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-Fonds and 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.
On the verge of turning 15, Fantasia had the usual Japanese freaks from Nikkatsu and Sushi Typhoon entertaining crowds with blood and latex‐soaked extravaganzas such Alien Vs. Ninja and Mutant Girls Squad (both Canadian Premieres, with co‐Director Yoshihiro Nishimura once again running around half‐naked), while the rubbery pleasures of Air Doll introduced us to a new way of loving, mind‐blowing anime Summer Wars sucked crowds in with its explosive eye‐candy and Rinco’s Restaurant (North American Premiere with director Mai Tominaga in person) was an optimistic heart‐warmer.What was the plot of Japanese freak‐out Symbol? Nobody can really tell.Read More
The Canadian premiere of Bodyguards and Assassins was one of the highlights of the Hong Kong section, its period martial arts action matched only by the quick‐witted and quick‐footed high‐ flying of Gallants (Canadian Premiere)with actor Bruce Leung and co‐director Clement Cheng in person.
This year’s South Korean showcase yielded the International Premiere of animated feature What is Not Romance, the North American Premiere of splatter comedy The Neighbour Zombie (with female director and FX artist Jang Yoon‐jung on hand to apply zombie makeup to enthusiastic patrons), the Canadian Premieres of historical tear‐jerker A Little Pond, martial arts extravaganza Blades of Blood, goblin‐magic period pic Woochi and spy‐thriller bromance Secret Reunion, as well as a repertory screening of steamy 1960 classic The Housemaid.
The international premiere of French surreal slasher Rubber mesmerized everyone who saw it, which the packed‐to‐the‐gills Canadian Premiere of geek smorgasbord Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World did in equal measures. Danish Director Tomas Villum Jensen and his Producer Christian Potalivo flew in to host globe‐trotting adventure story At World’s End, as did Christopher Smith for Black Death (both North American premieres), and director Neil Marshall and actress Axelle Carolyn hosted the Canadian Premiere of Centurion.
Mexican cannibal stunner We Are What We Are (North American Premiere), Deliver Us From Evil (Montreal Premiere), Down Terrace (Canadian Premiere), Red White and Blue (Canadian Premiere, with director Simon Rumley and actress Amanda Fuller in person) and The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Montreal Premiere) stressed out the Montrealers big time, where Spain’s [Rec] 2 scared the shit out of others. Multi‐award‐winning doc Marwencol won over audiences with its unique tale of obsession and healing while Lemmy (Canadian premiere with co‐director Wes Orshoski in person) rocked their socks off and Phillip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin) made a long‐awaited comeback with dark loner fairytale Heartless. Closing film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (with its numerous guests, including stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) had the crowd laughing all the way to the voting drop‐box.
This year’s Canadian offerings included the World Premieres of Jon Knautz’ creepy‐village horror film The Shrine, Chad Archibald’s Neverlost and Frederick Maheux’s Theorie de la Religion (Maheux has gone on to direct one of this year’s buzz‐films, Art/Crime), the Montreal Premiere of surreal skateboard fantasy Machotaildrop (with co‐writer/co‐director Corey Adams, co‐ writer/co‐director/producer Alex Craig and producer Oliver Linsley in person), a special screening of Jephté Bastien’s local gangland drama Sortie 67 and the double‐header of both Mesrine films starring Vincent Cassel as the infamous French criminal, hosted by fellow actor Roy Dupuis.
Fantasia also provided plenty in terms of shock, terror and the usual cinematic mania. The Subversive Serbia spotlight shook entire rooms more than a few all nights long, with the controversial but slick A Serbian Film and the intense, wonderfully‐titled The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, in the presence of their respective directors (the comparatively softer side of Serbia was represented with the director’s cut of the epic Tears For Sale and retro feature A Holy Place, a version of Gogol’s The Viy). South Korea’s Dream Home (Canadian Premiere) came out of nowhere and sideswiped everyone with its real estate‐fuelled blood frenzy.
For the World Premiere of the I Spit on your Grave remake, director Steven R. Monroe, star Sarah Butler and producer Meir Zarchi – the director of the original – hosted the screening and its explosive Q&A (in which an audience member started to yell at Monroe for remaking his favourite film, then hugged Meir Zarchi before storming out of the room). Australian director David Blythe’s solemn madness‐tinged psycho‐thriller Wound had its International Premiere, and from the Netherlands came the notorious Human Centipede.
Director Stuart Gordon came back to Montreal just in time for the 25th anniversary of his Lovecraft‐inspired splatter classic Re‐Animator , which screened to a cheering crowd, but he really moved the Fantasians with his one‐man‐play Nevermore, written by Gordon’s regular collaborator Dennis Paoli and starring the one and only Jeffrey Combs as author Edgar Allan Poe. A real tour de force that took place at the beautiful Rialto theatre, where Siouxie and the Banshees’ Steven Severin also provided live musical accompaniment to a screening of Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poete. For the World Premiere screening of the H.G. Lewis documentary The Godfather of Gore, the 84‐year‐old subject, producer Mike Vraney (of Something Weird Video) and co‐directors Jimmy Maslon and Basket Case’s Frank Henenlotter were on hand for a Q+A.
But the crowning achievements in the repertory department were undoubtedly a screening of Ken Russell’s rarely‐seen classic The Devils, for which the cult director received a lifetime achievement award from Fantasia, as did Don Bluth and Gary Goldman before their nostalgic animated family‐classic The Land Before Time.
Like a cherry on top, this edition – which began with the Canadian Premiere of Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (with star and local‐boy Jay Baruchel in attendance) – the festival ended magnificently with a screening of the restored original cut of the German masterpiece Metropolis at the Place des Arts, with a 13‐piece orchestra. Fantasia can be classy too, you know.
2009 was, in many respects, a particularly luxurious year for the Fantasia Festival. Whether felt from governmental institutions, distributors or the faithful public, the efforts and certain choices made by the programmers, notably the program itself, have been rewarded by results exceeding their wildest expectations.
For the first time Telefilm provided most‐welcomed funding assistance for the festival, conclusively entrenching its legitimacy within the Quebec and Canadian cultural landscape. More and more studios had had faith in the festival’s programmers over the years but the acquirement of key features from the latest Cannes Film Festival such as Park Chan‐wook’s Thirst, co‐winner of the Prix de Mise‐en‐scene de la Croisette, Emmanuel Klotz and Albert Pereira’s Lascars and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as the closing feature (actor Eli Roth in tow) demonstrated once and for all that Fantasia remains a prime‐choice destination to launch the careers of important films in Canada and North‐America.
Despite a growing number of films that could be qualified as “non‐traditionally fantasian”, but that still align themselves comfortably within the program and the Festival’s long‐term vision, such as Yang Ik‐june’s Breathless, the director presenting his film in person and walking away with the Best Movie and Best Actor awards, Kanji Nakajima’s The Clone Returns Home, winner of the Best Photography prize, and Robert Aubin’s À Quelle Heure le Train pour Nulle Part (which would go on to win the Gilles Carles award at the Rendez‐vous Quebecois the following year), a record number of 90 000 festival‐goers swarmed the Hall Theatre and J.A. de Seve cinema of Concordia University. With 195 sold‐out screenings, it was clear that it was with delirious enthusiasm that our audience was willing to follow the direction Fantasia was taking. If the fans have supported us with such fervor it is also due to the sure value and habitual auteurs that permeate the Fantasia programming. Thus, they were able to find Takeshi Miike opening with Yatterman, Sion Sono and his masterpiece Love Exposure, winner of the special jury Prize and Best Actress (Hikari Mitsushima), Jose Mojica Marins, a.k.a. Coffin Joe, coming from beyond the grave and in person – accompanied by his screenwriter Dennison Ramalho – to present Embodiment of Evil and receive an honorary award celebrating his entire career, Wilson Yip and his Ip Man, the headlining film of our section dedicated to 100 years of Hong Kong cinema, Kim Ki‐duk’s Dream, Larry Fessenden this time showing up as actor/producer to introduce I Sell the Dead, and many more.
In terms of discovery, the Festival has lived up to its reputation by showing a impressive number of first features and films directed by talents whose careers are on the rise. Among them, Nah Hong‐jin’s The Chaser, Tom Shankland’s The Children, Jang Hun’s Rough Cut, David Russo’s The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Simon Ennis’ You Might as Well Live, Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Leonard’s Sans Dessein, Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, Yosuke Fujita’s Totally Fine, Paul Solet’s Grace, Peter Van Hees’ Left Bank, Nicolas Alberny and Jean Mach’s 8th Wonderland and Dominic Murphy’s White Lightnin’ made their mark on the program of Fantasia 2009.
It is also impossible to keep under wraps the many retrospectives and screenings of classic films of the genre that are becoming more and more prominent in Fantasia programming. The retrospective on pinku eiga films, in collaboration with the Japanese consulate, introduced to Montreal audiences a genre little‐known here, but very respected in Japan. Fantasia was also honored with the presence of filmmaker Buddy Giovinazzo and his knockout film Combat Shock, as well as his latest piece: Life is Hot in Cracktown. Furthermore, pornstar Sasha Grey, actor David Hess and Canadian director Lee Demarbre were here to introduce the world premiere of Smash Cut. Finally, the French rapper MC Jean Gab’1, director Pierre Laffargue and producer Lauranne Bourrachot were present for the screening of the action/comedy Black.
We could say that 2009 was Fantasia’s consecrating year. This 13th edition showed us a glimpse of a very promising future in store for the Festival and its fans, paving the way for all of the surprises and events that were to highlight Fantasia 2010.
Fantasia 2008 opened with a red carpet screening of the World Premiere of Kim Nguyen’s Truffe, followed by a sold‐out screening of Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django. Martial Arts fans gave standing ovation to legendary kung fu star Gordon Liu, here to present the international premiere of the restored print of the Shaw Bros classic Disciples of the 36th Chamber, and was the recipient of the first ‐ever Hero of the East prize.
From Thailand, directors Banjoong Pisanthanakum and Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter) arrived to present the Montreal premiere of award winning Alone, and – along with co‐directors Paween Purijitpanya & Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (the latter also the producer of Alone) ‐ to assault audiences with the international premiere of 4Bia (which also won the Public Prize for Best Asian film – Bronze).
After its successful inaugural edition, Documentaries from the Edge returned with provocative films on films centering around obsession, including cryptozoology docs La Bête du Lac and Not Your Typical Big Foot Film, the disturbing I Think We’re Alone Now, online gaming‐addiction doc Second Skin and New Zealander David Blythe was on hand to present Bound for Pleasure and Transfigured Nights (the latter both North American Premieres).
Playback in Horror focused on reality‐horror, including the gore‐soaked Korean film The Butcher (Canadian Premiere), the World Premiere of Home Movie (with director Christopher Denham and producer Andrew van den Houten in person) and the North American premiere of [REC], which kept audiences on the edge of their seats. The audience awarded the film with both Most Innovative Film and Best Occidental film (Silver).
Fantasia partnered for the first time with Cinémathèque québécoise to present a spotlight on Johnnie To. Triangle and Mad Detective were two important Montreal premieres but the eagerly awaited The Sparrow – 2 years in the making – was unleashed on Canadian soil for the 1st time. In conjunction with the event, the Cinémathèque québécoise presented an exhibition of rare and striking posters from the collection of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes.
Japanese gangster fans received a royal treat with gorgeous vintage 35mm prints from the Nikkatsu vaults in No Borders, No Limits: 1960 Nikkatsu, currated by the New York Asian Film Festival’s Marc Walkow and presented with live English subtitling. The series was presented in conjunction with the book launch for Mark Schilling’s No Borders, No Limits, with FAB Press founder Harvey Fenton on hand. Among the films screened were A Colt is my Passport, VIP Gangster and Velvet Hustler.
In 2008, Fantasia embarked on the first edition of the now‐staple Fantastique Week‐end du court‐métrage québécois, which included screenings, conferences and events aimed at bringing further recognition to the Quebec film industry. Local feature Who is KK Downey played to an enthusiastic packed house for its Canadian Premiere.
The Blood Radical: Unconventional American Horror spotlight featured 8 ambitious American productions, including the World Premiere of Repo! The Genetic Opera hosted by director Darren Lynn Bousman and cast. The audience awarded the film with a much‐deserved Most Innovative Film (Gold), and the film later embarked a successful tour throughout North America. Ryuhei Kitamura presented his first‐ever US debut with the World Premiere of Midnight Meat Train, based on Clive Barker’s beloved short story. Closing out the final Sunday was the World Premiere of Pig Hunt with director James Isaac, co‐producer/co‐screenwriter Robert Mailer Anderson and much of the cast in person (Midnight Meat Train and Pig Hunt tied for the Best Occidental Film‐Bronze prize from the public). Other Premieres included All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, the Canadian premiere of Frank Henenlotter’s Bad Biology (with Henenlotter and producer/co‐writer R.A. Thorburn in person), creepy suicide occult horror From Within (International Premiere)and the Canadian Premiere of Daniel (Blair Witch Project) Myrick’s The Objective.
The Feature Film Jury was presided over by director Pierre Francoise Legendre, John Anderson (Variety and Film Comment), Martin Bilodeau, Frederic Ouellette and Podz. The grand prize of the jury was the now‐ classic Swedish vampire film Let the One In (Canadian premiere), walking away with 4 prizes (Best film, director and photography from the jury and the Best Occidental Film‐Gold from the public)
Animation fans were greeted with a handful of distinctive masterworks created by some of the greatest visual artists of this generation. Bill Plympton was on hand for the Canadian premiere of Idiots and Angels (winner of public prize for Best Animated film), while animation omnibus Genius Party dazzled audiences and the Canadian premiere of Peur(s) du Noir offered an atmospheric exploration of the dark.
Also featured were the World Premiere of Eric Shapiro’s Rule of Three, hosted by Shapiro, actor/co‐writer Rhoda Jordan and actor Rodney Eastman (the latter most beloved to Fantasians from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors), the Canadian Premieres of Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes and Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen’s devastating Jack Ketchum adaptation Red, and the Montreal Premieres of Argento’s Mother of Tears (with actress Coralina Cataldi‐Tassoni in person) and the latex‐happy Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer with star/writer/producer Trevor Matthews, producer Patrick White, editor Matt Brulotte and FX artist David Scott in person.
And of course what would Fantasia be without its annual showcase of inspired, surreal and sometimes demented short films? Canada was in the house in a big way, with the World Premieres of Jason Eisener’s Treevenge, Rodrigo Gudino and Vincent Marcone’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Hollow (which won Best Animated Short) and Matt O’Mahoney’s crotch‐crime mini‐masterpiece Electric Fence, while faves from south of the border included Phil Mucci’s Far Out, Damon Packard’s Skatebang, Adam ‘Hatchet’ Green and Ryan ‘Abominable’ Schifrin’s The Tiffany Problem, and a triple‐header of future indie horror stalwart Adam Wingard’s shorts (Paradox Mary, Laura Panic and Don’t Worry – all World Premieres). Overseas contributions included the North American Premiere of Claudio ‘Gobin’ Simonetti’s The Dirt, the Canadian premiere of Kiwi director Paul Campion’s Eel Girl (who is at Fantasia 2011 with his first feature, The Devil’s Rock!) and the Montreal premieres of I Love Sarah Jane (from Spencer Susser, the Aussie director of the magnificent Hesher) and Benni Diez and Marinko Spahic’s manic genre‐ bender Kingz.
The program of the 2007 edition of the Fantasia Festival was a departure from its predecessors in its massive scale. In response to the ever‐growing success of the operation, the team decided to inflate their program from 90 to 130 films. Furthermore, about 20 short film programs were established, half of these dedicated to local productions. To accommodate these important additions, a 3rd theater is rented at the Concordia University, the DB Clark Theater, which would also host various conferences.
2007 also saw the arrival of the new section Documentaries from the Edge, which, as the name indicates, focuses on documentaries with audacity and unusual subjects. Although Fantasia presented documentaries in previous years, the creation of this new platform solidified the genre’s importance to the festival’s overall programming. By regrouping these films under a united category, it became evident that the rich program of the festival wasn’t limited to horror and science‐fiction. The public responded with enthusiasm to this initiative, coming in great numbers to projections of Asger Leth’s Ghosts of Cité Soleil, Seth Gordon’s The King of Kong and Robinson Devor’s much anticipated film Zoo. French journalist Yves Montmayeur, in attendance to present his medium‐lenght films about great contemporary Asian directors, was given also given a tribute. It only took one summer for the newfound section to become a staple of the festival and a recurring and anticipated part of the festival’s future.
Another remarkable section, Hell is a City: The Cinema of Urban Apocalypse offered various sights of the end of the world, more precisely of the specific moment where chaos takes control of our planet. Running on pure adrenaline, this section saw mutant rats clash with religious fanatics and showcased the work of young American authors, with David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry’s The Signal, Jim Mickle’s Mulberry Street, Chris Gentry’s Right at Your Door, the last two of which were screened with directors in attendance. Hell is a City also included the world premier of local Maurice Devereaux’ End of the Line and the North American premiere of Minoru Kawasi’s The World Sinks Except Japan.
An important retrospective of Russia’s genre cinema gave the audience the opportunity to (re)discover various obscure Soviet films, from many different periods. Russian Fantastika : From the Tsars to the Stars gave adventurous cinephiles the opportunity to see films as varied as Vasili’s Zhuraviev’s Cosmic Voyage (1936), Karen Shakhnazarov’s Zero City (1968) but most importantly, one of the greatest masterpieces of world cinema to adventurous cinema, regardless of genre: Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979).
After a tribute to Ray Harryhausen in 2005, Fantasia gave a 2nd Honorific Lifetime Achievement Award to Jean Rollin, applauding his distinctive and vital take on fantastical cinema. Quite moved, the artist appeared in person to receive his prize during a ceremony preceding a special showing of Les Frissons des Vampires. Rollin was also in attendance for the showing of his testamentary film La Nuit des Horloges.
Other than Devereaux and Kawasi, whose The Rug Cop was also on the program, many Fantasia regulars were back that year, to the joy of many cinephiles. Larry Fessenden, Lloyd Kaufman and Sion Sono also came back to Montreal to show The Last Winter (Montreal Premiere), Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (Canadian Premiere) and Exte: Hair Extension (Canadian Premiere), respectively. The Festival also took advantage of Sono’s appearance to show the brand new Hazard. The Asian selection is particularly anticipated, as it marks the return of some of their best filmmakers, namely Kim Ki‐Duk with Time, Johnnie To with Exiled, Shinya Tsukamoto with Nighmare Detective, Kiyoshi Kurosawa with Retribution, Jo Dong‐Oh’s The Restless and the indispensable Takashi Miike with Sun‐Scarred, Big Bang Love and the delirious Zebraman.
And, as always, the newcomers were welcomed like kings. Given a torrential wave of applause for his extremely anticipated slasher homage Hatchet, Adam Green’s got similar praise for his second feature Spiral. Thaï director Chookiat Sakweerakul took over the Hall Theater with his unsettling 13 Beloved, one of the biggest screening‐events of 2007, which later won the public prize for Best Asian Film that year. The public also discovered Mai Tominaga with the North American premiere of Wool 100%, M dot Strange and Won Shin‐Yeon with the Canadian Premiere of We Are the Strange and North American Premiere of A Bloody Aria, respectively, but also The Canadian Premieres of The Wizard of Gore, Anna Biller’s Viva, David Arquette’s The Tripper and the World Premieres of Gregory Wilson’s The Girl Next Door and Guillaume Taveron and Hiroshi Toda’s Sakura no Kage, shown with directors in attendance. Fantasia also welcomed comedian Nicolas Bro, Danish film star for the premieres of Offscreen and Adam’s Apples as well as the controversial director Uwe Boll, for the world premieres of Postal and In The Name of The King.
Starting on July 5th with the Canadian premiere of animation film Michael Arias’ Tekon Kinkreet, Fantasia ended on July 23rd, with additional showings of Tetsuya Nakashima’s Memories of Matsuko, feature the Jury, helmed by Yves Pelletier, awarded the Best Film Prize. Once again, the Festival ended on a successful note, reaching a record of 81,000 attendees, a 4,000 increase from the previous year, and imposing itself as a film event to be reckoned with, not only on the local scene but on the international circuit as well.
2006 marked the 10th anniversary of the festival. Two special spotlights were presented, one on the emergence of a new wave of Russian genre cinema beginning with the screening of 1967 Russian classic classic Viy (presented by Russian film historian Alla Verlotsky) to contrast with the three new films: science fiction film Aziris Nuna directed by Oleg Kompasov, hosted by producer Sergei Frolov, the North American premiere of Shadowboxing directed by Alexei Sidorov and the North American premiere of the film JUNK hosted by director Denis Neimand and producer Joseph Bakshiev.
The other spotlight featured an impressive collection of UK films starting with the opening film of the festival The Descent directed by Neil Marshall. Also presented were Broken directed by Adam Mason and Simon Boyes, Evil Aliens directed by Jake West, the North American premiere of The Living and the Dead hosted by it’s director Simon Rumley, Isolation directed by Billy O’brien and Wilderness also hosted by it’s director Michael J. Bassett.
The festival hosted a mini spotlight of Stop Motion films with Lunacy from one of the masters in the genre, Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. Also presented were the Canadian premiere of Blood Tea and Red String directed by Christiane Cegavske and Worlds of Wounded Clay: The Films of Robert Morgan, hosted by Robert Morgan.
There is always an excellent selection of Asian films at Fantasia,with the Japanese offerings traditionally being the most voluminous. 2006 was no exception, withseveral films from renowned filmmakers. Director Shusuke Kaneko brought two films, Azumi 2: Love or Death and the North American premiere of God’s Left Hand, Devil’s Right Hand. Th festival presented The Great Yokai War from directorTakashi Miike, The Funky Forest by Katsuhito Ishii, Strange Circus hosted by its director Sion Sono, Synesthesia, hosted by director Toro Matsuura, The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai directed by Mitsuru Meike, the North American premiere of The All‐Out Nine: Field of Nightmares by Yuichi Fukuda, Black Kiss by Makoto Tezka, Executive Koala by Minoru Kawasaki, Meatball Machine by Yudai Yamaguchi, Reincarnation by Takashi Shimizu, Shinobi by Shimoyama Ten, Tokyo Zombie by Sakichi Sato, Train Man by Masanori Murakami, Samurai Commando Mission 1549 by Masaaki Tezuka and Death Trance directed by Yuji Shimomura starring Tak Sakaguchi.
From Hong Kong the festival presented A Chinese Tall Story directed by Jeff Lau and Seven Swords by Tsui Hark. Also screened were two Shaw Brothers classics: Five Venoms directed by Chang Cheh and Dirty Ho by Chia‐Liang Liu. From South Korea A Bittersweet Life directed by Kim Ji‐Woon, Murder Take One by Jang Jin, Blood Rain by Kim Dae‐Seung, My Scary Girl by Son Jae‐ Gon, Princess Aurora by Bang Eun‐Jin, Red Shoes by Kim Yong‐Gyun, Vampire Cop Ricky by Lee Si‐Myung and The Art of Fighting directed by Shin Han‐Sol. Films from Thailand included Citizen Dog directed by Wisit Sasanatieng and the North American premiere of Re‐Cycle by the Pang Brothers, while from the Philipinnes came The Echo by Yam Laranas.
Our international selection included the North American premiere of Bad Blood from Portugal by directors Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra, Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon hosted by it’s director Scott Glosserman, The world premiere of The Descendant hosted by it’s director Phillippe Spurrell, Edmond also hosted by director Stuart Gordon, Gravedancers from Mike Mendez, Ils from David Moreau, the International premiere of The Kovak Box by Daniel Mozon, Pusher 3 hosted by Nicolas Winding Refn, The Lost hosted by it’s director Chris Sivertson, The Canadian premiere of The Wild Blue Yonder by Werner Herzog, The Woods hosted by director Lucky Mc Kee, The world premiere of 39: A Film By Carroll Mc Kane hosted by director Gary Sherman, the Canadian premiere of Frostbite by Anders Banke, the Canadian premiere of The Visions of Jim Woodring hosted by comic book legend Jim Woodring and finally we presented a rare archival print of White of the Eye from Donald Cammell.
The closing film of the 2006 edition was the memorable world premiere of the homegrown feature film Bon Cop Bad Cop directed by Erik Canuel who also co‐wrote the film along with it’s main star Patrick Huard. They both hosted one of the most electric screenings of the festival’s history. The film went on to become one of Canada’s highest grossing films in history.
The 2005 edition of Fantasia was concentrated into 19 days, compared to the 25 days of 2004, but still attracted 75 000 cinephiles, which represented a proportional increase in attendance of nearly 20%.
For the first time the festival had an official competition with a jury. Lead by Jury President Érik Canuel, the panel was composed of Patrick Masbourian, Pierre Dalpé, Michèle Grondin, Daniel Andréani and Nabi‐Alexandre Chartier. The great leader of the competition was Yuasa Masaaki’s crazy animation film Mind Game, winning the Best Film, Best Director (ex‐aequo with Gen Sekiguchi for Survive Style 5+) and Best Script Awards, as well as a Special Award for its Visual Accomplishment. Other laureates included Kosuke Matushima’s The Taste of Tea for Best Cinematography, Crying Fist ’s Choi Min‐sik for Best Actor and Dark Hours’ Kate Greenhouse for Best Actress. The Séquences 50th anniversary Award went to Shutter and the L’Écran Fantastique Award went to Survive Style 5+. The audience favoured Survive Style 5+ and The Taste of Tea ex‐aequo for Best Asian Film, El Lobo for Best European or American Film, Mind Game for Best Animated Film, Survive Style 5+ for Most Groundbreaking Film, Karukenbo for Best Short Film and Alex Vampire Slayer for Best Quebec DIY Short.
For the first time in Fantasia’s history, a Lifetime Achievement Award was given to an international genre‐cinema craftsman. The very first laureate was Ray Harryhausen, who graced us with his presence, discussed with the audience about his career and presented a few of his rare early works, followed by a screening of Jason and the Argonauts on a new 35mm print. The edition opened with the International Premiere of Yojiro Takita’s Ashura, followed by the Canadian Premiere of Crying Fist, hosted by its Director Ryoo Seug‐wan and Producer Syd Lim, who also hosted the North American Premiere of Arahan the following day. The Director and Screenwriter Masaaki Yuasa wowed the audience with Mind Game, presented as a Canadian Premiere. Tim Sullivan came to present the Canadian Premiere of his remake of 2001 Maniacs, joined by actors Christa Campbell and Dylan Edrington. Screenwriter and director Jeff Burr presented the Canadian Premiere of Straight Into Darkness. The International DIY Short Films block attracted the presence of André Kapel from Brazil for 06 Tiros, 60 ML, Fabrice Lambot from France for Le Sang du Châtiment, Josh Townsend and Christian Ray from the US for Loyalty and Graveless. Producer Clark Balderson and actress Selene Luna came to present the Canadian Premiere of Firecracker. Thai Co‐Director Buranee Rachjaibun hosted the North American Premiere of Zee Oui.
The Small Gauge Trauma block saw the return of Belgian Co‐Directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani for the North American premiere of L’étrange portrait de la dame en jaune, as well as Actress Laura Leigh Hofrichter for Disposer and Christian Viel for Pain Killer. Writer / Director Ti West came to introduce the Canadian Premiere of The Roost along with his Producer and Fantasia darling Director Larry Fessenden. Belgian Screenwriter and Director Harry Cleven came to host the North American premiere of Trouble. The World Premiere OF Shadow: Dead Riot was hosted by its Co‐Writter, Fantasia regular and Fangoria managing editor Michael Gingold, as well as Producer Carl Morano. Finally Singapore Director Tzang Merwyn Tong presented the Canadian Premiere of his film A Wicked Tale.
On the local front, the World Premiere of La dernière incarnation was hosted by Director Demian Fuica, Producer Benoit Lavallée and Actors Gilbert Turp, Catherine Florent and Leonardo Fuica. A Special Advance screening of Dark Hours was hosted by its Director Paul Fox, Producer Brent Barclay, Screenwriter Wil Zmak and Lead Actors Kate Greenhouse and Aidan Devine. Montreal Writer / Director Jesse Heffring presented the Canadian Premiere of Sigma. Fantasia also screened the International Premiere of SV Bell’s Purple Glow.
Three master classes were held: Lloyd Kaufman, beloved American independent and father of Tromaville came to present a master class on the ins and outs of indie filmmaking titled How to Make Your Own Damn Movie, which was concluded by a screening of his classic The Toxic Avenger; Joe Coleman, notorious visionary painter and performance artist, made his first‐ever Montreal appearance to present a special midnight multimedia show entitled Retinal Stigmatics: An Evening with Joe Coleman where the artist performed live spoken word, projected images of paintings shot on an animation stand and screened rare intense footage; Finally, esteemed comic‐book artist and film journalist Stephen R. Bissette was in town to host a pair of slideshow lectures on the early history of horror comics entitled Stephen R. Bissette’s Journeys Into Fear – The History, Heritage, and Censorship of Horror Comics.
A second edition of Komikstok was held, where live feature and animation films, adapted or inspired by comic books, were featured. This included the International Premiere of Cromartie High School, the North American Premiere of Fighter in the Wind and Phantom Master: Dark Hero From Ruined Empire, the Canadian Premiere of Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, Neighbor Watch No. 13, Otakus in Love andTetsujin‐28, as well as the 1971 animation Yasuji No Pornorama – Yacchimae!!
Other films on the animation front included the International Premiere of Le portrait de petite Cossette, the North American Premiere of Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, and the Canadian Premiere of the multi‐Fantasia‐Awards‐winner Mind Game.
A Hong‐Kong spotlight saw the screenings of a few premieres and five retrospective titles from the ‘70s, most notably a fully restored print of Fist of Fury (1972), hosted by Bruce Lee’s co‐star Nora Miao, and 3 restored prints from the Shaw Brothers. Oxide Pang Chun’s The Eye 2 had its North American Premiere and the Canadian Premiere of Wilson Yip’s White Dragon and Love Battlefield also screened.
The Japanese spotlight saw the International Premiere of Yojiro Takita’s Ashura and Space Police, the North American Premiere of One Missed Call 2 and the Canadian Premieres of Takashi Shimizu’s Ju‐On: The Grudge 2, the now‐classic Kamikaze Girls and Survive Style 5+ as well as new additions to Fantasia staples: Godzilla: Final Wars and Ultraman: The Next. The programming from South Korea was particularly rich in premieres, including the North American Premiere of Ryoo Seug‐wan’s Arahan, who also presented the Canadian Premiere of his following film Crying Fist (which had won the FIPRESCI Prize at that year’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes). Fighter Fighter in the Wind, Ghost House, Please Teach Me English and Spin Kick also had their North American Premiere. Screening as Canadian Premieres were Another Publick Enemy, Jewel in the Palace, R‐Point, Silmido and Some.
A follow‐up to the 2004 Thai films spotlight included the Canadian Premiere of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom’s Shutter (who were later celebrated at Fantasia for their films Alone and 4BIA).
On the European front, Fantasia saw the North American Premieres of Nicolas Winding Pusher II – with Blood on My Hands (Denmark), Atomik Circus – Le Retour de James Bataille (France), The Birthday (Spain), G.O.R.A. (Turkey), Sharks (Denmark) and Trouble (Belgium). Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch (Russia) and Night of the Living Dorks (Germany) had their Canadian Premieres.
The 2004 edition of Fantasia returned to Concordia’s Hall and the JA De Sève Theaters from the 8th of July to the 1st of August. Over 78,000 spectators attended the event breaking the previous record of 75,000. One of the most remarkable features of the 2004 edition was Komikstok, a special spotlight on films based on comic books and manga.
Several movies formed that spotlight including Arzak Rhapsody, an animated feature film directed by and based on the works of French comic book author Jean Giraud (better known as the legendary Moebius). Blueberry (North‐American Premiere) was another film based on a Moebius comic book series directed by Yan Kounen and starring Vincent Cassel. Enki Bilal directed Immortel based on his Nikopol trilogy of sci‐fi graphic novels (La Foire aux Immortels, La Femme Piège and Froid Équateur). We screened the animated film Corto Maltese: La Cour Secrète Des Arcanes from Italian author Hugo Pratt’s comic book series, alongside the Spanish big budget live‐action adventure Mortadelo & Filemon (also spawned from a successful comic book series), and a trio of amazing feature films from Japan: Azumi, based on a manga from Yu Koyama and directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, Battlefield Baseball directed by Yudai Yamaguchi from a manga called ‘’Hell Stadium’’, and a live‐action adaptation of Cutie Honey (International Premiere) based on a classic manga by Go Nagai (the latter was directed by Hideaki Anno who also helmed one of the most respected and successful anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion). We also screened the rare 1967 animated feature film Band of Ninja, based on the manga Ninja Bugeicho and directed by Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses).
Another spotlight focused on Thai cinema, including screenings of The Bodyguard (Canadian Premiere), The North American Premieres of Bupparahtree, The Macabre Case of Prompiram, Omen, the Canadian Premieres of Saving Private Tootsie and Heaven’s Seven, and the Montreal Premieres of The Tesseract and Pen‐Ek Ratanaruang’s gorgeous Last Life in the Universe.
From Japan, Fantasia presented three feature films from the ever‐prolific director Takashi Miike – the yakuza films Deadly Outlaw Rekka and Gozu and the North American Premiere of teen J‐ Horror film One Missed Call. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Doppleganger had its Canadian Premiere, while the International Premiere of Hiroki Yamaguchi’s The Bottled Fool (aka Gusher no binds me) was attended by the filmmakers and key cast, and was acquired by Media Blasters within days of this screening (who released it as Hellavator)! The festival also hosted Toshiaki Toyoda’s 9 Souls and Blue Spring, Blessing Bell from Sabu, Takashi Shimizu’s Ju‐On:The Grudge, and an impressive selection of anime features from some of the genre’s masters: Porco Rosso from Hayao Miyazaki, Angel’s Egg from Mamoru Oshii, the North American Premiere of Paranoia Agent and Tokyo Godfathers From Satoshi Kon.
Minoru Kawasaki appeared in person to present the International Premiere of The Calamari Wrestler, which would mark the first time his work would be screened outside of Japan. He has since gone on to great acclaim with films like Executive Koala, The World Sinks Except Japan, Rug Cop and more – but it all started at Fantasia with this screening!
From South Korea came the powerful and touching Failan, Bong Joon‐ho’s Memories of Murder, Into The Mirror (remade in 2008 by Alexandre Aja as Mirrors), Save The Green Planet, Jailbreakers, A Tale of Two Sisters and The Uninvited, while Hong‐Kong offerings included15 Johnnie To and Wai Ka‐Fai’s Running on Karma and four restored prints of the classic Shaw Brothers films 8th Diagram Pole Fighter, Executioners From Shaolin, Golden Swallow and Return To The 36th Chamber.
The international section featured a tribute to genre icon Paul Naschy, who came to present two of his classic films, Dracula’s Great Love and The Werewolf Vs The Vampire Women along with the new film Rojo Sangre, which had its International Premiere with young director Christian Molina in person alongside his star. Other notable guests who presented their films in person included actor Udo Kier for both the Canadian premiere of Veit Helmer’s Gate to Heaven and Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson’s One Point Zero, actress Emily Perkins and producer Paula Devonshire for the World Premiere of Ginger Snaps: The Beginning, Danish cult actor Kim Bodnia with the North American premiere of The Good Cop, famous independent animator Bill Plympton presented 50s sock‐hop horror Hair High, Eugenio Mira came in with the International premiere of The Birthday, future Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris appeared with the World Premiere of Riding the Bullet, screenwriter James Handel presented the Canadian Premiere of Julian Richards’ The Last Horror Movie, Sheldon Wilson and much of his cast and crew came in for the Canadian Premiere of Shallow Ground, Chris Fisher hosted the Canadian Premiere of Hillside Strangler, accompanied by the film’s star, actress Brittany Daniel, Lynne Margulies presented the special event Confrontation Act : Andy Kaufman’s Bizarre Journey into Pro Wrestling (which included extensive spoken word and screenings of I’m From Hollywood and My Breakfast With Blassie), Wenzel Storch came to present the International Premiere of his bizarre Journey Into Bliss, and Chris D, esteemed Japanese film historian, American Cinematheque programmer and vocalist for the seminal L.A. punk band The Flesh‐Eaters, came to town to present the Canadian Premiere of his directorial feature debut, I Pass For Human. Several films from old and new masters of genre cinema were presented, among them Alexandre Aja’s Haute Tension, The North American Premiere of Dario Argento’s The Card Player, Vincenzo Natali’s Nothing and the Canadian premiere of Tobe Hooper’s Toolbox Murders.
Fantasia 2004 also saw the North American premieres of Michael Davis’ Monster Man, Christian James’ Freak Out, Paco Plaza’s Romasanta and Oscar Albar’s Flying Saucers, the Montreal Premiere of Laura Mana’s Killing Words and Richard Sandler’s Gods of Times Square – the latter being one of the first non‐genre‐related documentaries to screen at Fantasia and the inspiration for what is now the popular Documentaries From the Edge section.
From Quebec, Fantasia hosted the World Premiere of Melantha Blackthorne and Jason Cavalier’s Sinners & Saints, the North American Premiere of Remy M. Laroechelle’s Macanix, the North American Premiere of Christian Viel’s Recon 2020, and Canadian director Lee Demarbre came in for the Montreal Premiere of his film Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace. The Man Who Saved The World (aka The Turkish Star Wars) is among the most notorious psychotronic films, and received an enthusiastic response from a sold‐out crowd of 700 spectators who were shaking their heads in disbelief and holding their bellies from having laughed so hard. Audiences also enjoyed a very rare 16mm print of Curt McDowell’s underground classic Thundercrack! (the only uncut print of the film that exists in the world!) and a rare print of the complete Frankenstein: The True Story, starring late Quebec actor Michael Sarrazin and presented by Le Cineclub/The Film Society.
Short film highlights included the World Premiere of Rick Trembles’ Goopy Spasms, the North American Premieres of Robert Morgan’s extraordinary stop‐motion masterpiece The Separation, Hélè ne Cattet & Bruno Forzani’s La Fin de notre amour, Douglas Buck’s Prologue, Miguel Ángel Vivas’ I‘ll See You in my Dreams and Mariano Baino’s Never Ever After, the Canadian Premieres of Screaming Mad George’s Boy in the Box and Daniel Greaves’ Little Things, as well as Al Kratina’s Crimson, Anouk Whissel’s Itsy Bitsy Spider, Pat Tremblay’s Ritualis, Izabel Grondin’s Les Drujes and Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s La Bouche de Jean‐Pierre.
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.Read More
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.
Fantasia’s 6th edition kicked off with some heavy hitters: on the Asian side of things, Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q (a stunning ode to Pasolini’s Teorema) saw its North American Premiere (and had people running for the doors in the first five minutes) alongside Miike’s Dead or Alive 2: Birds; an unknown South Korean director by the name of Park Chan Wook (later to direct Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) made a first splash with his breakout film Joint Security Area;James (Project A2) Yuen’s Clean My Name Mr. Coroner, starring HK hunk Francis Ng, Zhang Jianya’s airplane disaster pic Crash Landing, Dante Lam’s self‐conscious pastiche of Triad films Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone, Japanese fantasy/monster kids’ flick Sakuya (from FX artist Tomoo Haraguchi, who appeared in person);Kim Ji‐Woon’s early wrestling comedy The Foul King; the international premiere of Rin Taro’s animated Metropolis; Sogo Ishii’s Gojoe; Kim Ki‐Duk’s The Isle (our generation’s Woman in the Dunes); haunted scarecrow horror Kakashi; the melancholic episodic anime Boogie Pop Phantom; Bong Joon Ho’s first feature Barking Dogs Never Bite (he would later direct The Host and Mother); Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Seance; the Korean horror powerhouse Tell Me Something from Yoon‐Hyun Chan; Shimoyama Ten’s creepy, beautifully coloured St. John’s Wort; Shugo Fujii’s excessive and hysterical A Living Hell; and the late Satoshi Kon received a standing ovation for the World Premiere of his heartbreaking anime Millennium Actress.Read More
On the international front, Fantasia hosted the World Premiere of Scott Reynolds’ When Strangers Appear (originally titled The Shearer’s Breakfast and the follow‐up to his amazingly edited gender‐bender Heaven), the director’s cut (and North American Premiere) of Antoni Aloy’s moody masterpiece El Celo (a Spanish version of Henry James horror classic The Turn of the Screw), the World Premiere of British indie director Andrew Parkinson’s feminist zombie film Dead Creatures (Parkinson is now one third of the horror anthology Little Deaths), a controversial North American Premiere screening of Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers and the Canadian Premieres of both Brad Anderson’s resonant haunted‐psych‐ward horror Session 9 and Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World.
Jorge Olguin made a splash with the North American Premiere of Angel Negro, notable for being the first Chilean horror film, while the Steven Seagal‐obsessed German director Olaf Ittenbach (best known for low‐budget zombie splatter epic Premutos) introduced his Legion of the Dead, and Fantasia regular Larry Fessenden presented his much‐anticipated revisionist horror Wendigo (which won first prize in the international section).
Canadian offerings included the World Premiere of Maurice Devereaux’ game show satire $lasher$, John Eyre’s Ripper: Letter From Hell, and a series of fantastical shorts from Quebec filmmakers, including Stephane Morisette’s Otaku and Izabel Grondin’s Terrore.
The repertory section held strong with screenings of un‐PC gross‐out classic The Ebola Syndrome, featuring Anthony Wong at his detestable best, a new version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Grindhouse Releasing’s new print of Ruggero Deodato’s devastating Cannibal Holocaust, new prints of Once Upon a Time in China 1 +2 and Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Jose Mojica Marins – Coffin Joe himself – appeared to introduce screenings of This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse and long‐banned experimental drug film Awakening of the Beast (the first time any of his films had screened in Canada in 35mm!), accompanied by the Canadian Premiere of Andre Barcinski’s Sundance hit Coffin Joe: The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins, and the Troma team introduced their latest, Citizen Toxie.
Standout short films included Nicolas Debot’s Extremism Breaks my Balls; Tomoya Sato’s award‐ winning suicide drama L’Ilya; a special Japanese shorts program that not only introduced the plastic pleasures of The Fuccon Family to Canadian audiences (with director Yoshimasa Ishibashi in person), but also the international premiere of enigmatic artist Tatsuo Sato’s haunting animated short Nekojiru‐so and a tribute to the low‐budget films of self‐proclaimed ‘baka’ (trash) filmmaker Tenkwaku Naniwa; Rita Romagnino’s Final Rehearsal; the first of Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s giallo tributes, Catharsis (the pair would go on to great acclaim with Amer in 2010); Ben Boucher’s animated Flat n’ Fluffy; Ashley Fester’s Old Breed; a double bill of horror shorts from French director Michel Leray; student filmmaker Zung So‐Yun’s The Anatomy Class and many more.
The 2001 festival would mark the last of the festival’s official collaborations with Just For Laugh’s ‘Comedia’ section, as well as its last sojourn at the Imperial Cinema, which was about to undergo extensive renovations that would last several years.
With this 5th edition of Fantasia came a brand new millennium to overcome with funny, funky, scary, creepy and mind‐bending cinema. After the Ex‐Centris adventure (in 1999 only), Fantasia’s following escapade was a quite funny one: for the first time, Fantasia teamed up with another genre cinema festival, Just for Laugh’s Comedia division, to give to the moviegoers some more fun for their buck.This cool partnership (which lasted two years) brought the Fantasians their lot of great gems, such as Dying of Laughter (by Spanish wunderkind Alex de la Iglesia), Dialogue‐free Delicatessen‐inspired Tuvalu (with Director Veit Helmer in attendance, distributing 35 mm frames of the German film to the attendees), Mike Mendez’s horror comedy The Convent (Canadian premiere) and The Independent (starring lots of cult personalities appearing as themselves) with its bigger than life star in attendance, Seinfeld’s Jerry Stiller (yes, the loudmouth father of Ben). The Public Prize went to South‐Korean comedy Attack the Gas Station. On the stand up and legendary event front, the presence of Terry Jones of Monty Python fame was one of this edition’s highlights, where a few hundred lucky lads had An evening with Mr. Creosote. Once in a lifetime, as they say.Read More
2000 was not only the year of the dragon for zodiac enthusiasts, but so was this festival’s edition, with lots of jewels from Japan. The organizers scored big time with Takashi Miike’s most subtle, yet sickly stunning film, slow‐burner Audition (with porcelain‐faced Shiina Eihi, who later came to Montreal in 2008 to introduce insane gorefest Tokyo Gore Police) and with his first Dead or Alive yakuza actioner. Other highlights from the rising sun include Hideo ‘Ringu’ Nakata’s Chaos (North‐American premiere), Shinya ‘Tetsuo’ Tsukamoto’s Gemini, Blade Runner porno pseudo‐sequel I.K.U. (Canadian premiere, with Director Shu Lea Cheang in attendance), Ring 0: The Birthday (North‐American premiere) and Higuchinsky’s beyond insane manga adaptation Uzumaki (international premiere). On the manga front, were presented prized extended‐short Blood: The Last Vampire (North‐American premiere), Vampire Hunter D (international premiere) and intergalactic pirate manga Albator Le Film (the popular French translated version of Space Pirate Captain Harlock), among others.
Rockin’ films by festival staples were also screened to packed houses, such as Hong‐Kong’s Ringo Lam (Victim, also with Chin‐Wan) and Johnnie To (The Mission with the almighty Anthony Wong, and Running Out of Time with actor Lau Ching‐Wan in attendance – both won prizes in the Best Asian Film category), Spain’s Jaume Balaguero (in attendance to present his prized The Nameless and his short Alicia) and future Rec’s co‐Director Francisco ‘Paco’ Plaza (his short Abuelitos was part of annual short film program Small Gauge Trauma along with Balaguero’s Dias Sin Luz). Dark short Black XXX‐Mas by Pieter Van Hees (who later went on to direct the amazing Left Bank, presented at the festival in 2009) was also included in SGT’s 2000 edition, where it won a Best Short Film prize.
Fantasia also held the North‐American premiere of Germany’s Anatomie (starring Franka ‘Lola’ Potente), a sick little medical thriller‐slasher hybrid with a morbid aesthetic inspired by the then‐ unknown plastination technique, later used in non‐fiction controversial exhibits using real corpses donated (or not) to science artistically, such as Body Worlds and Bodies. The film won a prize in the Best International Film category. Thailand’s Nang Nak (with Director Nonzee Nimibutr in attendance), India’s The Terrorist (a John Malkovich presentation), Canada’s Island of the Dead (world premiere with star Malcolm McDowell in attendance) and UK’s Wisdom of Crocodiles were also part of the international selection.
Also from the UK, Producer Simon Markham made the trip overseas to present his darkly weird Blood (Director Charly Cantor couldn’t attend the North‐American premiere, having to stay home to get treated for cancer), so did Director James Marsh with his ‘documentary’ Wisconsin Death Trip. Also screened were American satanic flick Ricky 6’s world premiere (with Director Peter Filardi and most of his cast in attendance, including Vincent Kartheiser and Emmanuelle Chriqui – and won a prize in the Best International Film category), along with a director’s cut of Wild Side, the late Donald Cammell’s boiling noir masterpiece where Christopher Walken shines big time (editor Frank Mazzola’s hour‐long Q&A was one for the history books, reminiscing on great artists he worked with, such as Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Nic Roeg and James Dean). Any Fantasia early edition would not be complete without its share of sick and twisted vintage midnight screenings: audiences were treated with Italian cult freak‐outs such as City of the Walking Dead (directed by almighty Umberto Lenzi, with running and gunning zombies!) and Gates of Hell (also known as confusedly titled City of the Living Dead – by beloved gore maestro Lucio Fulci), where Kaiju fanatics rejoiced with Rebirth of Mothra 3’s international premiere and brand new 35 mm prints of classics starring the radioactive dino, such as Invasion of Astro Monster (1965) and Son of Godzilla (1967). And they threw an ol’ Santo on screen as well. Of course.
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.Read More
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.
1998 marked the first year that then‐Fangoria editor Tony Timpone came on board as a key member of the Fantasia programming team (a position he continues to this day), joining the team of Pierre Corbeil, Mitch Davis, Andre Dubois, Julien Fonfrede, Karim Hussain, Martin Sauvageau and associate programmer Hiromi Aihara.
A key highlight of the International lineup was a spotlight on the new wave of Spanish genre cinema, with North American Premieres of Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s Airbag, 99.9 (hosted by director Agustin Villaronga), Dame Algo (hosted by director Héctor Carré) and the world premiere of Nacho Cerda’s wildly anticipated follow‐up to Aftermath – Genesis (hosted by Cerda).
Canadian premieres in the International section included Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (which marked the first time that a film by Aronofsky was screened in Canada), Larry Fessenden’s Habit (hosted by the director – the first of his many visits to the festival), Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s riotous Cannibal the Musical, Martin Walz’ Killer Condom (featuring FX by German underground legend Jorg Buttgereit), Steve Wang’s Drive (with the director present) and Progeny with director Brian Yuzna and actress Jillian McWhirter in person to present this, as well as the World Premiere of Yuzna’s film The Dentist 2. Director Don Coscarelli and cult icon Angus Scrimm graced the stage of the Imperial to host the World Premiere of Phantasm: Oblivion.
Mulcahy hosted the North American premiere of Talos the Mummy (later retitled as Tales of the Mummy), Pupi Avati’s Arcane Enchanter made its first appearance on North American soil, and the mighty John Carpenter himself appeared as guest of honour, closing out the festival with the North American Premiere of his film Vampires.
Fantasia alumni Jim Van Bebber and Richard Stanley returned to present their personal prints of Deadbeat at Dawn and the director’s cut of Hardware, respectively, capping an incredible selection of retro screenings that included Hammer’s archival print of The Devil Rides Out (hosted by Bill Lustig), Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, Gerald Kargl’s incredible Angst, Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs, Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and a rare 35mm print of the director’s cut of Street Trash (hosted by Roy Frumkes, and preceded with the original 16mm short film version of the film), not to mention rowdy midnight screenings of Hercule Contre les Vampires and Santo et le Tresor de Dracula. Standout short films included Allessandro Ingargiola’s The Two Red Dolls, Douglas Buck’s Home (hosted by Buck) and Jim Van Bebber’s Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin.
On the made‐in‐Canada front, Maurice Devereaux appeared with his cast to present the years‐ in‐the‐making Lady of the Lake, and Toronto‐based filmmaker Julian Grant hosted the World Premiere of his film Airborne. Grant would have a multi‐faceted role in this year’s edition of the festival: In 1998 Fantasia held a satellite event Toronto, at the Bloor cinema, sharing several films and guests with the Montreal edition. Julian Grant (Electra, Fantasia 1997) initiated the idea, and enlisted the help of Colin Geddes, the well known promoter of Hong Kong cinema in Toronto (and now Midnight Madness programmer at TIFF) to coordinate logistics related to the event. Programmers Mitch Davis and Karim Hussain making regular trips with guests between the two cities during the month‐long festival. Fantasia Toronto was very well attended, with an audience of 35,000 spectators – but ultimately running two simultaneous events proved too much of a strain on existing resources for the initiative to continue.
On the Asian front, Fantasia hosted its first‐ever Korean film – Je‐gyu Kang’s The Gingko Bed – as well as two new anime features based on Osamu Tezuka’s famous mangas Blackjack and Jungle Emperor Leo, Shunji Iwai came in to host the North American premiere of Swallowtail Butterfly and Takashi Ishii appeared in person to host a triptych of special screenings: the Montreal premiere of Gonin, the Canadian premiere of Gonin 2, and the North American premiere of Black Angel. One of the more sobering and memorable screenings of this year’s edition saw Chinese director T.F. Mous appear in person to present his infamous 1988 film Men Behind the Sun.
As usual, the Hong Kong section was packed to the gills with now‐essential Eastern cinema: the then‐unknown Wong Kar‐Wai’s As Tears Go By; Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (produced by Jackie Chan); two of John Woo’s most famous films, Hard Boiled and the mythical long version of The Killer (presented for the first time outside Asia); a Jet Li quadruple‐bill featuring The Hitman, The Kung Fu Cult Master, Martial Arts of Shaolin and Born to Defence; Stephen Chow’s Lawyer Lawyer and The Magnificent Scoundrels; Ringo Lam’s Full Alert (starring HK giant Lau Ching‐ Wan); Naked Killer and Run and Kill (two of the most notorious category III films ever produced in Hong Kong); and additional martial arts classics including the restored 25th a nniversary print of Enter the Dragon, Eastern Condors, Sammo Hung’s Encounter of the Spooky Kind and Prodigal Son, and Wang Yu’s Master of the Flying Guillotine. From Johnnie To and Wai‐Ka‐Fai’s Milky Way production company came The Odd One Dies, The Longest Night and Intruder, while HK martial arts maestro Chiu Man Cheuk hosted a special screening of Tsui Hark’s The Blade as well as the North American Premiere of The Black Sheep Affair (wowing the audience with a kung fu demo onstage before the film!)
1997 was a watershed year for Fantasia, with the festival expanding its boundaries in enormous leaps and bounds to become a full‐on reflection of the international fantastic filmmaking world. Mitch Davis, Karim Hussain and Julien Fonfrede were brought on board as official key programmers, joining the founding programming team of Pierre Corbeil, Martin Sauvageau and André Dubois.Davis has been a core programmer at the festival ever since, and is now the festival’s Co‐Director.Read More
Fantasia ’97, as it was billed, took Montreal by storm from July 11‐August 10 – a straight month of filmic mania! Attendance numbers were enormous, with nearly two thirds of the screenings packing out the 940‐seat Imperial cinema. The lineup featured numerous cutting edge discoveries and revelations, along with highlights from the last several years of international genre filmmaking that had yet to be screened in Quebec:
The world premiere of Satoshi Kon’s landmark feature debut Perfect Blue.
The International premiere of Takashi Miike’s Fudoh, which marked the first time a film from the now‐iconic arthouse enfant terrible had ever been shown to an audience in this part of the world.
A special screening of a workprint of Jim Van Bebber’s years‐in‐the‐making Charlie’s Family (the screening won an audience award and rekindled worldwide interest in the film, leading to a new wave of media attention and opening the door to new investors, which saw the film being completed under the title The Manson Family).
The North American premiere of Todd Morris and Deborah Twiss’ incendiary A Gun For Jennifer (hosted by Twiss & Morris who, in a memorable stunt, stalked the lineup an hour before the screening pushing a gun in peoples’ faces!
Richard Stanley flew in with the sole‐existing 35mm print of his director’s cut of the extraordinary Dust Devil (North American premiere – Stanley also played around and offering to anoint people with a bloody handprint on their clothing or foreheads).
On the Hong Kong side, audiences were floored by such films as the Jackie Chan actioneer Drunken Master 2, Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time, Ronny Yu’s Bride with White Hair, Wai Kai‐ Fai’s Too Many Ways to be Number One (North American premiere), Corey Yuen’s Bodyguard From Beijing, Yuen Woo‐Ping & Wong Jing’s Last Hero in China, Wong Jing & Corey Yuen’s New Legend of Shaolin, Xinyan Zhang’s Shaolin Temple, Sammo Hung’s Once Upon a Time in China and America (North American premiere), Lee Lik‐Chee’s Flirting Scholar, Daniel Lee’s Black Mask, Stephen Chow & Lee Lik‐Chee’s God of Cookery, Ah Lun’s Satan Returns, Wong Jing’s God of Gamblers 3, and Billy Tang’s outrageous Red to Kill (which Fantasia later released on VHS via the festival’s short‐lived video label).
Japanese highlights included Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tokyo Fist (hosted by producer Hiromi Aihara), Mamoru Oshi’s Ghost in the Shell, Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera 2 (North American premiere), Atsushi Muroga’s Score, Takashi Nakamura’s Catnapped, Hosoyama Tomoaki’s A Weather Woman and Shinya Nakajima’s Ultraman Z – Earth.
Other highlights included the North American premiere of Alberto Sciamma’s Killer Tongue and Canadian premieres of Alex Mark A.Z. Dippé’s Spawn, Jess Franco’s comeback film Tender Flesh (hosted by Kevin Collins and Hugh Gallagher), Frank Grow’s The Love God, Lloyd Kaufman’s Tromeo and Juliet (hosted by Kaufman and screenwriter James Gunn), Electra (hosted by Julian Grant), and Chuck Parello’s Henry 2.
This was also the year that Fantasia brought Alex De la Iglesia’s incredible Day of the Beast to Montreal audiences, two years after it screened to powerhouse raves at the Toronto International Film Festival (incredibly, every Montreal film festival ignored it in the meantime). A special tribute to Italian horror cinema was mounted, featuring screenings of Dark Waters (North American premiere, hosted by Mariano Baino), Wax Mask (International premiere, hosted by Sergio Stivaletti), Stendhal Syndrome (hosted by Sergio Stivaletti), Al Festa’s bottomlessly bizarre Fatal Frames (hosted by Loris Curci) and retro screenings of Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright, Dario Argento’s Deep Red, Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground, a new 35mmm print of Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (hosted by Grindhouse Releasing’s Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski, the latter now an Oscar‐winning editor, with titles like Hurt Locker, Spiderman and Drag Me to Hell on his resume), and a pair of Lucio Fulci classics, Zombie and a new 35mm print of The Beyond.
Other retro titles screened were Santo vs. The Monsters (one of the craziest midnight screenings in Fantasia’s quite crazy history!), a rare print of Ishirô Honda’s The Mysterians and a gorgeous new 35mm print of Terence Fisher’s Revenge of Frankenstein. On the short film front, the hands‐down standouts were the North American premiere of Nacho Cerda’s now‐legendary, then‐unknown Aftermath and the Canadian premiere of Douglas Buck’s scorching Cutting Moments. Both won audience awards. Cerda later co‐scripted his feature film The Abandoned (official selection: Tiff, Sitges etc) with Karim Hussain and Richard Stanley. Buck became a regular attendee at the festival over the years, ultimately moving to Montreal in 2009. He too has collaborated with Hussain on numerous projects, the most recent being the anthology horror project Theatre Bizarre. Other short film highlights included David Alcalde’s Dr. Curry, Jim Van Bebber’s My Sweet Satan, Hideki Kimura’s L&D, Michael Gingold’s Hands Off, Sylvain Ruest’s L’Homme Vrai, Andrew Bancroft’s Planet Man, Mark Wilkinson’s The Next Big Thing and Dante Tomaselli’s original short film version of Desecration.
1997 also marked the first year that Fantasia became an international festival with media from all around the world attending. While many esteemed journalists have joined us over the years, in 1997 we were visited by many of the most important genre writers of that era, including Harvey Fenton (FAB Press/Flesh & Blood Magazine), Fangoria editor Tony Timpone (who, following his inaugural visit, became a programmer with the festival onwards from 1998), Deep Red’s Chas Balun (who memorably declared the festival to be “the Woodstock of horror”), Shivers’ Marcele Perks, Jason J. Slater (The Darkside), Martin Coxhead (Shivers), Michael Gingold (Fangoria), Glenn Wilcox (Graveside Entertainment), Hugh Gallagher (Draculina), Jim McLennan (Trash City) and Loris Curci.
In 1996 Martin Sauvageau, André Dubois and Pierre Corbeil decided to organize a film festival dedicated to Asian genre cinema. They received the invaluable collaboration of several people including Julien Fonfrede, E. Jean Guerin, Hiromi Aihara and John Jordan, and were influenced collectively by a combination of lifelong genre film love and the inspirational push provided by the short‐lived but much beloved Montreal Festival International de Cinema Fantastique (1992‐ 1993).
Lasting an unheard‐of straight month, the inaugural edition of the Fantasia Film Festival ran from July 12‐ August 11. It was kick‐started predominantly with a gigantic retrospective of 40 feature films from Hong Kong from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s. That golden age of HK cinema produced the strongest and most distinctive work from filmmakers and performers who were mostly unknown to western audiences – certainly none of Montreal’s film festivals seemed interested in showcasing this extraordinary wave of talent – who have since become household names around the world.
The festival screened spotlights on phenomenal performers like Chow Yun Fat – incontestably one of the very best actors of his generation – including A Better Tomorrow 2, City on Fire, Once A Thief, Full Contact, God of Gamblers, God of Gamblers’ Return, Peace Hotel, Prison on Fire 1+2. Also showcased was martial arts sensation (and true heir to Bruce Lee’s legacy) Jet Li, with the films Fist of Legend, Fong Sai Yuk, High Risk, The Tai Chi Master andMy Father is a Hero (which opened the festival and screened to a sold out room). From master comedian Stephen Chow we saw A Chinese Odyssey 1+2, From Beijing With Love, Love on Deliveryand Out of the Dark. The festival also premiered films from now‐legendary directors such as Tsui Hark, John Woo, Ringo Lam, Johnny To and Yuen Woo‐Ping. Other show‐stoppers included out‐of‐this‐ world midnight screenings of titles like the delirious Story of Ricky, the notorious Untold Storyand the bodacious Sex and Zen, each of which unspooled in front of rabid and bedazzled packed houses.
Along with the 40 Hong Kong films, 20 titles from Japancompleted the programming with major anime features likeThe Castle of Cagliostro from master director Hayao Miyazaki, Omnibus film Memories from several directors, among them Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame, Patlabor 2 from Mamoru Oshii (Director of Ghost in the Shell), Robot Carnival and Wings of Honnemaise. On the giant monster front, Fantasia unveiled Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe and rare prints of Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.
These films received an extremely enthusiastic response from the Fantasia audience, with many of them having several sold out screenings – and this in a 940‐seat movie theatre! This outlandishly strong success gave organizers the confidence to come back the following year with an even bigger show, and the rest, as they say, is Fantasia history!