purijitpanya & Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (the latter also the producer of Alone) - to assault audiences with the international premiere of 4Bia (which also won the Public Prize for Best Asian film – Bronze).
After its successful inaugural edition, Documentaries from the Edge returned with provocative films on films centering around obsession, including cryptozoology docs La Bête du Lac and Not Your Typical Big Foot Film, the disturbing I Think We’re Alone Now, online gaming-addiction doc Second Skin and New Zealander David Blythe was on hand to present Bound for Pleasure and Transfigured Nights (the latter both North American Premieres).
Playback in Horror focused on reality-horror, including the gore-soaked Korean film The Butcher (Canadian Premiere), the World Premiere of Home Movie (with director Christopher Denham and producer Andrew van den Houten in person) and the North American premiere of [REC], which kept audiences on the edge of their seats. The audience awarded the film with both Most Innovative Film and Best Occidental film (Silver).
Fantasia partnered for the first time with Cinémathèque québécoise to present a spotlight on Johnnie To. Triangle and Mad Detective were two important Montreal premieres but the eagerly awaited The Sparrow – 2 years in the making – was unleashed on Canadian soil for the 1st time. In conjunction with the event, the Cinémathèque québécoise presented an exhibition of rare and striking posters from the collection of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes.
Japanese gangster fans received a royal treat with gorgeous vintage 35mm prints from the Nikkatsu vaults in No Borders, No Limits: 1960 Nikkatsu, currated by the New York Asian Film Festival’s Marc Walkow and presented with live English subtitling. The series was presented in conjunction with the book launch for Mark Schilling’s No Borders, No Limits, with FAB Press founder Harvey Fenton on hand. Among the films screened were A Colt is my Passport, VIP Gangster and Velvet Hustler.
In 2008, Fantasia embarked on the first edition of the now-staple Fantastique Week-end du court-métrage québécois, which included screenings, conferences and events aimed at bringing further recognition to the Quebec film industry. Local feature Who is KK Downey played to an enthusiastic packed house for its Canadian Premiere.
The Blood Radical: Unconventional American Horror spotlight featured 8 ambitious American productions, including the World Premiere of Repo! The Genetic Opera hosted by director Darren Lynn Bousman and cast. The audience awarded the film with a much-deserved Most Innovative Film (Gold), and the film later embarked a successful tour throughout North America. Ryuhei Kitamura presented his first-ever US debut with the World Premiere of Midnight Meat Train, based on Clive Barker’s beloved short story. Closing out the final Sunday was the World Premiere of Pig Hunt with director James Isaac, co-producer/co-screenwriter Robert Mailer Anderson and much of the cast in person (Midnight Meat Train and Pig Hunt tied for the Best Occidental Film-Bronze prize from the public). Other Premieres included All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, the Canadian premiere of Frank Henenlotter’s Bad Biology (with Henenlotter and producer/co-writer R.A. Thorburn in person), creepy suicide occult horror From Within (International Premiere)and the Canadian Premiere of Daniel (Blair Witch Project) Myrick’s The Objective.
The Feature Film Jury was presided over by director Pierre Francoise Legendre, John Anderson (Variety and Film Comment), Martin Bilodeau, Frederic Ouellette and Podz. The grand prize of the jury was the now- classic Swedish vampire film Let the One In (Canadian premiere), walking away with 4 prizes (Best film, director and photography from the jury and the Best Occidental Film-Gold from the public)
Animation fans were greeted with a handful of distinctive masterworks created by some of the greatest visual artists of this generation. Bill Plympton was on hand for the Canadian premiere of Idiots and Angels (winner of public prize for Best Animated film), while animation omnibus Genius Party dazzled audiences and the Canadian premiere of Peur(s) du Noir offered an atmospheric exploration of the dark.
Also featured were the World Premiere of Eric Shapiro’s Rule of Three, hosted by Shapiro, actor/co-writer Rhoda Jordan and actor Rodney Eastman (the latter most beloved to Fantasians from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors), the Canadian Premieres of Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes and Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen’s devastating Jack Ketchum adaptation Red, and the Montreal Premieres of Argento’s Mother of Tears (with actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni in person) and the latex-happy Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer with star/writer/producer Trevor Matthews, producer Patrick White, editor Matt Brulotte and FX artist David Scott in person.
And of course what would Fantasia be without its annual showcase of inspired, surreal and sometimes demented short films? Canada was in the house in a big way, with the World Premieres of Jason Eisener’s Treevenge, Rodrigo Gudino and Vincent Marcone’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Hollow (which won Best Animated Short) and Matt O’Mahoney’s crotch-crime mini-masterpiece Electric Fence, while faves from south of the border included Phil Mucci’s Far Out, Damon Packard’s Skatebang, Adam ‘Hatchet’ Green and Ryan ‘Abominable’ Schifrin’s The Tiffany Problem, and a triple-header of future indie horror stalwart Adam Wingard’s shorts (Paradox Mary, Laura Panic and Don’t Worry – all World Premieres). Overseas contributions included the North American Premiere of Claudio ‘Gobin’ Simonetti’s The Dirt, the Canadian premiere of Kiwi director Paul Campion’s Eel Girl (who is at Fantasia 2011 with his first feature, The Devil’s Rock!) and the Montreal premieres of I Love Sarah Jane (from Spencer Susser, the Aussie director of the magnificent Hesher) and Benni Diez and Marinko Spahic’s manic genre-bender Kingz.
- FANTASIA 2009 -
2009 was, in many respects, a particularly luxurious year for the Fantasia Festival. Whether felt from governmental institutions, distributors or the faithful public, the efforts and certain choices made by the programmers, notably the program itself, have been rewarded by results exceeding their wildest expectations.
For the first time Telefilm provided most-welcomed funding assistance for the festival, conclusively entrenching its legitimacy within the Quebec and Canadian cultural landscape. More and more studios had had faith in the festival’s programmers over the years but the acquirement of key features from the latest Cannes Film Festival such as Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, co-winner of the Prix de Mise-en-scene de la Croisette, Emmanuel Klotz and Albert Pereira’s Lascars and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as the closing feature (actor Eli Roth in tow) demonstrated once and for all that Fantasia remains a prime-choice destination to launch the careers of important films in Canada and North-America.
Despite a growing number of films that could be qualified as “non-traditionally fantasian”, but that still align themselves comfortably within the program and the Festival’s long-term vision, such as Yang Ik-june’s Breathless, the director presenting his film in person and walking away with the Best Movie and Best Actor awards, Kanji Nakajima’s The Clone Returns Home, winner of the Best Photography prize, and Robert Aubin’s À Quelle Heure le Train pour Nulle Part (which would go on to win the Gilles Carles award at the Rendez-vous Quebecois the following year), a record number of 90 000 festival-goers swarmed the Hall Theatre and J.A. de Seve cinema of Concordia University. With 195 sold-out screenings, it was clear that it was with delirious enthusiasm that our audience was willing to follow the direction Fantasia was taking.
If the fans have supported us with such fervor it is also due to the sure value and habitual auteurs that permeate the Fantasia programming. Thus, they were able to find Takeshi Miike opening with Yatterman, Sion Sono and his masterpiece Love Exposure, winner of the special jury Prize and Best Actress (Hikari Mitsushima), Jose Mojica Marins, a.k.a. Coffin Joe, coming from beyond the grave and in person – accompanied by his screenwriter Dennison Ramalho – to present Embodiment of Evil and receive an honorary award celebrating his entire career, Wilson Yip and his Ip Man, the headlining film of our section dedicated to 100 years of Hong Kong cinema, Kim Ki-duk’s Dream, Larry Fessenden this time showing up as actor/producer to introduce I Sell the Dead, and many more.
In terms of discovery, the Festival has lived up to its reputation by showing a impressive number of first features and films directed by talents whose careers are on the rise. Among them, Nah Hong-jin’s The Chaser, Tom Shankland’s The Children, Jang Hun’s Rough Cut, David Russo’s The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Simon Ennis’ You Might as Well Live, Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Leonard’s Sans Dessein, Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, Yosuke Fujita’s Totally Fine, Paul Solet’s Grace, Peter Van Hees’ Left Bank, Nicolas Alberny and Jean Mach’s 8th Wonderland and Dominic Murphy’s White Lightnin’ made their mark on the program of Fantasia 2009.
It is also impossible to keep under wraps the many retrospectives and screenings of classic films of the genre that are becoming more and more prominent in Fantasia programming. The retrospective on pinku eiga films, in collaboration with the Japanese consulate, introduced to Montreal audiences a genre little-known here, but very respected in Japan. Fantasia was also honored with the presence of filmmaker Buddy Giovinazzo and his knockout film Combat Shock, as well as his latest piece: Life is Hot in Cracktown. Furthermore, pornstar Sasha Grey, actor David Hess and Canadian director Lee Demarbre were here to introduce the world premiere of Smash Cut. Finally, the French rapper MC Jean Gab’1, director Pierre Laffargue and producer Lauranne Bourrachot were present for the screening of the action/comedy Black.
We could say that 2009 was Fantasia’s consecrating year. This 13th edition showed us a glimpse of a very promising future in store for the Festival and its fans, paving the way for all of the surprises and events that were to highlight Fantasia 2010.
- FANTASIA 2010 -
On the verge of turning 15, Fantasia had the usual Japanese freaks from Nikkatsu and Sushi Typhoon entertaining crowds with blood and latex-soaked extravaganzas such Alien Vs. Ninja and Mutant Girls Squad (both Canadian Premieres, with co-Director Yoshihiro Nishimura once again running around half-naked), while the rubbery pleasures of Air Doll introduced us to a new way of loving, mind-blowing anime Summer Wars sucked crowds in with its explosive eye-candy and Rinco’s Restaurant (North American Premiere with director Mai Tominaga in person) was an optimistic heart-warmer. What was the plot of Japanese freak-out Symbol? Nobody can really tell.
The Canadian premiere of Bodyguards and Assassins was one of the highlights of the Hong Kong section, its period martial arts action matched only by the quick-witted and quick-footed high-flying of Gallants (Canadian Premiere)with actor Bruce Leung and co-director Clement Cheng in person.
This year’s South Korean showcase yielded the International Premiere of animated feature What is Not Romance, the North American Premiere of splatter comedy The Neighbour Zombie (with female director and FX artist Jang Yoon-jung on hand to apply zombie makeup to enthusiastic patrons), the Canadian Premieres of historical tear-jerker A Little Pond, martial arts extravaganza Blades of Blood, goblin-magic period pic Woochi and spy-thriller bromance Secret Reunion, as well as a repertory screening of steamy 1960 classic The Housemaid.
The international premiere of French surreal slasher Rubber mesmerized everyone who saw it, which the packed-to-the-gills Canadian Premiere of geek smorgasbord Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World did in equal measures. Danish Director Tomas Villum Jensen and his Producer Christian Potalivo flew in to host globe-trotting adventure story At World’s End, as did Christopher Smith for Black Death (both North American premieres), and director Neil Marshall and actress Axelle Carolyn hosted the Canadian Premiere of Centurion.
Mexican cannibal stunner We Are What We Are (North American Premiere), Deliver Us From Evil (Montreal Premiere), Down Terrace (Canadian Premiere), Red White and Blue (Canadian Premiere, with director Simon Rumley and actress Amanda Fuller in person) and The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Montreal Premiere) stressed out the Montrealers big time, where Spain’s [Rec] 2 scared the shit out of others. Multi-award-winning doc Marwencol won over audiences with its unique tale of obsession and healing while Lemmy (Canadian premiere with co-director Wes Orshoski in person) rocked their socks off and Phillip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin) made a long-awaited comeback with dark loner fairytale Heartless. Closing film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (with its numerous guests, including stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) had the crowd laughing all the way to the voting drop-box.
This year’s Canadian offerings included the World Premieres of Jon Knautz’ creepy-village horror film The Shrine, Chad Archibald’s Neverlost and Frederick Maheux’s Theorie de la Religion (Maheux has gone on to direct one of this year’s buzz-films, Art/Crime), the Montreal Premiere of surreal skateboard fantasy Machotaildrop (with co-writer/co-director Corey Adams, co-writer/co-director/producer Alex Craig and producer Oliver Linsley in person), a special screening of Jephté Bastien’s local gangland drama Sortie 67 and the double-header of both Mesrine films starring Vincent Cassel as the infamous French criminal, hosted by fellow actor Roy Dupuis.
Fantasia also provided plenty in terms of shock, terror and the usual cinematic mania. The Subversive Serbia spotlight shook entire rooms more than a few all nights long, with the controversial but slick A Serbian Film and the intense, wonderfully-titled The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, in the presence of their respective directors (the comparatively softer side of Serbia was represented with the director’s cut of the epic Tears For Sale and retro feature A Holy Place, a version of Gogol’s The Viy). South Korea’s Dream Home (Canadian Premiere) came out of nowhere and sideswiped everyone with its real estate-fuelled blood frenzy.
For the World Premiere of the I Spit on your Grave remake, director Steven R. Monroe, star Sarah Butler and producer Meir Zarchi – the director of the original – hosted the screening and its explosive Q&A (in which an audience member started to yell at Monroe for remaking his favourite film, then hugged Meir Zarchi before storming out of the room). Australian director David Blythe’s solemn madness-tinged psycho-thriller Wound had its International Premiere, and from the Netherlands came the notorious Human Centipede.
Director Stuart Gordon came back to Montreal just in time for the 25th anniversary of his Lovecraft-inspired splatter classic Re-Animator , which screened to a cheering crowd, but he really moved the Fantasians with his one-man-play Nevermore, written by Gordon’s regular collaborator Dennis Paoli and starring the one and only Jeffrey Combs as author Edgar Allan Poe. A real tour de force that took place at the beautiful Rialto theatre, where Siouxie and the Banshees’ Steven Severin also provided live musical accompaniment to a screening of Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poete. For the World Premiere screening of the H.G. Lewis documentary The Godfather of Gore, the 84-year-old subject, producer Mike Vraney (of Something Weird Video) and co-directors Jimmy Maslon and Basket Case’s Frank Henenlotter were on hand for a Q+A.
But the crowning achievements in the repertory department were undoubtedly a screening of Ken Russell’s rarely-seen classic The Devils, for which the cult director received a lifetime achievement award from Fantasia, as did Don Bluth and Gary Goldman before their nostalgic animated family-classic The Land Before Time.
Like a cherry on top, this edition – which began with the Canadian Premiere of Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (with star and local-boy Jay Baruchel in attendance) – the festival ended magnificently with a screening of the restored original cut of the German masterpiece Metropolis at the Place des Arts, with a 13-piece orchestra. Fantasia can be classy too, you know.
Event photos by Pierre Roussel, King-wei Chu, Renaud Sakelaris, Isabelle Stephen and Nnicolas Archambault.