Between 1996 and 2001, the Fantasia festival was predominantly held at the Imperial Cinema. In April of 2002, the festival organisers were informed that some important delays were to be expected in the execution of emergency works that needed to be made on the rooftop, air conditioning and plumbing of the old cinema.
Of course, alternative locations were evaluated, in vain. The shortness of the notice, coupled with the desire to not affect the festival’s performance nor its credibility, lead to an inevitable ‘2002‐without‐Fantasia’ kind of break. The next year, the organisers faced another wall in 2003: some more restoration works were to take place at the Imperial, and were not to be finished in time to held the seventh edition of the Fantasia Festival. So, another big room needed to be found, a place where movie lovers make theirs. Peter Rist of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema suggested checking with the Concordia University management to rent the Théâtre Hall (700 seats) and Salle J.A. De Sève (200 seats). The festival organisers chatted with Cindy Canavan, the one in charge of technical operations. She welcomed Fantasia’s request with enthusiasm and had a brand new screen and sound system installed in the Hall room, giving the festival the best projection quality in Montréal.
The organizers and programmers were nervously waiting for July 14th, 2003 to come, so the ticket pre‐sales could begin. Would the public follow the festival to this new location? Even though the box office would not open until 2PM, an impressive line‐up of people started to wait in line starting as early as 8AM. With several hundred fans already on site at noon, it’s easy to see how more than 15,000 tickets were sold in the ensuing 48 hours.
That year’s line‐up included 86 feature films from 20 countries. Regarding the length and quality of the 2003 edition, the official festival prize list speaks for itself : Hiroyuki (Sabu) Tanaka’s Drive (best asian film), Jean‐Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa’s Dead End (best international film – presented in North‐American premiere), the Trees of Life Collective’s Tamala 2010 (best animated film) and Sono Sion’s Suicide Club (most revolutionary film).
This edition confirmed the emergence of unique creators like Joel Bergvall & Simon Sandquist (The Invisible’s Canadian premiere), Katsuhito Ishii (Shark Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl), Kwak Jae‐ young (My Sassy Girl), Elza Kephart (Graveyard Alive’s world premiere), Damon Packard (Reflections Of Evil), the Pang brothers (The Eye), Paco Plaza (Second Name’s Canadian premiere), Dennison Ramalho (Amor So De Mãe’s international premiere), Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), the Spierig Brothers (Undead’s North‐American premiere), Éric Tessier (Sur Le Seuil’s sneak preview) and Yukihiko Tsutsumi (2LDK’s Canadian premiere).
The festival’s seventh edition showcased works by several of Fantasia’s most revered directors, including Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho‐Tep), Stuart Gordon (King Of The Ants’ Canadian premiere), Shusuke Kaneko (Giant Monsters All‐Out Attack’s Canadian premiere), Ryuhei Kitamura (ARAGAMI’s Canadian premiere), Kim Sang‐Jin (Kick The Moon’s Canadian premiere), Lasse Spang Olsen (Old Men In New Cars: In China They Eat Dogs II’s Canadian premiere), Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers 2’s world premiere), Corey Yuen (So Close’s Canadian premiere) and Brian Yuzna (Beyond Re‐Animator’s Canadian premiere), among others.
Fantasia also celebrated the Korean cinema with its « Faces of Korea » spotlight, which featured no less than 11 films including Kim Hyun‐jung’s Double Agent (Canadian premiere), Park Je‐ Hyeon’s The Legend Of Gingko (North‐American premiere), Sung‐su Kim’s Musa The Warrior’s Canadian premiere), Jang Sun‐Woo’s Resurrection Of The Little Match Girl (Canadian premiere) and Park Chan‐Wook’s Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. The French New Wave of Fantastique Genre Cinema was also highlighted with the « Vive La France fantastique! » section, which included Marina De Van’s Dans Ma Peau and Éric Valette’s Maléfique (Canadian premiere). That was also the year where Fantasia gave to the Montreal cinema lovers the documentary work of cult director Richard Stanley, with a spotlight called « Voodoo, War And Mysticism », that presented three singular films: Voice Of The Moon, The Secret Glory (North‐American premiere) and The White Darkness (North‐American premiere). The festival paid tribute to Takashi Miike’s work, by presenting a selection of four of its movies : Graveyard Of Honour (Canadian premiere), Ichi The Killer, Man In White (North‐American premiere) and Shangri‐La. Among the prestigious guests of this edition were Steve Cuden, Shusuke Kaneko, Scooter McRae, Jorge Olguin, Dennison Ramalho, Eli Roth, Patrick Senécal, Richard Stanley, Éric Tessier, Éric Valette, Ray Wise and the Phylactère Cola collective.
Over 25 days, Fantasia attracted 73 000 spectators and confirmed its pertinence on the local film festival scene and on the international front. In mythology, the Phœnix represents an amazing bird that is able to rise again from its own ashes. It is clear that after the difficult times they met in 2002‐2003, the Fantasia festival organizers could very well admit that 2003 was really their year of the Phœnix.