When Concordia Meets Fantasia

The (Somewhat) ‘Troubled’ History of Genre Filmmaking at Concordia University

The Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema is not really known for student films of the “fantastic.” At times, in the past, in fact some (but certainly not all) of our professors have been openly hostile to “horror” films, perhaps even to genre films, in general. Which made it hard for some students wanting to work in this genre to get their projects accepted and their films shown at year-end screenings. A notorious example of such a trail-blazing student is Izabel Grondin, whose Concordia student films from the 1990s (Pièges à rat, 1995, Ruben is not Well… 1996) caused some distress amongst the faculty! In some respects Grondin, who went on to successfully self-produce many excellent, highly personal horror films (well known to Fantasia regulars), helped open doors for future Concordia film students interested in “Fantasia-styled” films. In some measure, we hope that this inaugural programme will open the door even wider for future Concordia film students who want to work in the wondrous world of fantastic filmmaking. Having said all this, we were, in fact, quite surprised at how many short fiction films of the “fantastic” there were from the last five years of student work. Although largely ‘genre’ films, most of the selected films are also, we believe, touched by a sense personal creativity that often characterizes the best student films. We also selected a couple of edgy, perhaps even controversial documentaries. And what is Fantasia if not controversial? To make our selections we looked at the compilation DVDs of undergraduate films from roughly the last five years, and as many other films as we could that weren’t included on the compilation DVDs; as well we relied heavily on Marc Lamothe’s selections of what he thought were the most Fantasia-like films from 2011-12, since he was on the awards jury, and he saw everything! (What a trooper!) Of course Concordia’s animation programme is, by its very nature FanTasia-friendly, because, let’s face it, every good animated film has a touch of the magical in it. One of the strengths of our animation programme, and what separates it from almost any other university programme in Canada is that our students make their own individual films. They never work in teams, and they even make a short film, on their own, during first year. For some reason almost all of our animation selections were first year films, and it is a tribute to these students that they were able to create such interesting little films so early in their programme of study. Something else that has, traditionally set Concordia Cinema apart from rival programmes is that our students still shoot (and sometimes edit) on film. Even some of the animated work was shot on 16mm! So we hope you enjoy and appreciate our selections. (Peter Rist, Donato Totaro & Randolph Jordan)

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