By MICHAEL GINGOLD
North America’s coolest genre fest is back to in-person screenings, and the first round of this year’s very impressive lineup has been revealed.
The 26th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival will take place in Montreal July 14-August 3, with the movies showing in in the huge Concordia Hall Cinema, along with the Cinémathèque Québécoise, Cinéma du Musée and the McCord Museum. In addition to the feature presentations, there will be shorts programs, workshops and launch events. A highlight of the event will be the awarding of the Career Achievement Award to the legendary John Woo (pictured above), director of such Hong Kong classics as THE KILLER, HARD BOILED, BULLET IN THE HEAD and many others.
The initial lineup of feature films revealed is:
Outstanding filmmaker Satoshi Miki (ADRIFT IN TOKYO) brings us his latest otherworldly adventure. Kato (Ryo Narita, JUST REMEMBERING) is a struggling screenwriter who, one day when stepping out to buy dog food, stumbles into a mysterious convenience store where he discovers he can find anything his heart desires. Satoshi Miki’s CONVENIENCE STORY, which was pitched at the Frontières Co-Production Market, comes full circle with its World Premiere and marks Japan Times film critic Mark Schilling’s debut as a screenwriter.
Miki’s gently eccentric sense of humor further illuminates the festival’s screens with the Canadian Premiere of WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEAD KAIJU?, a sci-fi comedy that brings the Japanese giant-monster genre to a human scale. When a humongous creature dies in a river, authorities choose to use the rotting carcass as a tourist attraction rather than clean up the potential ecological disaster. This political satire in the spirit of DON’T LOOK UP takes a funny and pertinent look at our indifference towards environmental crises. North American Premiere.
Ryan Kwanten (TRUE BLOOD) and J.K. Simmons (WHIPLASH) star in veteran genre journalist, filmmaker, and podcaster Rebekah McKendry’s wickedly funny, mind-bending mix of comedy, horror, sci-fi and gloriously indescribable weirdness. In GLORIOUS, After a breakup, Wes (Kwanten) ends up at a remote rest stop and finds himself locked inside the bathroom with a mysterious figure speaking from an adjacent stall. Soon Wes realizes he has found himself in a nightmare scenario more terrible than he could ever imagine. World Premiere.
Fantasia is proud to announce a new section in the festival’s programming: SEPTENTRION SHADOWS, dedicated to showcasing Canadian cinema that captures the weird, the dangerous, things full of wonder, and (almost) everything in between. Curated by programmer, critic and podcaster Carolyn Mauricette, the section will be launched this summer with the World Premiere of Rodrigo Gudiño’s THE BREACH.
As the founder and president of RUE MORGUE magazine, Rodrigo Gudiño has lived a life immersed in the horror genre. After many years in publishing, he began directing in 2006 and made his debut feature, THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH, in 2012. Now, In Fantasia’s 26th year, he’s back with THE BREACH. This adaptation of the novel by Canadian horror author Nick Cutter, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Weir, tells of a mysterious and gruesome death in the forests of Northern Ontario and the chaos that follows. Starring Allan Hawco (REPUBLIC OF DOYLE) and Emily Alatalo (SPARE PARTS), audiences can expect tension, plenty of prosthetic gore, and a score by Guns N’ Roses guitar great—and the film’s executive producer—Slash. World Premiere.
Monique (Gabby Beans, HOUSE OF CARDS) leaves her family quarantine to help a friend who’s suffering from terrible nightmares–but she learns too late that the bad dreams are contagious, along with the demon behind them. Award-winning writer/director Andy Mitton (THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, WE GO ON) returns with his unique brand of empathetic supernatural horror. Deeply sad, deeply scary and all-out stunning in its power to probe collective trauma, THE HARBINGER bursts with occult imagination, exploring the anxiety and disorientation of the last few years in ways that only Mitton could. World Premiere.
The dynamic duo of the great Takashi Miike (ICHI THE KILLER) and the brilliant screenwriter Kankuro Kudo (TOO YOUNG TO DIE!) elevate the adventures of the ostentatious mole Reiji to unprecedented levels when the Machiavellian yakuza clan he infiltrated tries to import pasta made entirely of methamphetamines: speed-a-ronis. THE MOLE SONG: FINAL masterfully recreates the extravagant universe of Noboru Takahashi’s manga, with endangered kawaii puppets, dirty jokes, larger-than-life characters and an unforgettable finale. The stellar cast is led by Tomas Ikuta (GRASSHOPPER), who outdoes himself with an absolutely hilarious physical performance. North American Premiere.
George Jones (Ben Hall, MINARI) invites country music superstar Troyal Brooks (Mickey Reece) out on the town in Nashville in 1994–the night before George is to be cryogenically frozen. At once hilarious and deeply affecting, COUNTRY GOLD is the 29th feature by Oklahoma indie maverick Mickey Reece (CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER, AGNES), reuniting the filmmaker with Hall, who’s never been better. A heartfelt outsider rumination on legacy and what it means to reach the age where one has more to reflect on than to look forward to. World Premiere.
Prolific filmmaker Karim Ouelhaj, Méliès d’Or winner for THE FROZEN EYE (2016), brings us his fourth feature and by far his most savage. His sharp examination of societal anguish blends into this genre-adoring film that no horror devotee would dare miss. Carried by the breathtaking performance of lead actor Eline Schumacher and her descent into insanity, MEGALOMANIAC digs deep into the sordid true story of Belgian serial killer The Butcher of Mons. MEGALOMANIAC is a nightmare of mystical violence anchored in the reality of female persecution and gendered abuse. World Premiere.
Nostradamus predicted that the world would end in 1999, but he royally screwed up. In 2022, Kappei and his fellow doomsday warriors, isolated and trained since their childhood, must learn to live a “normal” life with great supernatural powers–but no social skills whatsoever. In his feature directorial debut KAPPEI, Takashi Hirano (producer of KAMIKAZE GIRLS) creates a wonderfully whimsical coming-of-age action-comedy with the help of screenwriter Yuichi Tokunaga (FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA) and a devilishly funny performance by actor Hideaki Ito (LESSON OF THE EVIL, TOKYO VICE). North American Premiere.
MOLOCH is the hotly anticipated feature debut from acclaimed Dutch filmmaker Nico van den Brink. This is his follow-up to his award-winning shorts THE BURDEN (currently being adapted into a feature film co-produced by James Wan and Sam Raimi) and SWEET TOOTH, both of which premiered at Fantasia. Drenched in creeping dread, MOLOCH tells the story of 38-year-old Betriek (Sallie Harmsen, BLADE RUNNER 2049) who lives at the edge of a peat bog in the Northern Netherlands. As inexplicable horrors mount, she gradually becomes convinced that she is being hunted by something ancient. International Premiere.
Vying for ANIME SUPREMACY! is no small feat. The anime industry of Japan is enormous, with 200 new TV shows and two trillion yen in revenue each year. Soft-spoken yet strong-willed anime director Hitomi Saito (Riho Yoshioka) has climbed the ranks, and is now set to direct a series of her own. Meanwhile, the difficult but undeniably brilliant director Chiharu Oji (Tomoya Nakamura) is gunning for his big comeback…and there can be only one number one! This heartfelt, hilarious and thoroughly researched comedy-drama shows the struggle of making it to the top without compromising on vision, from director and CG animator Kohei Yoshino. North American Premiere.
Otherworldly demons and magical bloodlines threaten to reshape the world in LEGIONS, an ingenious Argentinian folk-horror powder keg by Fabian Forte (DEAD MAN TELLS HIS OWN TALE). While evil forces descend on Argentina, humanity’s best hope, a once-legendary shaman (Germán De Silva, WILD TALES), is confined to an insane asylum, powerless to avert the demonic resurrection. This outlandishly fun horror/comedy is reminiscent of early Álex de la Iglesia, steeped in cultural vibrancy, ritual magic and a cavalcade of creatures. Canadian Premiere.
Chan-woo is on his fifth attempt to get into the police academy, when his friends make him a strange offer to pay the registration fee in exchange for just one drink at the bar. The next morning, he wakes up hung over in his loud neighbor’s apartment with a corpse lying face down in a pool of blood. With a meticulous script that rewards an observant viewer and an inspired comedic performance by lead actor Oh Dong-min (KINGDOM), writer/director Yeom Ji-ho’s impressive first feature NEXT DOOR delivers an engaging, claustrophobic black comedy reminiscent of Sabu’s classic MONDAY set in a single location. North American Premiere.
A microbudget flick with a vastly creative design and twisted story, Alex Phillips’ debut feature ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS is a squirmy trip into the depths of art-house horror cinema. A cavalcade of upcoming performers, as flamboyant and daring as John Waters’ Dreamlanders, bring a vibrating excess to their wormhead characters. Inspired by Cassavetes and Henenlotter, Phillips delivers a wriggling, drug-induced creature-feature nightmare: TRAINSPOTTING meets BRAIN DAMAGE with a dash of VIDEODROME. Underground filmmaking at its best for a ride to hell. Become one with the dirt! Realize your full potential! Nothing is real and everything is permitted. World Premiere.
An abrasive homegrown genre-adjacent film that mines West Island alienation for all its worth, THE DIABETIC is the latest lo-fi fiction from Mitchell Stafiej (A, THE DEVIL’S TRAP) about how dark and dirty a desperate diabetic’s desolate night out can turn. Shot on 16mm, edited on VHS, only to be converted back to 16mm, Stafiej crafts a grimy underground film the likes of which the West Island has never seen. Co-presented by Les Fantastiques weekends du Cinema QC. World Premiere.
In the Camera Lucida section:
Named one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker magazine, Tyler Taormina and Jonathan Davies’s LA-based Omnes Films collective unveils two personal fantasias in the Camera Lucida section–dedicated to films at the intersection of genre and arthouse. HAPPER’S COMET pulls us in with a muddy cob of corn; a sound recorder extended out a window; a stalled car and rollerblades attached to Converses. As we peek into the late-night routines of various mysterious characters, time and place creeps in, coalescing around familiar fragments of Americana. Tyler Taormina follows 2018’s askew coming-of-age film HAM ON RYE with a foreboding midnight mosaic; evoking nocturnal loneliness, drifting uncertainty, and a pang of hope in the darkness. Canadian Premiere.
In TOPOLOGY OF SIRENS, Cas (Courtney Stephens), an academic and amateur musician, moves into her aunt’s old home. The discovery of a mysterious hurdy-gurdy prompts another find: microcassette tapes nestled in the instrument, labeled with cryptic symbols and containing abstract soundscapes. Cas’ detective story begins against the backdrop of a lush California town populated by audiophiles, experimentalists, tinkerers, VJs and collectors. This fantastical, shimmering debut from Jonathan Davies operates like an airy, sun-kissed subversion of traditional LA noirs. Canadian Premiere.
In Amanda Kramer’s PLEASE BABY PLEASE, newlyweds Suze (Andrea Riseborough, MANDY) and Arthur (Harry Melling, THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT) are a picture-perfect Beatnik couple. Proud bohemians, they go through life with the certainty of their convictions…until they encounter the Young Gents–a leather-clad gang of greasers that terrorizes their neighborhood with pocket knives and gender-bending ways. Soon, our central couple begins questioning their sexuality, and ultimately their relationship. Co-starring Karl Glusman (LOVE) and Demi Moore (GHOST). Canadian Premiere.
Sissy St. Claire (Sophie Von Haselberg) has one dream: making it big! In GIVE ME PITY! she hosts an extravagant variety show, full of gossip, glamour, vanity and a creeping sense of disillusionment. To top it all off, a hooded man lurks in the wings, threatening to shut it all down. Amanda Kramer’s delightful horror-tinged cringe comedy is a satirical send-up of American television, propelled by the spectacular performance at its center. North American Premiere.
In JUST REMEMBERING, Teruo (Sosuke Ikematsu, SHOPLIFTERS), a former dancer, is turning 34. Yo (Sairi Ito, ASAKO I & II), his ex-lover, makes a living as a cab driver in a COVID-stricken Tokyo. When she catches a glimpse of her ex on stage, memories flood back in. Inspired by Jarmusch’s classic NIGHT ON EARTH, director Daigo Matsui unspools rom-com conventions and beautifully depicts the ways we construct relationships and process memories. It’s a perfect match for the upset and melancholy of these past few years on Earth. Audience Award, Tokyo IFF 2021. North American Premiere.
In FAST & FEEL LOVE, we meet Kao (Nat Kitcharit), a 30-year-old who has devoted his entire life to the competitive sport of…cup stacking! But as adulthood looms, his girlfriend Jay (Urassaya Sperbund) dumps him and he finds himself at a crossroads. Following HEART ATTACK (Fantasia 2016), Thai iconoclast Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit returns to the festival with his first “action film.” Quirky and satirical (structured around nods to various blockbuster hits, from FAST & FURIOUS to PARASITE) FAST & FEEL LOVE is a playful, surprising comedy about “competitive adulting!” Canadian Premiere.
In the Docs from the Edge section:
Alexandre O. Philippe dissects film history like no other documentarian before him. From Monument Valley’s depiction in Westerns in THE TAKING, to Hitchcock’s shower scene in 78/52, through Philippe’s lens, every detail is explored and expanded upon for a meditation on cinema itself. In his latest work, LYNCH/OZ, featuring interviews with film fetishists such as John Waters, David Lowery and Rodney Ascher, Philippe leads us through a maze where the green Emerald City and blue velvet curtain intertwine. Over the rainbow and underneath the surface, the story of David Lynch and THE WIZARD OF OZ. Canadian Premiere.
In Bryan Storkel (FIGHT CHURCH) and Amy Bandlien’s new film THE PEZ OUTLAW, the filmmakers explore the adventures of the International Pez Smuggler Steve Glew. This stranger-than-fiction tale of espionage and Wonka-esque whimsy follows the lovable underdog who managed to elude (and royally annoy) the powerful corporation for years and invites us into the heart of the Pez community: an eclectic band of passionate hobbyists that will feel all too familiar to most of us festivalgoers. Who knew true-crime documentaries could be this sweet? International Premiere.
In Axis: Accent on Animation from Asia:
Already explored in literature, comics and documentary film, the story of Chun Tae-Il, whose ultimate sacrifice galvanized the labor-rights movement in South Korea, is one that still reverberates half a century later. Director Hong Jun-pyo’s historical biography CHUN TAE-IL: A FLAME THAT LIVES ON honors its subject with emotionally charged storytelling and splendid visual craft, mixing tragedy and hope in this South Korean animated feature that will appeal to all age groups. North American Premiere.
Hong’s feature is just part of a special Korean Animation Spotlight at Fantasia 2022. Long overlooked as little more than a factory for Japanese and American cartoons, South Korea has steadily built a national animation community whose films are now among the world’s best, both technically and artistically. Fantasia’s spotlight showcases a slate of brand-new short films as well as retrospectives, a children’s program and a master class with Kim Kangmin, director of the award-winning short KKUM.
A dark and monstrous creature becomes the guardian of an innocent human child in the affecting Gothic anime fairy tale THE GIRL FROM THE OTHER SIDE, co-directed by rising talents Yutaro Kubo and Satomi Maiya. The pair world-premiered their short-film adaptation of Nagabe’s cult manga at Fantasia 2019, and with this feature they bring the elegant, enigmatic tale of Shiva and Teacher to the screen once again. Canadian Premiere.
Bristling with energy and inspiration, INU-OH, the new feature film from anime radical Masaaki Yuasa (MIND GAME, DEVILMAN CRYBABY) is an absolute tour de force. Ancient Japanese history is reimagined as a riotous rock opera, rendered all the more feverish and fantastical by Yuasa’s storytelling panache and astonishing inventiveness, not to mention Taiyo Matsumoto’s amazing character designs. Quebec Premiere.
A mystical kingdom is eternally blessed with life and abundance, but should the princess Opal’s joy be lost and sadness take hold of her heart, darkness and ruin will blight the realm. OPAL, the second feature film from Martinique’s Alain Bidard (BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE, 2015), is a sumptuous animated fairy tale, filled with a rich Afro-Caribbean sensibility and profound psychological undercurrents, and has already scooped up awards at festivals around the world. Canadian Premiere.
Additional first-wave titles:
BABY ASSASSINS (Japan–Dir: Yugo Sakamoto): Two teenage assassins adjust to being roommates and search for menial part-time jobs while battling a psychopathic yakuza boss and his bratty son and daughter. A double-barreled blast of action-comedy that teams up stage musical star Akari Takaishi and stuntwoman Ayaori Izawa. Quebec Premiere.
DEADSTREAM (USA–Dirs: Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter): Disgraced and demonetized after a public controversy, a washed-up Internet personality tries to win back his followers by livestreaming himself spending one night alone in an abandoned haunted house. Unfortunately, he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit. A wild, splatstick cross between EVIL DEAD and the most ill-fated livestream imaginable. Official Selection: SXSW 2022. Canadian Premiere.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (Belgium–Dir: Véronique Jadin): From the absurd to the heartbreaking, Véronique Jadin covers it all in her darkly comedic and surprisingly bloody look at sexism in office culture. The cast pulls out all the stops with its number of insane and nail-biting moments. Official Selection: Tribeca 2022. Canadian Premiere.
INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE (France–Dir: Quentin Dupieux): Alain and Marie move to a quiet suburb. A mysterious tunnel in the cellar of their new home will turn their lives upside down. An inspired burst of lunacy from Quentin Dupieux (MANDIBLES, DEERSKIN, WRONG), starring Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker, Benoît Magimel and Anaïs Demoustier. Official Selection: Berlin International Film Festival 2022. North American Premiere.
ON THE LINE (South Korea–Dirs: Kim Sun, Kim Gok): Rarely has an action film managed to generate as much excitement and anxiety as this timely dive into the maze of voice phishing scams, where an ex-detective embarks on a dangerous mission to infiltrate and dismantle a huge cartel of invisible fraudsters. Canadian Premiere.
RESURRECTION (USA–Dir: Andrew Semans): Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth and Grace Kaufman star in this fiercely absorbing work of psychological horror that explores the twisting emotions of unresolved trauma. You will be shocked. You will be devastated. You will be left frozen in an absolute daze. Official Selection: Sundance 2022. Canadian Premiere.
SHARP STICK (USA–Dir: Lena Dunham): Lena Dunham’s return to feature filmmaking is an honest, boundary-pushing comedy of sexual discovery that entertains and surprises with its unique tone. Vibrant, with a pitch-perfect cast that includes Kristine Froseth, Taylour Paige, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman and the writer/director herself. Official Selection: Sundance 2022. Canadian Premiere.
SPEAK NO EVIL (Denmark–Dir: Christian Tafdrup): The Danish shocker that pulverized Sundance is coming to Canada. Equal parts smart, dark social satire and a master class of dread-building, this singularly squirm-inducing nightmare is going to stay with you for years. Official Selection: Göteborg Film Festival 2022. Canadian Premiere.
The second wave will be announced in early June and the complete lineup unveiled in late June, with ticket sales beginning shortly thereafter. For more information on Fantasia, visit its official website.