By Al Kratina
July 4, 2007 - 23:44
You know those guys in high school who wore trenchcoats until at least mid-June? They had shorts made from cut-off army pant, played Magic: The Gathering at lunch in the cafeteria while listening to Nine Inch Nails and Battlelore, and at least one of them had a Dad who was grew weed in an attic greenhouse? Well, they started a horror and fantasy film festival in Montreal 12 years ago, and it’s pretty much the coolest thing since
Halloween action figures. Provided, of course, you find that sort of thing cool. If not, then Fantasia, now North America’s premiere genre film festival, will hold as much appeal as a conference about stamp collecting. But in a city nearly over-run with film festivals, Fantasia, which starts tomorrow and runs until July 23rd, has still managed to make an impact on the Montreal cultural landscape, by programming films often ignored by more mainstream fests. But while this counter-culture approach may have led to the festival being dismissed by its more prestigious cousins, perhaps looked down upon by the Montreal World Film Festival, and maybe pawed in a dark corner by the New Media Film Festival at a house party but then ignored the next day, it hasn’t stopped the festival from attracting a large and distinctive crowd year after year.
“What we have,” says director of international programming Mitch Davis, “is thousands and thousands of really young people coming out to see films from cultures that they don’t identify with, in languages that they don’t speak. It’s really something monumental (.)” The festival spotlights ‘genre films’, a definition that, Davis admits, is somewhat amorphous and unclear. While the festival does focus on “films of the fantastic”, it shows anything from documentaries on bestiality to collections of Japanese television shows. Horror, fantasy, action, comedy… pretty much anything that doesn’t feature Eddie Murphy in a fat suit has a shot at screening at the festival. And the festival has a history of being ahead of the game with both its selections and its audience, as well. “Wong Kar Wai won an audience award for
Ashes Of Time in 1997. I mean, we were playing Kim Ki-Duk films before he was really trendy.” If either of those filmmakers is familiar to you, then you’ll definitely find something to like at the festival. If not, then you’ll have to settle for the zombie, vampire, kung-fu, and Asian horror films that round out the festival’s massive line up this year. Oh, and comic book fans take note. There’s plenty of superhero-themed films in this year’s schedule, from the Russian
The Sword Bearer to American film
Special. There’s also a short fan film block featuring films about Catwoman, Batman, and many others. And there's a movie about killer hair.
Bigger than ever, the festival has opened up a third venue for screenings at Montreal’s Concordia University, the festival’s home for the past few years, allowing for more than 120 feature films, 10 documentaries, and over 250 local and international shorts spread out over 22 blocks. Many of the films are part of special spotlights, like the “Documentaries from the Edge” series, featuring the aforementioned bestiality film
Your Mommy Kills Animals, a controversial film about the animal activist movement in the United States. Also featured is the repertory collection
From The Tsars To The Stars, a retrospective of Russian films of the fantastic produced between 1936 and 1988, including
Amphibian Man, Stalker, and
Cosmic Voyage. And then there’s the “Hell Is A City: The Cinema of Urban Apocalypse”. Every film in the series, says Davis, is “exceptional”, and the Internet reviews of spotlighted films
Mulberry Street and
Right At Your Door would seem to support his assertion. In fact, according to Davis,
Right At Your Door, which played at the Sundance Film Festival last year, was “the best film of 2006”. Other recommendations from Davis include
A Bloody Aria,
The Devil Dared Me To, and
Exte: Hair Extensions, a film which, as the title would suggest, is a horror film about killer hair extensions. And what’s most interesting is that
Exte is not the only film at the festival about dangerous hair, with the toupee-wielding hero of
Rug Cop rounding out the killer hair line up. In fact, there “there are probably at least 40 truly visionary films at the festival this year” says Davis. There are so many good films that “there’s the risk of tearing the audience to pieces, by just giving them these
Sophie’s Choice moments every day”. And with a line-up of over 50 guests from around the world, Fantasia is making deciding which killer hair film to see all the more difficult.
Visit Fantasia 2007’s official website.
Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15