The third wave just recently hit for the 25th Fantasia International Film Festival, which is hosting in-person and virtual screenings and events from August 5 through 25. Thus, peep the first wave and the second wave before hitting up the latest article and take in the full line-up as things rev up to help make for one awesome post-Covid semi-comeback.
This site has a team of four which will be reviewing titles and hopefully getting to do an interview. As such, our obligatory curtain raiser is here to help spotlight some recommendations. We took the initiative to put together at least thirty selections, but I’m reducing it to at least twenty; At this rate, choosing for the list was quite the challenge, but that’s part of the fun though. Isn’t it?
I’m fully aware the gallery function isn’t working properly, so I’m doing this in list format, citing descriptions directly from the press releases. Freely scroll down to your heart’s content and read on, and then head over to Fantasia’s official website for purchasing and viewing details today!
CATCH THE FAIR ONE: A mixed Indigenous ex-boxer infiltrates the sex trafficking world in search of her missing sister in this ferocious thriller propelled by a commanding performance from WBA Super Lightweight Champion Kali “K.O. Mequinonoag” Reis. Pulverizing with fury and grief, CATCH THE FAIR ONE is the culmination of a four-year collaboration with director Josef Kubota Wladyka (MANOS SUCIAS), who co-wrote with his star. As much a hard-hitting revenge thriller as it is a personal interpretation of true crimes, the film addresses North America’s horrific crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women with urgency. Co-produced by Darren Aronofsky and 2021 Oscar-winner Mollye Asher (NOMADLAND) and winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
HELLBENDER: An occult, coming-of-age film unlike any you’ve seen, HELLBENDER is the extraordinary new creation from the Adams Family (John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams), the gifted filmmaking family behind 2019’s indie sensation THE DEEPER YOU DIG. It further affirms their stature as singular poets of the genre, making soulful and wholly original works with a one-of-a-kind look and feel, this time in the dreamy story of a lonely teenage girl (Zelda Adams) who finds guidance in her family’s suppressed supernatural lineage. HELLBENDER imaginatively explores questions of identity, instinct, and power roles in youth and parenthood alike. An uncanny film that’s all at once haunting, heartfelt, freakish, and fun. WORLD PREMIERE.
ART KABUKI: While theatres were shut down due to COVID-19, young Kabuki-actor Kazutaro Nakamura decided to unite with many unique artists to create ART KABUKI, a compelling filmed performance under the subject of ‘Play, Beauty and Life’. A visually stunning modern take on a centuries-old, traditional art form, Nakamura succeeds exceptionally at inspiring hope and joy through creativity in these difficult times. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
BULL: A feared gang enforcer (Neil Maskell, KILL LIST), vanished for ten years, returns to hunt the mobsters he once ran with in BULL, the ferocious British revenge thriller from BAFTA-winner Paul Andrew Williams (LONDON TO BRIGHTON). A brutal and subversive work that frequently plays out like a horror film, stunningly executed and grounded by well-scripted characters, with a cast that includes Tamzin Outhwaite (EASTENDERS) and David Hayman (TABOO, SID AND NANCY) in a frightening turn that ranks with the strongest of British mobster portrayals. WORLD PREMIERE.
MARTYRS LANE: In this haunting and poignant ghost story from British writer/director Ruth Platt (THE LESSON, THE BLACK FOREST), ten-year-old Leah (Kiera Thompson) lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor (Sienna Sayer) brings her comfort, but soon she will realise that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous. Tragic and unsettling with phenomenal performances and bottomless otherworldly atmosphere, MARTYRS LANE is a stunning, eerie triumph of a film. Co-starring Denise Gough (MONDAY) and Steven Cree (OUTLANDER). WORLD PREMIERE
PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND: A notorious criminal (Nicolas Cage) must break an evil curse in order to rescue a girl (Sofia Boutella) who has mysteriously disappeared in the insane US debut of legendary Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono (LOVE EXPOSURE, COLD FISH). Co-starring Nick Cassavetes, Tak Sakaguchi, and Bill Moseley. Official Selection: Sundance 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE
SEPTET: THE STORY OF HONG KONG: A sifu hardens his students with “Exercise” in Sammo Hung’s evocation of childhood. Ann Hui stages a stirring tribute to Hong Kong educators in “Headmaster.” Patrick Tam Kar-Ming depicts the emigration of Hong Kongers by way of an impressionistic love story, “Tender is the Night.” Master action choreographer and director Yuen Woo-ping addresses generational divides in the 90s with “Homecoming.” Johnnie To details the city’s capitalistic hustle in “Bonanza.” The expanding harbour opens the floodgates of memory in Ringo Lam’s posthumous film “Astray,” and the decade to come is evoked by Tsui Hark’s futuristic, tongue-in-cheek closer “Conversation in Depth.” An exceptional omnibus comes to us at a crucial time in Hong Kong history, SEPTET: THE STORY OF HONG KONG reunites seven legendary Hong Kong directors for a heartfelt project composed of personal, resonant stories. QUEBEC PREMIERE.
STRAIGHT TO VHS: The 80s were the most fruitful years for direct-to-video oddities and in Uruguay, ACT OF VIOLENCE IN A YOUNG JOURNALIST, by Manuel Lamas, is the strangest of them all. Never seen outside of its country of origin, the film has been celebrated as a cult film (à la THE ROOM) by homegrown cinephiles and camp aficionados, while its origins have remained shrouded in mystery for decades… Until now! The behind-the-scenes mystery thickens in Emilio Silva Torres’ feature debut STRAIGHT TO VHS as we tag along on a quest with eccentric characters and through creepy locations to find the man behind one the oddest VHSes ever made. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
ALL THE MOONS: Spain. 1876. A young girl (Haizea Carneros) is severely injured when a religious orphanage is bombed during the third Carlist war. On the verge of death, she is healed by a mysterious woman (Itziar Ituño) whom she perceives to be an angel. They are soon separated, the child left to fend for herself – for decades upon decades. With ALL THE MOONS, director Igor Legarreta masterfully employs the tenets of vampire lore as the basis for an intimate epic dealing with themes of life and death, love and loneliness, devotion and intolerance. Impeccably crafted, it ranks among the best of vampire cinema. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
YAKUZA PRINCESS: Few are left standing in YAKUZA PRINCESS, a stylish and violent action thriller starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (VIKINGS) and Japanese American singer Masumi (POSSE). Directed by Vicente Amorim (MOTORRAD, GOOD) and adapted from Danilo Beyruth’s graphic novel Shiro, the film unfolds in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo in Brazil and follows Akemi (Masumi), an orphan who discovers she is the heiress to half of the Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Meyers) the two must unleash war against the other half of the gang who wants her dead. Co-starring Tsuyoshi Ihara (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA), Toshiji Takeshima (S.W.A.T.), and Eijiro Ozaki (THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE). WORLD PREMIERE.
INDEMNITY: The new wave of South African genre cinema continues to astonish in INDEMNITY, the feature directorial debut of Gambit Films’ Travis Taute, co-writer and executive producer of Nosipho Dumisa’s Fantasia-award-winner NUMBER 37 (and director of the originating short) and a writer and director on the hit Netflix series BLOOD & WATER. A subversive, high-tension action thriller that follows a fireman (Jarrid Geduld) with an anguished past who finds himself on the run for a crime he has no memory of, the knockout feature speaks to the horrors of the international arms trade and the use of trauma itself as a weapon. Co-starring Gail Mabalane (BLOOD & WATER), Andre Jacobs (BLACK VENUS), Nicole Fortuin (FLATLAND), and Tshamano Sebe (8, a Fantasia 2019 breakout premiere). WORLD PREMIERE.
THE LAST THING MARY SAW: Brace yourself for THE LAST THING MARY SAW, a breathtaking period occult drama set in an isolated farmhouse in the winter of 1843, where a young woman is under investigation following the mysterious death of her family’s matriarch. It soon becomes apparent that ageless forces are at play, from within and without. An eerie and hypnotic nightmare vision from debuting writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti, starring Stefanie Scott (INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3), Isabelle Fuhrman (ORPHAN), Judith Roberts (YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE), and Rory Culkin (LORDS OF CHAOS). WORLD PREMIERE.
JIGOKU-NO-HANAZONO ~ OFFICE ROYALE ~!: Workplace drama goes too far in Kazuaki Seki’s JIGOKU-NO-HANAZONO ~ OFFICE ROYALE ~! where brutal gang wars are waged right next to the photocopier and on their lunch breaks. Screenwriter Bakarhythm delivers an engaging and smart story with hilarious meta narration that winks to manga conventions as comic-book battles roll out one after another. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
ONE SECOND CHAMPION: With the power to see one second into the future, loser Chow becomes a winner in the ring. It’s ROCKY with a high concept and loaded with more humor and high-pressure fun— Hong Kong style, from one of the directors of Fantasia 2017’s VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT. Official Selection: Udine Far East Film Festival 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
TIME: Two big stars of Hong Kong’s golden age, Petrina Fung and Patrick Tse (SHAOLIN SOCCER), play former assassins who struggle to maintain relevance in the modern world. In order to put their martial arts mastery to use, they form the Guardian Angels of the Elderly, a team who use their skills to help the elderly out of their misery, whether it’s due to sickness or being jaded with life. This first feature from director Ricky Ko is a nostalgic dark comedy that freshly explores social issues regarding old age with humor, heart, and action. Official Selection: Hong Kong International Film Festival 2021, International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
JUNK-HEAD: In 2017, Fantasia revealed to the world Takahide Hori’s one-man stop-motion project, the ambitious, existential, cyber-horror concoction JUNK HEAD. A surprise hit at the festival, it then vanished for five years. At last, this year, a tighter, meaner theatrical edit of JUNK HEAD has been produced, and Fantasia is proud to once again open this portal into Hori’s mind.
VOICE OF SILENCE: Two anonymous crime-scene cleaners working for different gangs are assigned an unprecedented task that thrusts them both on a descent into hell: they must kidnap a child. With VOICE OF SILENCE, director and screenwriter Hong Eui-jeong delivers a hard-hitting, masterful, debut feature that has garnered critical and audience acclaim, including prestigious awards in her homeland. This is a daring thriller with a compelling story starring Yoo Ah-in (#ALIVE), one of South Korea’s biggest stars, who delivers one of his best performances in a silent role. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
CAUTION: HAZARDOUS WIFE: Based on the beloved TV series by the same name, Toya Sato’s CAUTION, HAZARDOUS WIFE stars Haruka Ayase (REAL) as an amnesiac housewife living a quiet life with her perfect husband (Hidetoshi Nishijima, CREEPY). As her memories begin to return, she discovers an unexpected and dangerous side to herself she never predicted. Combining first-rate fight choreography with a winning comedic charisma from Ayase, CAUTION, HAZARDOUS WIFE is an absolute must-see for any action fan. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
TOKYO REVENGERS: Takemichi may just have a chance to change the future – if he can survive his own past! A jawbreaking, juvenile delinquent street fight royale combined with a high-stakes time travel thriller and dashes of adolescent angst and romantic comedy, TOKYO REVENGERS is the live-action feature adaptation of Ken Wakui’s enormously popular award-winning manga of the same name. Director Tsutomu Hanabusa (KAKEGURUI 1 and 2, also at Fantasia this year) succeeds mightily at adapting this complex science-fiction story; amid a barrage of bloody, brutal hoodlum battles, he still finds room for the sweetness of first love. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
IDA RED: Midwest filmmaker John Swab (LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR) returns to Fantasia with IDA RED, a propulsive, gripping, crime thriller that escalates his career to the big leagues. Cast-as-criminals Josh Hartnett, Frank Grillo, and Melissa Leo (as a modern Ma Barker) have never been better. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.