In 1999 Fantasia expanded to utilize the then‐new high‐concept Ex‐Centris complex in addition to the glorious Imperial Cinema. The festival was host to some important premieres in 1999, including the North American premiere of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and the International premiere of Ring 2, with director Nakata in person.
It was the first time he’d seen the films with a non‐ Asian audience, and the overwhelming crowd response prompted Dreamworks to pick up the franchise.
Other major coups included the international premiere of Masayuki Ochiai’s Hypnosis and the North American premiere of Kim Ji‐Woon’s The Quiet Family (the inspiration for Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris). This was the first time a Kim Ji‐Woon film played in Canada, and he has since gone on to be an incredibly important Asian genre director, helming A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil, and The Good, The Bad + The Weird, among others. FromJapan, director Shusuke Kaneko appeared in person to present his film Gamera 3.
Further premieres included Shinya Tsukamoto’s Bullet Ballet; Geoffrey (Romper Stomper) Wright’s Metal Skin; Sex: The Annabel Chong Story with its star, controversial sex performer Annabel Chong – aka women’s studies grad Grace Quek – in person; Heaven (Scott Reynolds’ follow‐up to The Ugly); a pre‐Splice Vincenzo Natali in person with his short film Elevated; Les Bernstein’s indie noir Night Train (featuring character actor John Voldstad, better known as one of the brothers Darryl from Newhart, in a rare starring role) with both Voldstad and Bernstein in person; the criminally underseen The Eternal with director Michael Almereyda in person; and Austinite Arthur Bradford in person with his feel‐good documentary How’s Your News. In the more transgressive department, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s student film Kichiku was a shocking piece of terrorist art, Fantasia programmer Mitch Davis premiered his own disturbing short film Divided Into Zero and anime was turned on its head with Hiroshi Harada’s Midori: The Girl in the Freakshow (based on the manga by Suehiro Maruo and introduced by a live dance number!). But the big special guest of 1999 was director/producer Johnnie To, a longtime idol to the festival programmers, who appeared in person to introduce screenings of Expect the Unexpected, Lifeline, A Hero Never Dies, and Where a Good Man Goes, as well as to head up a critical forum on the state of Hong Kong Cinema. It was on the recommendation of Johnnie To that HK screen giant Lau Ching Wan accepted an invitation to attend Fantasia the following year. The festival at this time was also still boasting a robust retrospective section, with screenings of Dr. Butcher MD, Massacre at Central High, Nekromantik and Schramm (with cult underground German horror director Jorg Buttgereit in person), In a Glass Cage (1986), Mark of the Devil (1969), Rudy Ray Moore in person with his 70s blaxploitation staples Dolemite and Detroit 9000 (preceded by a live comedy routine), Joys of Torture (1968), Wife to be Sacrificed (1974), School of the Holy Beast (1974), Mighty Peking Man (1977) and Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972). In many cases these films were still unknown in North America, and their screenings at Fantasia prompted DVD distribution deals stateside.