Film festivals are a tricky game—there are so many in this city that there sometimes seems to be a non-stop parade of special cinematic events extending from mid-May to well past Hallowe’en. But much as I love ‘em, a film festival around these parts is not necessarily cause for genuine excitement. There’s only one Montreal film festival that sells out a 700-seat theatre four times a day, every day, for three weeks every year for 14 years running..
A festival that’s programmed by a dedicated, almost saintly staff that knows how to please but also to challenge its audience. A festival that boasts a jam-packed schedule of can’t miss movies that cater to a following so dedicated and devoted that the auditoriums are surrounded by dedicated festivalgoers who actually line up – rock-concert-style—for the chance to see the latest Takashi Miike or Sion Sono movie as though it were a U2 megaconcert or something. Fantasia.
Fantasia. It’s the best fest around.
I’ve been a huge fan since before it was my job. I credit my cinematic education, at least in part, to long-lost Julys whiled away in the pre-reno Imperial theatre, where Fantasia used to be. For the last few years, since they made the move to Concordia University’s downtown campus, they’ve really been stepping up their game— amped-up fanboys and girls lined up around the block, for movies that, normally, could only hope for a DVD release or a rarified film-fest screening counched in obscurity.. But Fantasia fetes these movies comme il faut, playing to packed houses of educated, enthusiastic crowds. Let me put it this way: In this era where we’re more likely to consume our movies via blu-ray and torrents, Fantasia reminds us what it’s supposed to be like to go to the movies. They do what few film fests dream of: show movies that people want to see, to people who want to see them. I could wax poetic about the dedicated programmers whose passion for movies has reinstated the almost-lost art of theatrical screenings, but let me put it this way. A trip to Fantasia will remind you why you love movies, and why you loved them to begin with.
A quick jaunt to fantasiafestival.com will give you a day-by-day rundown of the schedule, or stay tuned for some highlights. One of the best features of the festival are the special spotlights—this year’s programs feature, among others “Subversive Serbia”—contemporary Serbian horror movies, and a special collection of South Korean premieres. Starting today (Friday), they’ll screen a documentary about Hershell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore”, after HG himself does a special appearance and DVD signing at HMV. Later in the festival, after scores of anime and kung-fu extravaganzas and some of the goriest horror you’ve ever seen, they’ll award the Lifetime Achievement Award to cult master Ken Russell (The Lair of the White Worm). And to close out the festival, there will be a special screening of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with 20 extra minutes and a new, live score. Stay tuned for more details.
guest blogger: MELORA KOEPKE, film critic