20 years of horror, thrills and community: The Fantasia International Film Festival will be celebrating its 20th year when it opens on July 14th. Settled in the Montreal downtown at Concordia University, where most of the screenings take place, the festival has long been accepted as a pillar of Montreal’s summer festival season. One of the longest film festivals in the world featuring over 130 features and 300 short films over 19 jam-packed days, the festival has increasingly become the testing grounds for major distributors looking to gauge the potential of their genre films (mostly horror). The festival, however, has managed to keep its community roots and holds on for dear life to its spirit of discovery. As large as Fantasia is, it embodies a deep sense of intimacy and a strong dialogue between organizers and fans. While it features a number of high-profile films from the festival circuit and beyond, it also never fails to showcase bright, emerging and innovative talents from across the world.
This year’s festival, in particular, looks inward, focusing on Quebec’s history of genre, while looking forward to what the future has in store. Looking back, the festival has introduced the first Denis Héroux Award, named after the famed filmmaker who died late last year and who is best known for his softcore masterpiece, “Valérie” (1969). The prize will recognize exceptional contributions to the development of genre cinema and independent cinema from Quebec and the first recipient will be living legend Jean-Claude Lord. In honor of his career, the festival will be screening his rarely seen first film, “Délivre-nous du mal” (1969) about a homosexual couple’s relationship woes and their sadomasochistic co-dependency.
The film will be playing as a part of a larger program called Genre de pays, devoted to the best-underseen genre cinema of Quebec’s past. Most notably, this program includes a newly restored screening of one of the greatest Quebec films ever made, “Requiem pour un beau sans-cœur” (Robert Morin, 1992), a Rashomon-esque crime thriller. Due very much for discovery by an international audience, the film will be presented by Morin in a free screening in collaboration with The Cinematheque Quebecoise.
As for contemporary Quebec and Canadian cinema, there is a rich array of promising films and filmmakers. The festival opens with the world premiere of “King Dave,” a film that features a 98-minute shot, the newest by one of Quebec’s brightest stars Daniel Grou (better known as Podz). The twist on the formula is that the shot does not take place in real time, but over the course of ten days, as a wannabe tough guy seeks revenge on the man he saw dancing with his girl. With a theme of blurring the line between fact and fiction, other notable films from Quebec and Canada include: “Operation Avalanche,” a faux-documentary about the moon landing from the makers of “The Dirties”; “Mon Ami Dino,” which puts in the spotlight Quebec icon Dino Tavarone, playing himself; and “Écartée,” a dark comedy about a social worker’s improvised documentary gone wrong.
Among the international and world premieres, the selection is varied, covering many genres and countries: “Born of Woman,” a short film showcase of intimate and auteur films from some of the most promising women filmmakers exploring issues related to body and identity; “Goran,” a darkly funny Croatian film about a horrific, alcoholic, binge-drinking birthday; “I, Olga Hepnarova,” based on the true story of a 22-year-old girl who drove a truck into a group of strangers, starring Michalina Olszanska who also appears in “The Lure” (also playing at Fantasia); “Little Sister,” the newest film from Zach Clark about an unlikely family reunion involving nuns, the Iraq war and disfigurement; “She’s Allergic to Cats,” an underground film made by a former dog groomer who funded the film by working as a body double for one of the Daft Punk Robots; and “Train to Busan,” a South Korean action film that made a huge splash at Cannes.
Among the other notable selections of the festival include two new films from Takeshi Miike—“Terra Formars” and “As the Gods Will”—who will be present at the festival to receive a lifetime achievement award. There will be a program devoted for the first time ever to virtual reality, including 11 films, open for free to the public. The festival will also include special advanced screenings of Mike Flanagan’s “Before I Wake” and Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe." The film’s closing film, “Blood Father,” is straight from Cannes—starring a bearded Mel Gibson trying to save his daughter from a vicious drug cartel, and directed by Jean-François Richet. Other notable guests include Guillermo Del Toro, Adam Nimoy (“For the Love of Spock”), Christopher Lloyd (“I Am Not a Serial Killer”), Marilyn Manson (“Let Me Make you a Martyr”), Lloyd Kaufman (“The Toxic Avenger”) and Kevin Smith and Harley Quinn Smith (“Yoga Hosers”).
This year’s edition of Fantasia runs from July 14th until August 3rd in Montreal. Click here for more information.