The first wave is already online for the upcoming 24th installment of the Fantasia International Film Festival, and it’s packed with some delicious gems. I have to say though, I’m even more pulled in by the second wave that was announced on Thursday.
It’s especially a big deal for director Yuji Shimomura, long since befriending self-proclaimed “graphic novel” actor Tak Sakaguchi, and growing a combined resume of credits that would go on to influence a generation of DVD hoarders and Asian cinema enthusiasts alike.
Their latest film, Crazy Samurai Musashi, which is headed for Japanese theaters in August, is also making it’s North American premiere next to a raft of stand-out titles. John Hyams’ Alone looks like it’ll be another crowdpleaser, as does Ivo van Aart’s The Columnist, John Hsu’s Detention, Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen’s For The Sake Of Vicious, Jung Hyuk-ki’s My Punch-Drunk Boxer, and even Cho Kyung-hun’s animated flick, Beauty Water.
I’m eyeing to hopefully cover this festival as much as possible when it kicks off on August 20, so with any luck, you’ll see some reviews. In the meantime, read on, and stick around for more info, and visit the official festival website as well.
FANTASIA VIRTUAL ANNOUNCES THRILLING SECOND WAVE OF TITLES
Bryan Bertino’s THE DARK AND THE WICKED, Tsutomu Hanabusa’s PROJECT DREAMS – HOW TO BUILD MAZINGER Z’S HANGAR, John Hyams’ ALONE, Mathias Malzieu’s A MERMAID IN PARIS, Yûji Shimomura’s CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI, Elza Kephart’s SLAXX, Yoav Shamir’s THE PROPHET AND THE SPACE ALIENS, and THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND from celebrated Fantasia alumnus the McManus Brothers among highlights from the second wave of programming for the festival’s 24th edition.
Thursday, July 9, 2020 // Montreal, Quebec — The Fantasia International Film Festival will launch its 24th edition next month as an exciting virtual event composed of scheduled live screenings, program library, panels, and workshops, taking place from August 20th to September 2nd, 2020. The festival will be accessible across Canada, geo-locked to the country, and will maintain unique film admittance quantities in line with the cinema experience.
Fantasia is thrilled to reveal its second wave of programming and will return in early August with its third and final line-up announcement.
THE DARK AND THE WICKED…VERY DARK AND VERY WICKED!
Writer/director Bryan Bertino (THE STRANGERS) takes rural terror up another notch in this incredibly scary shocker, previously slated to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival. On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the household. THE DARK AND THE WICKED stars Marin Ireland (Sneaky Pete), Michael Abbott Jr. and an uber-creepy Xander Berkeley (CANDYMAN, The Walking Dead). International Premiere.
FROM ANIME TO (ALMOST) REALITY
The storage facility for giant cartoon robot Mazinger Z is among the most recognized sites in anime; impressive, yet impossible… or is it? In 2003 a quirky crew at the Japanese engineering firm Maeda Corporation decided to draft blueprints for the iconic hangar as it would exist in the real world. Funny, fascinating, and frankly inspiring, Tsutomu Hanabusa’s PROJECT DREAMS – HOW TO BUILD MAZINGER Z’S HANGAR tells their tale and takes it to the next stage of (im)possibility! International Premiere.
YOU WON’T BE ALONE IN THESE WOODS
A cold-blooded killer stalks a fleeing widow through the wilderness in ALONE, a blistering remake of the acclaimed 2012 Swedish thriller GONE. Starring Ozark’s Marc Menchaca and Bloodline’s Jules Wilcox, the thriller – from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING director John Hyams – transports the story to the Pacific Northwest, amplifying it with riveting performances and an inspired use of locations to create an air of realistic suspense that pushes the viewer to nearly unbearable extremes. International Premiere.
PREPARE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH A MERMAID IN PARIS
Following his animation hit JACK AND THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART, French music superstar Mathias Malzieu brings his extraordinary and heartwarming world to life in his live-action musical debut A MERMAID IN PARIS (Une sirène à Paris). One of France’s most anticipated cinematic events of the year, released in its homeland by Sony Pictures, this visually dazzling fantastical love story stars Nicolas Duvauchelle (SPELLBOUND), Marilyn Lima (BANG GANG), Rossy de Palma (WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN), and Tchéky Karyo (NIKITA). North American Premiere.
NON-STOP ACTION AWAITS IN CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI!
Martial artist Tak Sakaguchi (VERSUS, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL, YAKUZA WEAPON) is back in the spotlight with CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI – a long-in-the-making, unique take on swordsman Musashi Miyamoto’s most fabled battle, shot here as a single 77-minute action sequence by director Yûji Shimomura (DEATH TRANCE, RE:BORN). It’s Tak, 588 foes, and no room for error! Canadian Premiere.
LISTEN IN THE NIGHT FOR THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND
A mysterious force lurks off the coast of Block Island, curiously influencing the surrounding town and wildlife in this chilling new creation from Fantasia favourites Kevin and Matthew McManus (American Vandal, FUNERAL KINGS). A frightening, character-driven work of horror steeped in atmosphere and dread, THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND features a remarkable cast that includes Michaela McManus (THE VILLAGE), Chris Sheffield (THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT), Jim Cummings (THUNDER ROAD), and Jeremy Holm (THE RANGER, Mr. Robot). World Premiere.
ME AND ME BEGS TO ASK THE QUESTION – ARE YOU REALLY YOU?
A police detective investigating a tragedy in a small town wakes up one morning to find he’s no longer who he thought he was – or so the locals lead him to believe. Is it epic gaslighting, genuine madness, or a supernatural twist? After decades in front of the camera, actor Jung Jin-young (THE KING AND THE CLOWN and many more) steps behind it for his directorial debut, ME AND ME, a unique and distinctive blend of suspense, anxious intrigue, and existential mystery! North American Premiere.
STEP WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE OAK ROOM
During a raging snowstorm, a drifter (Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte) returns home to the blue-collar bar located in the remote Canadian town where he was born. When he offers to settle an old debt with a grizzled bartender by telling him a story, the night’s events quickly spin into a dark tale of mistaken identities, double-crosses, and shocking violence. Atmospheric and gripping, THE OAK ROOM is the fourth feature from Canadian filmmaker Cody Calahan (ANTISOCIAL, LET HER OUT), and produced by BITE director Chad Archibald’s maverick Black Fawn team. Also features Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black), Nicholas Campbell (NAKED LUNCH) and Ari Millen (RUPTURE). World Premiere.
AT THIS SCHOOL, DETENTION CAN BE PERMANENT…
In 1962, Taiwan is in the grip of Martial Law, a period known as the “White Terror”. Fang, a high schooler, falls in love with Zhang, a counseling teacher who introduces her to the books banned by the regime. However, when he disappears, she finds the school gradually slipping into a terrifying realm of ghosts and spirits… Adapted from the popular video game of the same name, John Hsu’s feature film debut, DETENTION, is a powerful, allegorical film about the horrors of repression and authoritarianism. A hit on the festival circuit (Busan, Rotterdam, Fantasporto), the film was nominated for twelve prizes at the 56th Golden Horse Awards, where it won five, including Best New Director. Canadian Premiere.
CONFLICTING EMOTIONS RUN RAMPANT IN MINOR PREMISE
Fueled by the desire to surpass his father’s legacy a reclusive Indian American neuroscientist becomes physically entangled in his own radical experiments, resulting in his consciousness inexplicably becoming fragmented into ten separate and conflicting forces. Now he must face off against the darker sides of his psyche to solve an enigma that lies buried within his subconscious – before it’s too late. The striking feature debut from Eric Schultz, co-producer on such works as JAMES WHITE and KATIE SAYS GOODBYE, MINOR PREMISE is a brilliantly constructed science-fiction drama that confronts ideas of the self in a pensive and emotionally thrilling cinematic puzzle. World Premiere.
THE COLUMNIST TAKES INTERNET BULLIES DOWN… TO THE MORGUE
Columnist and author Femke Boot (Westworld’s Katja Herbers) is endlessly taunted with abusive posts and death threats via social media. Becoming obsessed by these hateful messages from strangers, she spends every moment checking her Twitter feed… until one day, she steps back from her keyboard to take brutal, in-the-flesh action. A savage, horrific black comedy for our times by Dutch filmmaker Ivo van Aart (AMUSE), THE COLUMNIST tackles the toxicity of cyberbullying with ferocity and wit. North American Premiere.
THE STAKES ARE HIGH IN A GAME OF FEUDAL-ERA FAKE NEWS!
With THE GRAND HEIST (2012), South Korean writer/director Kim Joo-ho proved his knack for Joseon-era comedy-thrillers, chock full of mechanical ingenuity complicated enough to match his devilishly clever plots. He does the deed again this year with JESTERS: THE GAME CHANGERS, following the fortunes of a crew of traveling street entertainers who double as rumour-spreaders for hire – “fake news” of the finest vintage. But now the tyrannical King Sejo wants his murderous reputation rehabilitated… and this game is no longer in jest! North American Premiere.
YOU’LL HAVE TO WATCH YOUR WAIST IN THESE KILLER SLAXX
A possessed pair of jeans comes to life and terrorizes the staff of a trendy, vapid clothing boutique in SLAXX, the third feature from Montreal filmmaker Elza Kephart (GRAVEYARD ALIVE, GO IN THE UNIVERSE). Shipped to the company’s flagship store, Slaxx proceeds to wreak havoc on the staff, locked in overnight to set up the new collection. The horror-comedy boasts an impressive cast, including Romane Denis (CHARLOTTE HAS FUN), Sehar Bhojani (The Handmaid’s Tale), Brett Donahue (RADIUS), and Kenny Wong (Transplant). World Premiere.
HALLOWEEN BRINGS MORE THAN TRICKS AND TREATS IN FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS
An innocent nurse, a tortured maniac, and a suspicious hostage face off against a wave of violent intruders on Halloween night in the Canadian nail-biter FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS, starring Lora Burke (LIFECHANGER), Colin Paradine (KINGDOM COME), and Nick Smyth (COVENANT). Filmmakers Gabriel Carrer (THE DEMOLISHER) and Reese Eveneshen (DEFECTIVE) have combined their directorial prowess to create this blissfully brutal powerhouse, shot in only fifteen days, loaded with practical FX and featuring rousing stunts performed by the actors themselves. World Premiere.
VERTIGO TAKES ROMANTIC MELODRAMA TO THE TOP FLOOR.
Seo-Young (Chun Woo-hee of HAN GONG-JU and THE WAILING) has climbed high up the company ladder, but her life is more precarious than it seems and her anxieties begin manifesting as intense vertigo. Her exact opposite, working-class window-cleaner Kwon-woo, literally dangles into her life. From writer/director Jeon Gye-soo (2012’s LOVE FICTION), VERTIGO is a romantic melodrama posing sharp questions about class and gender in South Korean corporate culture. Canadian Premiere.
TWO DROPS OF THRILLS, ONE DROP OF TERROR: THE PERFECT DOSE FOR YOUR NEXT NIGHTMARE
Marcos is a night shift nurse at a palliative care ward in the Argentinian psychological thriller LA DOSIS. Stationed at the doors of life and death, Marcos is the self-appointed gatekeeper, and euthanasia is his preferred practice. While the newly arrived nurse Gabriel threatens to uncover his deadly routine, he may also be hiding sinister motives of his own. Filmmaker Martin Kraut focuses his debut feature on a complex, fascinating duo that you won’t soon forget. North American Premiere.
I WeirDo, A PRE-PANDEMIC ROM-COM, CLEANS UP
Two OCD lovebirds, both obsessed with perpetual cleanliness, experience the trials of first love and the harsh reality of leaving their safety bubbles in I WeirDo, a quirky rom-com from first time Taiwanese director Liao Ming-Yi. Winner of two awards at the 2020 Udine Far East Film Festival and filmed entirely on an iPhone XS, you’ll want to prepare your mask, HazMat suit, and hand sanitizers for this one. Canadian Premiere.
A VIVID FEMINIST WESTERN EXPLODES ACROSS THE SCREEN IN SAVAGE STATE
A family of French settlers must abandon their Missouri home and flee back to Paris when the American Civil War breaks out in David Perrault’s potent feminist Western, SAVAGE STATE (L’état sauvage), an official selection at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam. A stylish co-production between France, Canada, and Belgium, the film stars Alice Isaaz (ELLE), Déborah François (POPULAIRE), Kevin Janssens (REVENGE), Constance Dollé (LES REVENANTS), and Kate Moran (KNIFE+HEART). North American Premiere.
BEAUTY IS SKIN DEEP, BUT BODY HORROR CHILLS TO THE BONE IN FANTASIA AXIS SELECTION BEAUTY WATER
In a society as obsessed with physical appearance as modern South Korea, ugliness is a fate worse than death. For overweight, unsightly Yaeji, though, a fast but suspicious solution to her woes may soon make her wish she were dead. Director Cho Kyung-hun’s animated shocker BEAUTY WATER puts a very high price on prettiness. North American Premiere.
CAMERA LUCIDA UNVEILS SECOND WAVE TITLES – LIFE: UNTITLED, MY PUNCH-DRUNK BOXER, SANZARU
The CAMERA LUCIDA section – dedicated to boundary-pushing, auteur-driven works at the intersection of genre and arthouse cinema – unveils three new titles.
The lives of female escorts intersect as they wait for calls from their customers. Kana Yamada’s LIFE: UNTITLED – adapted from her own stage play – is a remarkable debut, starring Sairi Ito (ASAKO I & II, THE NAKED DIRECTOR). At once raw, tragic and lightly comedic, it unfolds as a closed-room drama about the hardships and resilience of a group of young Japanese women whose lives remain to be written. Following in the legacy of the Japanese brothel film – be it Mizoguchi’s STREET OF SHAME or Suzuki’s GATE OF FLESH – Yamada updates the genre for a new generation and from a fresh perspective. Canadian Premiere.
In MY PUNCH-DRUNK BOXER, a former professional boxer (Um Tae-goo, I SAW THE DEVIL) receives a devastating diagnosis. However, when Min-ji (breakout star Lee Hye-ri, MONSTRUM) enters the gym, he picks up what made him famous in the first place: a unique style known as ‘Pansori Boxing’ – utilizing the flow and rhythms of traditional Korean drumming! A delightful hybrid of boxing drama and quirky rom-com, Jung Hyuk-ki’s film will surprise with its innovative take on “pansori”! North American Premiere.
Evelyn, a young Filipina nurse (Aina Dumlao) lives on a remote estate while taking care of the aging matriarch of a Texas family. As the latter slips deeper into dementia and the relationship of care turns abusive, Evelyn begins to sense something ominous lurking behind the house’s walls. Is she imagining or projecting something? A chilling tale of the American Gothic – as much about death and unspeakable familial secrets as it is about displaced workers and inequality – Xia Magnus’ striking debut SANZARU is a tense, resonant and elegantly-directed piece of horror filmmaking. International Premiere.
GO DEEP WITH FANTASIA UNDERGROUND
Newly-helmed by film critic Justine Smith, FANTASIA UNDERGROUND sheds light on the furthest corners of cinephilia, showcasing films created by eccentric and transgressive artists working outside of the mainstream.
Since her iconic bloody short film UNDRESS ME, screened as part of Fantasia’s Born of Woman showcase, Amelia Moses has been a Montreal talent to watch. With her visceral feature debut, BLEED WITH ME, we’re taken on an intimate cabin trip where boundaries and relationships collapse and double over. A slow-burn thriller with arresting visuals, Moses emerges as a horror filmmaker to be reckoned with! World Premiere.
Sex takes centre stage in director Ben Hozie’s transgressive, kinky, and comedic crime romance, PVT CHAT. Jack (Peter Vack from 2017 Fantasia favourite ASSHOLES) spends his days gambling online and talking with a San-Francisco camgirl, Scarlet (a magnetic Julia Fox in one of her first major roles post-UNCUT GEMS). After seeing Scarlet on a rainy street in New York’s Chinatown, Jack becomes obsessed with meeting her. In a world of hyper-connectivity with few real connections, PVT CHAT captures the loneliness of contemporary life with vulnerability and eroticism. International Premiere.
An allegorical road movie teeming with character and introspection, Jason Neulander’s FUGITIVE DREAMS plunges into the very depth of the American soul. On this darkly funny adventure, two homeless people go on a strange and bewildering journey across middle America, meeting bizarre characters as they search for compassion, love and healing. Shot in stark black and white, the film features breakthrough performances from its leads April Matthis and Robbie Tann, as well as a colourful supporting cast, including Scott Shepherd (True Detective), O-Lan Jones (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), and David Patrick Kelly (THE WARRIORS, THE CROW). World Premiere
In a world on the precipice of change, THE FIVE RULES OF SUCCESS, Orson Oblowitz’s third feature, is an urgent response to a broken justice system and a corrupted social landscape. With the odds stacked against him, an enterprising ex-con (a magnetic Santiago Segura from MTV’s Scream) sets to rebuild his life against insurmountable odds. Written, shot and directed by Oblowitz (THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD) and inspired by Sion Sono’s HAZARD, THE FIVE RULES OF SUCCESS is a brightly-saturated phantasmagorical journey into the depths of Los Angeles’s underbelly. World Premiere.
Wine, jello and vamps! Oh my! With CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER, legendary underground filmmaker Mickey Reece (STRIKE, DEAR MISTRESS AND CURE HIS HEART) pits two sisters (the unforgettable Mary Buss and Ginger Gilmartin) against each other as they vie for the affections of a man who may or not be a bloodsucking vampire! A film teeming with oddball characters, star swipes and horrifically appealing jello platters that will leave your mouth watering and your stomach churning. Quebec Premiere
Also featured in the Underground section, Kaye Adelaide and Mariel Sharp’s playful, hilarious queer horror-comedy short, DON’T TEXT BACK, about a young woman seeking assistance from a dead-pan energy healer in order to rid herself of a cursed necklace she got from a toxic tinder date.
DOCUMENTARIES FROM THE EDGE ANNOUNCES DUO OF NEW TITLES FOR SECOND WAVE
Fantasia’s section dedicated to atypical non-fiction works has revealed its next pair of selections.
CLASS ACTION PARK BURSTS INTO TRACTION
During its 1980s and 1990s heyday, New Jersey’s Action Park was known as the world’s most dangerous amusement park. It was a lawless land, ruled by drunk teenage employees, with rides that ignored basic notions of physics, common sense, and safety. Stranger (and crazier) than fiction, CLASS ACTION PARK is the first-ever feature documentary to explore a place that has long since entered the realm of myth. Directed by Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III, the film peels away the trappings of nostalgia to reveal the shocking truth behind the park and its brilliant-but-mad founder – including a criminal conspiracy and cover-up that allowed a death trap to survive and thrive, even as its body count grew. International Premiere.
IN THE PROPHET AND THE SPACE ALIENS, THINGS GET REAL WHEN RAËL IS AROUND
“Be carefool wiz whatt yoo say, everyssing iz reecordead,” controversial cult leader Raël discretely says in a mischievous French accent to the ear of a giggling woman. Dressed in white, the innocent looking 60-something year-old-man proudly sits on a rock, honoring us with a magisterial meditation. With THE PROPHET AND THE SPACE ALIENS, award-winning Israeli documentarian Yoav Shamir (DEFAMATION, CHECKPOINT) reflects on the meaning of “sect” and the very essence of religion, while the self-proclaimed “Only prophet on Earth” plays petanque, dances on a beach, and talks to aliens. North American Premiere.
Fantasia will announce the full programming lineup for its 24th edition on August 6, 2020.
SECOND WAVE FILM LIST
Dir. Marc Menchaca
Dir. Cho Kyung-hun
North American Premiere
BLEED WITH ME
Dir. Amelia Moses
THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND
Dirs. Kevin & Matthew McManus
CLASS ACTION PARK
Dirs. Seth Porges & Chris Charles Scott III
CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER
Dir. Mickey Reece
Dir. Ivo van Aart
North American Premiere
CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI
Dir. Yûji Shimomura
THE DARK AND THE WICKED
Dir. Bryan Bertino
Dir. John Hsu
Dir. Martin Kraut
North American Premiere
THE FIVE RULES OF SUCCESS
Dir. Orson Oblowitz
FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS
Dirs. Gabriel Carrer & Reese Eveneshen
Dir. Jason Neulander
Dir. Liao Ming-Yi
JESTERS: THE GAME CHANGERS
Dir. Kim Joo-ho
North American Premiere
Dir. Kana Yamada
ME AND ME
Dir. Jung Jin-young
North American Premiere
A MERMAID IN PARIS (Une sirène à Paris)
Dir. Mathias Malzieu
North American Premiere
Dir. Eric Schultz
MY PUNCH-DRUNK BOXER
Dir. Jung Hyuk-ki
North American Premiere
THE OAK ROOM
Dir. Cody Calahan
PROJECT DREAMS – HOW TO BUILD MAZINGER Z’S HANGAR
Dir. Tsutomu Hanabusa
THE PROPHET AND THE SPACE ALIENS
Dir. Yoav Shamir
North American Premiere
Dir. Ben Hozie
Dir. Xia Magnus
Dir. David Perrault
North American Premiere
Dir. Elza Kephart
Dir. Jeon Gye-soo