Fantasia kicked off its 15th Anniversary in style, with the Canadian Premiere of Kevin Smith’s controversial Red State setting the tone for a festival full of great conversations, diverging opinions and challenging discussion into the wee hours.
Lifetime Achievement tributes were held for director John Landis, who presented the Canadian premiere of Burke and Hare and walked away with the first-ever ‘cheval noir’ award designed by celebrated FX artist C.J. Goldman, and to Canuxploitation pioneers John Dunning and Andre Link of Cinepix. The duo were honored onstage by several past collaborators – including George Mihalka, Danielle Ouimet, Denis Heroux, Don Carmody, Larry Kent , Lynn Lowry and more - who reminisced about Cinepix’ 30+ year history in a ceremony moderated by Canadian film historian Paul Corupe. The Cinepix tribute also extended to include rare screenings of six classic Cinepix titles in conjunction with the Cinematheque quebecoise. Other repertory surprises were rock icon Robert Charlebois’ appearance to present a rare screening of Damiano Damiani and Sergio Leone’s collaborative spaghetti western Un génie, deux associés, une cloche(1975), and Ted Kotcheff’s appearance to present a newly-restored 35mm print of the seminal (and long-lost)Aussie thriller Wake in Fright.
World Premieres at the 2011 edition included anthology horror The Theatre Bizarre, with directors Jeremy Kasten, Karim Hussain, Douglas Buck, Richard Stanley, David Gregory, Tom Savini, Buddy Giovinazzo and many stars (including Udo Kier!) in person; Chris Sivertson’s Brawler, with Sivertson and actors/co-producers Marc Senter and Nathan Grubbs in person; Larry Kent’s Exley (with Kent and star Shane Twerdun in person), Jean Leclerc’s (aka Jean Leloup’s) Karaoke Dreams, Jesse T. Cook’s Monster Brawl with Cook, star Art Hindle and many cast members in person, Carl Tibbetts’ Retreat (with director Tibbetts visiting from the UK) and Robin Hardy appeared in person to present his long-awaited follow-up to 1973’s The Wicker Man - The Wicker Tree.
Among the International Premieres were Todd Rohal’s The Catechism Cataclysm and the Trost Brothers’ The FP – the latter of which was picked up for distribution at the DDR-themed afterparty by Drafthouse Films, who also began negotiations to pick up Michaël R. Roskam’s Bullhead and Mikkel Nørgaard’s KLOWN (both North American Premieres). Additional North American Premieres included Yoon Sung-hyun’s hard-hitting Bleak Night and Paul Campion’s The Devil’s Rock, with Campion and several cast members all the way in from Australia for the screening.
Our lineup of Canadian Premieres was one of our most impressive yet, with Troy Nixey’s Del Toro-produced Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Julian Gilbey’s A Lonely Place to Die (co-writer/director in person), Mike Flanagan’s moody Absentia(director in person), Mike Cahill’s lovely what-if sci-fi sleeper Another Earth, Evan Kelly’s much talked-about The Corridor (hosted by Kelly, Writer Josh MacDonald and Producer Craig Cameron), Panna Rittikrai’s Bangkok Knockout, Trent Haaga’s black comedy Chop, Kim Min-suk’s Haunters, Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson and Simon Rumley’s anthology film Little Deaths, Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s off-the-wall Milocrorze: A Love Story (hosted by its director), Dick Maas’ Saint , Xavier Gens’ The Divide with Gens and cult star Michael Biehn in person, Ti West’s The Innkeepers and Sean Branney’s latest Lovecraftian triumph The Whisperer in Darkness. And of course we couldn’t resist playing festival faves Attack the Block, Bellflower, Beyond the Black Rainbow and Rare Exports.
Fantasia’s expanded symposium section included a panel on The Theatre Bizarre with all seven directors; a conversation on the occult in cinema between Richard Stanley and Robin Hardy; a master class on action directing with director Ryoo Seung-Wan of Die Bad; a Women in Horror panel with directors Isabelle Grondin, Maude Michaud, Jovanka Vuckovic and Elza Kephart; a lecture on the history of Hammer films by Nicolas Stanzick, author of Dans les griffes de la Hammer and journalist at l’Écran Fantastique; and a launch for Panorama-Cinema’s new book, Vies et morts du giallo : de 1963 à aujourd'hui.
The return of our Documentaries from the Edge programming stream included the Canadian Premiere of Don Argott and Demian Fenton’s devastating Last Days Here, the World Premieres of Frédérick Maheux’s urgent doc Art/Crime about the ongoing Remy Couture court case, and Damien Dupont and Yvan Pierre-Kaiser’s Jean Rollin, le rêveur égaré, among others. The Camera Lucida section traversed fascinating terrain with the World Premiere of Filip Tegstedt’s ghost story Marianne (with Tegstedt in person), the International premiere of William Eubank’s stunning Love (with Eubank and actor Gunner Wright in person), the North American premieres of Dharma Guns with writer/director FJ Ossang in person and Pat Tremblay’s’ Hellacious Acres:The Case of John Glass (which was snapped up for distribution even before its first public screening!), and the Canadian premieres of Isild LeBesco’s challenging and disturbing Bas-Fondsand Shinji Imaoka’s pinku musical Underwater Love (written by Miike biographer Tom Mes!)
Each year also brings its own special spotlights. This year our ‘Playback in Black; The Next Wave’ featured the World Premieres of Michael Axelgaard’s Hollow and David Bryant’s Victims, the North American Premiere of Erik Eger and Magnus Oliv’s One Hundred Years of Evil and the Canadian Premieres of André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter and Miguel Gomez’s El Sanatorio. Medicated Monsters was a sidebar dedicated to filmmaker Adam Wingard, who has been resetting the rules to indie horror since his 2007 breakout films Pop Skull and Home Sick, and this 6-film tribute was capped off by the World Premiere of his feature What Fun We Were Having: 4 Stories about Date-Rape. Visions of Vampirism was a spotlight that presented three fresh approaches to vampire mythology – including the Canadian Premieres of Scott Leberecht’s Midnight Son and Shunji Iwai’s Vampire, and the Montreal premiere of Jim Mickie’s acclaimed Stakeland – alongside a screening of the classic Harry Kumel film Daughters of Darkness (starring John Karlen of the original Dark Shadows), presented by star Danielle Ouimet in person.
As always, we had some stellar shorts in the lineup, including the World Premieres of Robert Morgan’s multi-award-winning Bobby Yeah, Andres Meza-Valdes and Diego Meza-Valdes’ adorable zombie apocalypse short Play Dead (told from the perspective of surviving housepets!) and Syl Disjonk’s Ethereal Chrysalis, the North American Premiere of Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong’s Night Fishing and the Canadian premieres of Jimmy Weber’s Incubator, Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact (which would become a feature within a year’s time) and Rider Strong and Shiloh Strong’s The Dungeon Master (hosted by the Strong brothers), not to mention an entire weekend of amazing local shorts with our annual Weekend Fantastique du court-metrages quebecoise.