Few film festivals do what the Fantasia International Film Festival manages to do: bringing hundreds of hard-to-find international and local oddities to the big screen, all in one place, all in the span of three weeks…
Now in its 18th edition, Fantasia, July 17-August 5, proves itself to still have its finger firmly on the pulse of challenging, outsider and underground-indie international film, especially when it comes to horror, fantasy, animation and oddball auteurs. This year’s fest hosts 160 features and 300 shorts, including numerous world and Canadian premieres and much-anticipated films from directors the likes of Abel Ferrara, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Jim Mickle, Jang Joon-hwan, Gregg Araki, Yoshihiro Nakamura, John McNaughton, Richard Linklater and more.
(known entities) Fantasia opens this year with Jacky au Royaume des Filles by Riad Sattouf, an off-kilter comedic love story set in a monarchical, authoritarian nation where women rule and men have little freedom. Also on July 17, the festival honours Japanese director Mamoru Oshii with a Lifetime Achievement Award accompanied by a screening of his Ghost in the Shell. American horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper also gets Lifetime Award recognition by the festival followed by a screening of his The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on July 30. Closing the festival is Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York, presented by the director himself. Ferrara, a film-world rabble-rouser and director of Bad Lieutenant, caused a stir at Cannes with his latest (screened not at the French festival itself but on a nearby beach), a story inspired by the 2011 sex scandals of French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and starring Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset.
(ones to watch) Marvel Comics shows up at the festival in the form of James Gunn’s adaption of Guardians of the Galaxy, starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood impresses with its patient filmmaking, emotional depth and captivating performances by Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. Fans anticipate the newest offering from Takashi Miike, The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji. The country of Brunéi Darussalam’s first commercial feature, Yasmine, blends martial arts in the entertaining style of Jackie Chan with the coming-of-age story of a young woman intent on mastering the martial art of kuntau. Don’t miss Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami’s Jellyfish Eyes, John McNaughton’s disquieting drama The Harvest, Denmark’s Cannes entry When Animals Dream, Argentina’s The Desert, Masayuki Ochiai’s new horror film Ju-On: The Beginning of the End, Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard, Bennett Jones’s low-budget Europop comedy I Am a Knife with Legs, the Quebec premiere of 1980s-set revenge thriller Cold in July from Jim Mickle, starring Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard, and Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, starring Michael Fassbender as a rock band’s frontman.
(fantasy & beyond) Along with big-budget features comes all manner of niche creation, from known talents and up-and-coming filmmakers alike. The festival’s Frontières series joins North America and European directors, producers and other industry professionals on unique genre projects, while first films and Quebec-made films appear among the Off-Frontières series. Often relegated to to the far corners of most film festivals, if screened at all, is new animation – Fantasia’s animation showcase, AXIS, changes that, screening features such as Bill Plympton’s Cheatin’, Mizuho Nishikubo’s Giovanni’s Island, Georgiy Daneliya & Tatiana Ilyina’s Koo! Kin-Dza-Dza, Yuzo Sato’s Hunter x Hunter, Chang Hyung-yun’s The Satellite Girl and the Milk Cow, as well as dozens of shorts from around the world. Documentaries also make an appearance at Fantasia: see premieres of The Creeping Garden, Fight Church, Kung Fu Elliot, To Be Takei and more.
(outside additions) Fantasia also hosts talks by directors, an industry conference and other activities, including screenings of films under the stars, adding a bit more socializing to the movie mix. On Saturday, July 12 at 9 p.m. at Peace Park, see short animated films by National Film Board legend Norman McLaren, spanning the period of 1938 to 1971. On July 13 at 9pm, see Éric Piccoli’s sci-fi webseries Project M, about a space mission to one of Jupiter’s moons in search of water for a depleted and at-war Earth. And on July 14 at 9:30 pm at Place des Festivals, the fest pairs up with Just For Laughs to celebrate Quebecois comedian Olivier Guimond with a screening of classic César à la Belle Étoile. Meanwhile, indoors on July 20 at 1:30pm, the festival launches Spectacular Optical’s first anthology, Kid Power!, a compendium of entertaining essays about kids in cult film and television – the launch also features a 35mm screening of 1983 fantasy film Something Wicked This Way Comes plus a free cereal buffet! Catch that and other cult classics (like 1980 Canadian slasher Prom Night), along with hundreds of new films throughout the fascinating and fantastical festival.
Fantasia International Film Festival, July 17 to August 5, 2014
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