By MICHAEL GINGOLD
There are thrills of all kinds and a tribute to a Canadian trailblazer set for the 26th edition of North America’s top genre festival.
The Fantasia International Film Festival’s 2022 edition runs July 14-August 3 in Montreal, and the Frontières International Co-Production Market will be held July 21-24. Screenings of the more than 100 features and 200 short films, along with panels and special events, will take place at the Concordia Hall and J.A. de Sève cinemas, with additional screens at the Cinémathèque Québécoise, Cinéma du Musée and the McCord Museum. Among those events is the bestowing of the Canadian Trailblazer Award to author/filmmaker/programmer Kier-La Janisse (pictured below), whose 23 years of work on everything from the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and the CineMuerte Film Festival to the landmark book HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN (the expanded edition of which will debut at the festival) to her award-winning documentary WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR has been groundbreaking and inspirational. A series of movies, including four restored by Severin Films, will be part of the Janisse tribute (see details at the end of this document).
Joining the many movies that were part of the first-wave announcement are the following features:
With frostbitten hands clasping magical seal-jaws, incredible fights, and visceral kills, POLARIS (pictured at top) is a singular vision of a postapocalyptic world. Director KC Carthew creates a dystopian future with nods to George Miller’s classic MAD MAX series and an all-female-identifying cast. Filmed in the Yukon, we follow the journey of Sumi (Viva Lee) and her adoptive polar bear mother to the north star Polaris as they navigate the harsh landscape. She encounters brutal foes that are no match for her fierce powers, and when she discovers unexpected allies along the way, the stakes become deadlier. Following Carthew’s first short FISH OUT OF WATER, which premiered at the 19th edition of Fantasia, and her award-winning 2017 debut feature THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT, Carthew returns with POLARIS–a Frontières project pitched in 2019. Expect innovative writing and direction, including a primarily non-verbal experience, the breathtaking landscapes of the Yukon, plenty of thrilling action, and at heart, a story of perseverance and friendship. Distributed in Canada by Filmoption International. World Premiere.
Following our tradition of uplifting new voices, radical cinematic visions, and trailblazing genre work, Fantasia is proud to put the spotlight of its second wave on queer genre cinema. We are excited to feature Eduardo Casanova’s LA PIETÀ, a genre-bending surrealist odyssey, and Tara Thorne’s #metoo tinged revenge thriller COMPULSUS. In the horror genre we are happy to be featuring Carter Smith’s bug-nuts film SWALLOWED and Addison Heimann’s haunting psychological descent HYPOCHONDRIAC. Also in the spotlight are two documentaries: Rita Baghdadi’s revolutionary all-female-identifying punk rock doc SIRENS and Ry Levey’s queer wrestling chronicle OUT IN THE RING. Additional titles in this spotlight will be revealed in the third and final wave, and also included are two titles from our first wave, Amanda Kramer’s PLEASE BABY PLEASE and GIVE ME PITY!
Following its enormously successful release in Japan, Fantasia unleashes the highly anticipated SHIN ULTRAMAN. Directed by Shinji Higuchi, famed for the special-effects work on the 1990s GAMERA revival and for directing the live-action ATTACK ON TITAN films, and scripted by Hideaki Anno, the genius behind the hit anime NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. SHIN ULTRAMAN reunites the pair, who co-directed 2016’s astounding SHIN GODZILLA, to reimagine another essential icon of tokusatsu, Japan’s science-fiction TV and cinema. Debuted in 1966, Tsuburaya Productions’ giant, shiny superhero from space–and the wild array of alien monsters he confronts–have embedded themselves in the nation’s popular culture for generations. With auteur flair, unprecedented visual impact, and genuine affection for the ULTRAMAN franchise, Anno and Higuchi now renew, as only they could, the action-packed cosmic saga of Ultraman, his alter ego Shinji Kaminaga, and his colleagues in the science police force battling endless extraterrestrial threats. North American Premiere.
When an internet vigilante develops a revolutionary new computer program to combat online predators, its rapid advancement leads to serious questions of autonomy, oppression, and what it really means to be human. An extraordinary debut from writer-director-editor-co-star Franklin Ritch, THE ARTIFICE GIRL is a tense spiral of moral complexity in the world of technology and crime prevention, with a script that moves as fast as a coder types and a phenomenal cast that includes Tatum Mathews, Sinda Nichols, David Girard and Lance Henriksen. World Premiere.
In POPRAN, Tagami Tatsuya (Yoji Minagawa) has found great success as the CEO of an online manga-reading platform–so much that he has become a colossal dick to everyone around him…until a fantastical twist of fate takes that away. One morning, he discovers his genitals have flown the coop! Poof! Gone! Following the worldwide success of ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (just remade by Michel Hazanavicius as Cannes opener COUPEZ!/FINAL CUT), Shinichiro Ueda returns with a goofy, conceptual comedy-drama tackling masculine ego by way of flying penises–trademark meta-commentary fully intact! North American Premiere.
After the heartbreaking death of her husband, struggling single mother Manami must get back in the ring to keep custody of her beloved daughter when her mother-in-law disputes her child support rights in court. The visceral struggle for motherhood in Halle Berry’s BRUISED meets the ROCKY saga’s exhilarating fight sequences in RED SHOES, an engaging boxing drama directed by Toshiro Saiga (KANON). Aya Asahina trained hard to deliver a superb physical and emotional performance, which pays off as she shines in and out of the ring. World Premiere.
Eduardo Casanova’s sophomore feature, following 2017’s PIELES (SKINS), LA PIETÀ is a surrealist odyssey into the extremes of codependency, depicting the close relationship between a mother and her son–and the ways that relationship changes when one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Alternately transgressive, poetic and darkly humorous, the film exists at the spiritual crossroads of Buñuel, Cronenberg and Jodorowsky, with a breathtaking visual design unlike anything out there. Produced by Álex de la Iglesia and Carolina Bang. Official Selection: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2022 (competition “Proxima”). North American Premiere.
A night guard discovers a dead cat hanging by its neck. As if struck by a bad omen, his family life starts crumbling. Soon, the death of a relative begins unearthing buried secrets. Winner of the CGV Arthouse Award at the latest Busan International Film Festival, Yoon Seo-jin’s existential horror debut CHOROKBAM is a stunning family drama, carried by a foreboding, suffocating atmosphere of nearly cosmic proportion. This is a potent visualization of anxiety, grief and depression as it permeates and obliterates one’s worldview. Camera Lucida section. North American Premiere.
A manipulative player (Justin Long) accompanies his latest potential hook-up (Kate Bosworth) to her enormous Gothic mansion and experiences a rather different kind of evening than he’d anticipated in HOUSE OF DARKNESS, a subversive horror-comedy from celebrated playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute. This riveting film is at once sardonic and severe in its exploration of power games between the sexes, with brilliantly scripted sequences that are an absolute joy to watch. Co-starring Gia Crovatin and Lucy Walters, co-produced by Tim Harms (SOME FREAKS) and Daryl Freimark (GIVING BIRTH TO A BUTTERFLY). International Premiere.
Depressed and in debt, Santoshi (Jiro Sato, FABLE) has found a way out: he vows to capture the infamous serial killer “No Name” (Hiroya Shimizu, TOKYO REVENGERS). When he goes missing, his daughter Kaeda (Aoi Ito) fears the worst and starts looking for him. The Japanese-South Korean co-production MISSING subverts the expectations of a simple serial-killer story. Director Shinzo Katayama, noted former assistant director to Bong Joon-ho, stays true to his roots and thrusts his audience into a pitch-black thriller that shares Bong’s propensity for twists, stylistic excess and tonal malleability. North American Premiere.
In 1950s Paris, the body of a young woman is found dressed in an evening gown and holding no ID. When nobody claims the body, Detective Jules Maigret is brought on the case. A long-awaited pairing of two French cinema greats–writer-director Patrice Leconte and Gérard Depardieu–MAIGRET is a new take on Georges Simenon’s classic French detective character, adapted from the 1954 novel MAIGRET ER LA JEUNE MORTE. This film is a cause for celebration for fans of French cinema, great detective stories, and cinephiles everywhere. North American Premiere.
Beloved genre director and Fantasia alumnus Carter Smith (THE RUINS, BUGCRUSH) returns to the roots of his bug-focused debut with the extreme piece of queer body horror SWALLOWED, starring Jena Malone (NEON DEMON, THE HUNGER GAMES) and a flamboyant Mark Patton (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE). Set in a remote township on the border of Maine and Canada, this creepy-crawly fable of survival and heartwarming friendship is as delightfully grotesque and suspenseful as it is compelling and unsettling. To be devoured without moderation. International Premiere.
In STELLAR: A MAGICAL RIDE, Young-bae (Song Ho-jun, BIG MATCH), an ace in the car loan industry, loses a luxury car loaded with drugs belonging to the local mafia, and must get it back with only his late father’s beat-up vehicle by his side. In this not so fast and even less furious road-trip comedy loaded with strangely exciting slow-moving car chases, co-writer/director Kwon Soo-kyung delivers a funny and touching film with hints of fantasy. Canadian Premiere.
Director and producer Jesse Thomas Cook delighted audiences with MONSTER BRAWL at Fantasia in 2011, where it was nominated for Best Canadian Feature. He’s now returned to bring Montreal another helping of over-the-top comedy with the World Premiere of CULT HERO. Audiences will meet a control freak Karen realtor who enlists the help of a failed “cult buster” to rescue her husband from the clutches of a dubious self-help leader. Cook catapults the story into the world of cults and washed-up private investigators. Starring Liv Collins (DEADSIGHT), Ry Barrett (THE DEMOLISHER, THE CHAMBER OF TERROR), and writer and actor Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL, EJECTA), get ready for zany antics, plenty of splatter, and tons of fun when CULT HERO hits your eyes! World Premiere.
Merging South Asian folklore, small-town Canada, and a strong female lead, THE PROTECTOR is a unique take on managing trauma. Toronto-based writer-director Lenin M. Sivam garnered acclaim for 1999, A GUN & A RING, and ROOHBA, and he’s bound to receive the same for this story. In THE PROTECTOR, a young woman with a violent and traumatic past becomes entwined with a mysterious book about a god who brings peace when summoned–and discovers that there may be a heavy price to pay. This magical realist masterwork grounds its fascinating legends and secrets with solid performances from Chelsea Clark (GINNY AND GEORGIA), Munro Chambers (TURBO KID), and Rebecca Jenkins (SUPERNATURAL). World Premiere.
Ry Levey spent four and a half years creating the compelling documentary OUT IN THE RING, about LGBTQ2SIA+ performers in professional wrestling. Along with historians and journalists, Levey interviews wrestlers past and present about their experiences, influences, and hardships navigating the boundaries of the ring amid homophobia, appropriation of queer culture, and the struggle to project truthful identities. Levey co-produced OUT IN THE RING with Darren Dean (THE FLORIDA PROJECT, TANGERINE) and Brad Webb, spanning the U.S., Canada and the U.K. to get these unique perspectives that will inspire old and new wrestling fans alike. Quebec Premiere.
In journalist-turned-director Tara Thorne’s feature debut COMPULSUS, a poet wants to do something about violence against women. Fed up with hearing about her friends reporting assaults by men in a small community, local poet Wally (Lesley Smith, THE CHILD REMAINS) takes matters into her own hands, beating up a known perpetrator who assaults his dates. She soon becomes a vigilante for women living in fear, but overcome with the thrill of giving men a taste of their own medicine, she risks losing control–and her newfound love Lou (Kathleen Dorian). The definition of compulsus–“striking together; hostile”–gives new meaning to #MeToo message in this compelling, conversation-sparking thriller filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Quebec Premiere.
Set amid the ongoing Lebanese revolution, Emmy-award winner Rita Baghdadi’s SIRENS shines a spotlight on the Middle East’s first all-female metal band: Slave to Sirens. It follows founders and lead guitarists Shery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi as they defy prejudice and social stigma, navigate their own complex relationship, and strive for sexual freedom. This intimate documentary, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance, plays out like a multi-layered work of fiction, with protagonists so charming and authentic they seem to have forgotten about the camera pointed at them. Quebec Premiere.
Nao Yoshigai, whose spectacular short films (including GRAND BOUQUET) were the subject of a retrospective at Fantasia in 2019, makes her feature debut with SHARI: a multifaceted portrait of Shari in northernmost Hokkaido. Like Yoshigai’s short film works, SHARI straddles the line between documentary, dance, and fantasy. Part exploration of myth, part wintry travelogue, SHARI offers great insight into one of Japan’s most secluded areas, its history and the uncertain future of Japan’s rural areas and cultures. Canadian Premiere.
Additional second-wave titles:
THE COW WHO SANG A SONG INTO THE FUTURE (Chile; Dir. Francisca Alegría): As fish die in a polluted river, a long-dead mother miraculously comes back to life in this haunting ecological fable doubling as an unsettling ghost story. Official Selection: Sundance 2022. Camera Lucida section. Canadian Premiere.
GOODBYE, DONGLEES! (Japan; Dir. Atsuko Ishizuka): What regrets would you have if the world ended tomorrow? That’s the question posed by the first original anime feature from the director of A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE, a poignant and breathtakingly beautiful work with hints of the fantastic. Canadian Premiere.
HEAVEN: TO THE LAND OF HAPPINESS (South Korea; Dir. Im Sang-soo): When Nam-sik, who steals medicine he can’t possibly afford, escapes a hospital with prisoner 203, who only has two weeks to live, they go on an unexpected journey. Park Hae-il (DECISION TO LEAVE) and Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY) deliver astounding performances in this funny and touching tale of redemption and friendship, masterfully directed by Im Sang-soo (THE HOUSEMAID). Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival 2020, Busan International Film Festival 2021 (Opening Film). Canadian Premiere.
HYPOCHONDRIAC (USA; Dir. Addison Heimann): A young artist’s mentally ill mother re-emerges after a 10-year absence, eroding the foundation of the world he’s created and exposing a dark past of violence he was desperate to keep hidden. Exorcising his own personal history with a bipolar mother, writer-director Heimann brings both authenticity and artistry to this vividly personal horror vision. Official Selection: SXSW 2022. Canadian Premiere.
ONE FOR THE ROAD (Thailand; Dir: Baz Poonpiriya): Longtime friends Boss and Aood reunite for a road trip through Thailand when the latter is diagnosed with cancer. BAD GENIUS director Poonpiriya returns with a stylish, boozy road movie produced by Wong Kar-Wai. Official Selection: Sundance 2021, Udine Far East 2022. Canadian Premiere.
THE PASS: LAST DAYS OF THE SAMURAI (Japan; Dir. Takashi Koizumi): Directed by a longtime AD of master Akira Kurosawa, this gripping, heartfelt reflection on what it means to be a samurai–both in principle and in practice–stars the charismatic Koji Yakusho (13 ASSASSINS, BABEL, SHALL WE DANCE?). Quebec Premiere.
PIGGY (Spain/France; Dir. Carlota Pereda): An incessantly bullied overweight teen finds herself at a gruesome moral crossroads in Carlota Pereda’s horrific and acclaimed feature debut. Official Selection: Sundance 2022. Quebec Premiere.
PRINCESSE DRAGON (France; Dir. Jean-Jacques Denis, Anthony Roux): A dragon’s daughter befriends a human princess, and must contend with a frog-witch’s curse, in this finely crafted, animated fairy tale for the contemporary family audience. PRINCESSE DRAGON is a medieval flight of fancy with some very modern perspectives and concerns. Canadian Premiere.
THE ROUNDUP (South Korea; Dir. Kang Yoon-sung): Detective Ma Seok-do is back to redecorate new locations with the body parts of his unlucky adversaries! A mission in Vietnam to extradite a wanted suspect turns into a roaring rampage of fights and one-liners when a cold-blooded killer gets in the way. Don Lee (TRAIN TO BUSAN) shines with his imposing presence and charisma in this action extravaganza which swept the Korean box office. Quebec Premiere.
SISSY (Australia; Dir. Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes): A former outcast turned popular influencer is forced to face her one-time bully at a bachelorette getaway in this grisly and hugely engaging dark comedy. Official Selection: SXSW 2022. Canadian Premiere.
WHETHER THE WEATHER IS FINE (Philippines; Dir. Carlo Francisco Manatad): Son, mother, and friend find a way forward in the rubble of Typhoon Haiyan in this award-winning magical realist disaster film. Official Selection: Locarno 2021, Toronto IFF 2021. Camera Lucida section. Québec Premiere.
Playing in the HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN screening series:
IDENTIKIT (Giuseppe Patroni Griffi; Italy, 1974): Based on Muriel Spark’s controversial 1970 novella THE DRIVER’S SEAT, Elizabeth Taylor stars as a hostile woman determined to make her mark, who travels to Rome for an appointment with death. Featuring a surprising cameo by Andy Warhol. World Premiere of new digital restoration.
I LIKE BATS (Grzegorz Warchol; Poland, 1986): Isabella is a female vampire who lives in small-town Poland. When she becomes obsessed with a handsome psychiatrist, she checks herself into his palatial country sanitarium under the auspices of seeking a cure for her condition, and romantic absurdity ensues. World Premiere of new digital restoration.
FOOTPRINTS (Luigi Bazzoni; Italy, 1975): In this bizarre giallo from the director of THE FIFTH CORD, Florinda Bolkan stars as Alice, a foreign translator living in Italy who emerges from a mysterious three-day blackout to find an unfamiliar blood-stained dress in her closet and a ripped-up postcard from a place called Garma. Drawn to the place in the postcard, she goes to investigate–and finds out some startling things about herself. World Premiere of new digital restoration.
IL DEMONIO (Brunello Rondi; Italy/France, 1963): In this stunning story of obsessive love set in a rural Southern Italian village, Daliah Lavi–best-known to genre fans for her role as the tortured protagonist in Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY–plays Purif, who is distraught when her lover (Frank Wolff) is betrothed to another. When she summons the old ways to curse him, her erratic behavior is interpreted as demonic possession, and the villagers turn against her with violence. Canadian theatrical premiere of new restoration.
IN MY SKIN (Marina de Van; France, 2002): The lanky and beautifully aloof Marina de Van stars in her directing debut as an upwardly mobile PR assistant who accidentally slashes her leg at a party and becomes increasingly fixated on the wound. After an initial period of bodily disorientation, she secretly falls in love with her own skin–and wants to see what lies beneath. 35mm print.
The full lineup of Fantasia 2022 titles will be revealed in late June, with ticket sales beginning shortly afterward. For more information, head over to the festival’s official website.