By MICHAEL GINGOLD
A new slew of genre movies big and small have been announced for the Montreal event.
The 25th edition of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival will be a virtual event taking place August 5-25, available to audiences across Canada on a screening platform created by Festival Scope and Shift72. In addition, part of the latest lineup of films is a special in-person showing of James Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD (pictured above) on August 4 at Montreal’s historic Imperial Theater (where the festival began), open to the public. Other movies added to the Fantasia slate are:
- Makoto Kashiba, a dramatically introverted Tokyo elite bank clerk gets transferred to the middle of nowhere after impulsively insulting his boss in Yukinori Makabe’s (I AM MONK) heartwarming and colorful J-pop musical manga adaption LOVE, LIFE AND GOLDFISH. The film follows as Makoto must learn to express himself in other ways to prevent future outbursts, and becomes a beautiful reminder of the importance of freeing ourselves from self-imposed barriers. This feature will surely leave an uncontrollable smile on your face. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
- In MARTYRS LANE, a 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 realisze 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.
- Adapted from the picture book by popular Japanese comedian Akihiro Nishino, POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN, the official closing film at IFFR this year, is a heartfelt rollercoaster ride through a nonstop cavalcade of eye-popping animated visual delights. Nishino’s tale–the celestial quest of a boy and his friend, a man made of garbage–is brought to life by veteran CG animator Yusuke Hirota and the cutting-edge talent at STUDIO4oC (TEKKON KINKREET, MIND GAME, CHILDREN OF THE SEA). NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Following the wondrous, well-received CHILDREN OF THE SEA (2019), director Ayumu Watanabe returns with a quirky, candid, colourful anime comedy-drama. Based on a book by author Kanako Nishi, an astute observer of the human condition, FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO demonstrates with precision and panache how the most ordinary people and places can be quite extraordinary! NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Spiraling paranoia and gut-wrenching dread tear through #BLUE_WHALE, the feature debut from Russian writer/director Anna Zaytseva, whose shorts have won no less than 16 awards on the festival circuit. A provincial town is shaken by a wave of mysterious teen suicides. Researching the death of her younger sister, schoolgirl Dana (Anna Potebnya) comes across a sickening social media game that encourages youths to take horrific self-harm challenges. Aiming to hunt down those responsible for her sister’s death, she registers for the game, opening a doorway into the cruelest of hidden online worlds. Co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov and shot in the Screenlife storytelling format that he pioneered, #BLUE_WHALE taps into something insightfully disturbing about the ways that teens can find themselves manipulated online. Fantasia’s launch of the film continues the festival’s history by showcasing Screenlife works, having world-premiered the format’s inaugural bow, UNFRIENDED (under its early title CYBERNATURAL). The festival has also hosted the International Premiere of UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, the North American bow of PROFILE, and the Canadian Premiere of SEARCHING. WORLD PREMIERE.
- 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.
- Barefoot (Marika Ito) is a consummate cinephile who dreams of making her own movies. When her high school club proves uninterested in samurai films, she pushes through the saccharine consensus, sword in hand, for a shoot far stranger than she bargained for. Soushi Matsumoto’s joyful debut IT’S A SUMMER FILM is, as the name suggests, the film of the summer–a pitcher-sized blend of high-spirited, high-school idealism with a sprinkling of genre delights: from the luminous tropes of the high school coming-of-age, to the nostalgic throwback of chambara, to the more unexpected detours into the realm of science-fiction. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) needs an orgasm. When was the last time she had one? She doesn’t know if she’s ever had one. So begins Marcela Matta and Mauro Sarser’s sophomore feature, following 2016’s LOS MODERNOS, GHOSTING GLORIA, a charming and surprising genre-bender that switches between horror, fantasy, and offbeat comedy–all wrapped up in a whimsical and subversive romance. Gloria’s orgasm issue is easily solved when she finds the right man. There is just one issue: he’s a ghost. What brings real spark is the film’s sex-positive spin on the theme of finding Mr. Right, its boisterous moments of mind-blowing (sometimes wholly inappropriate) erotic comedy, and Gloria’s rich, wider world. If you ever wanted to know what something like TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! would look like if it was crossed with THE ENTITY, here is the place to find out. WORLD PREMIERE.
- 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.
- 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.
- A keen absurdist sense of humor meets a wonderfully inventive production design in HOTEL POSEIDON, a Belgian feature debut from future cult favorite Stefan Lernous. The film unfolds in a giant rotting hotel as a series of tableaux and vignettes, its unique production design bolstered by an incredible soundscape and otherworldly camera movements. Deliciously nauseating and singular in tone and artistry, HOTEL POSEIDON stands among titans as a debut that seemingly emerged straight from the gooey mercurial swamplands where life on earth first appeared. With hints of David Lynch (especially his work as a painter) and flourishes reminiscent of the Brothers Quay, this is the kind of remarkable and iconoclastic vision that only arrives once in a blue moon. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
- Adapted from Kanako Nishi’s novel of the same name, SAKURA is a charming family chronicle with a nostalgic flavor, where the current narrative is regularly punctuated by flashbacks illustrating the childhood and adolescence of its characters. Directed with great tenderness and sensitivity by Hitoshi Yazaki (SWEET LITTLE LIES), it includes touches of humor, powerful melodramatic moments, and an adorable dog who keeps this dysfunctional family unit together. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Congratulations! You have been chosen from hundreds of millions of candidates to be the very first spectators to witness the debut feature from Canadian filmmaker Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, following his acclaimed shorts APE SODOM (2016) and MIDNIGHT CONFESSION (2017). In STANLEYVILLE, disillusioned office drone Maria Barbizan (Susanne Wuest, GOODNIGHT MOMMY) decides one day to do what we all dream of; she throws her purse and life away and joins an enigmatic contest to win a…car. A “competition to probe the very essence of mind-body articulation” led by a curious host (Julian Richings, CUBE) in a mesmerizing puzzle à la Satre’s NO EXIT that will keep you guessing until the very end. WORLD PREMIERE.
- It has the body of a pig, the trunk of an elephant, the ears of a horse, and the feet of a rhinoceros, and at night it passes through sleeping villages and gobbles up people’s nightmares. When his family’s fishing boat is towed back into the village harbor without his father on it, eight-year-old Ah Keat seeks out the benevolent beast for help. Kethsvin Chee’s luminous, kind-hearted fantasy drama HELLO! TAPIR examines the realities of loss and grief through a lens tinted with magic and wonder. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- After 15 years away, Song has returned home. Once the best student with his whole life radiantly ahead of him, he’s forced to leave town after accidentally killing a man in a fit of rage. Time passes, until his best friend, now a successful yet shady real-estate developer, becomes determined to upset the status quo. In BACK TO THE WHARF, festival favorite Li Xiaofeng (ASH) elevates the film noir with a superior script, tragic characters, and a sharp reflection on how China’s modernization can transform a family. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
New in the Camera Lucida section:
- In THE SLUG, Chun-hee (Kang Jin-ah, MICROHABITAT) has yet to come out of her shell. Struck by lightning, she begins manifesting her younger self (Park Hye-jin)–who awaits explanations for this sad state of affairs. Who do we become? Director Choi Jin-young spins a delightful fantasy yarn from this perennial question in a perceptive, structurally inventive character study that achieves– much like the lightning bolt at the heart of its plot–miracles within a simple framework. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- 1987, in Alor Setar, at the foot of Mount Keriang in the Malaysian state of Kedah. Cheong, a devout believer in folk god Datuk, falls suddenly, violently ill. His wife Yan embarks on a journey to save his soul. Based on the director’s lived childhood experience, Chong Keat Aun’s uncanny, autobiographical THE STORY OF SOUTHERN ISLET is a masterful, haunting debut, taking the viewer to the limits of the rational world. Winner of the Best New Director Award at the 57th Golden Horse Awards. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Not settling for public housing, Ah Been signs up to be a “Happiness Agent” at the TIONG BAHRU SOCIAL CLUB: an upstart, upscale housing estate running on a patented algorithm. “The happiest neighborhood in Singapore!” says the copy. A candy-colored satire of our increasingly Instagram-friendly, hyper-competitive social environments. A box-office success story in its local Singapore and a festival darling abroad, Tan Bee Thiam’s debut cuts through the grind, succeeding at being as fun as it is resonant. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- “Casey here. Today I’m going to take the World’s Fair Challenge.” A lonely teen (Anna Cobb) stares at her computer screen, partaking in a viral game that soon takes hold of her increasingly dissociating mind. A disquieting take on the coming-of-age film, Jane Schoenbrun’s breakout Sundance hit WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR harnesses the potent aesthetics of found-footage horror and YouTube culture to craft a quietly devastating look at loneliness and despondency in the Internet age. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
New in the Documentaries from the Edge section:
- Winner of the Midnighter Audience Award at SXSW, Kier-La Janisse’s WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR navigates through over 200 films and 50 interviewees, including Robert Eggers (THE WITCH), Alice Lowe (PREVENGE), and Piers Haggard (BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW). Starting with British cult classics of the ’70s, then traveling to all continents and beyond, and landing in our era alongside the films of Ari Aster and others. A groundbreaking, extensively researched work made over a span of many years; truly, no stone is left unturned in this definitive documentary on the expansive genre of folk horror. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- “How do we make sense of things when we collapse the infinite fidelity of information down into pithy sentences laid over ominous imagery?” asks filmmaker Hayley Garrigus, who, over the course of three years, from LA to the Nevada desert, took a deep dive into the many layers of our precarious belief system. In her debut “anti-documentary” Garrigus pushes the envelope, both stylistically and narratively, as she meets a multitude of enigmatic characters–pied pipers of the web, alt-right trolls, and “lightworkers”–who all believe themselves the new prophets of our time. YOU CAN’T KILL MEME is a pertinent depiction of humanity as we are forming new unstable myths. WORLD PREMIERE.
New in the Axis animation section:
- A love letter to the art and industry of filmmaking, Takayuki Hirao’s funny, fast-paced, and entirely sympathetic anime adaptation of the much-loved manga POMPO: THE CINÉPHILE is a convincing crash course on how movies get made, and what makes them work. It’s also an outstanding work of animation, using clever transitions and other tricks and techniques to make the most of the storytelling process. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- Beginning with PERFECT BLUE and MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, which Fantasia world-premiered in 1997 and 2001, respectively, the late director Satoshi Kon’s brief but monumental filmography proved a dramatic paradigm shift for Japanese anime, and indeed for world cinema. French documentarian Pascal-Alex Vincent unveils SATOSHI KON, THE ILLUSIONIST, a poignant, detailed portrait of this unique and transformative talent, after whom Fantasia named its prestigious animation award. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- A painstaking labor of love from animator Morgan Galen King and filmmaker/comic scribe Philip Gelatt (featuring the voices of Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, and Patton Oswalt), the rotoscoped epic THE SPINE OF NIGHT is no less than a new, essential, fully realized work in the canon of animated sword-and-sorcery adventure for adults, full of warriors, wizardry, elder gods and esoteric wisdom. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- Graphic novelist Dash Shaw’s debut animated feature, MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA (2016), bore the hallmarks of a flourishing auteur. With CRYPTOZOO, Shaw paints a world in which cryptozookeepers strive to rescue creatures of legend and build a sanctuary for them. A melting pot of myths accompanied by strong social commentary. QUEBEC PREMIERE.
- 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.
Additional second wave titles:
- THE BETA TEST (USA–Dirs. Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe): In Jim Cummings’ acclaimed third feature, following THUNDER ROAD and THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW, a married Hollywood agent (Cummings) receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and weaponized digital data. THE BETA TEST is a witty and subversive black comedy/thriller that drips with venom and style. Co-starring Virginia Newcomb, PJ McCabe, and Kevin Changaris. Official Selection: Berlinale 2021, Tribeca 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION (USA–Dir. Jacob Gentry): In the late ’90s, a video archivist (Harry Shum Jr) unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them. A freakish new nightmare from the director of SYNCHRONICITY, BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION uses real-life broadcast hacks as the jumping-off point for an engrossing technological thriller. Co-starring Kelley Mack and Chris Sullivan. Official Selection: SXSW 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- COLLECTORS (South Korea–Dir. Park Jung-bae): A tomb raider assembles a ragtag team to steal an unobtainable artifact. Part Korean historical adventure, part gripping crime thriller, and part character-driven comedy; Park Jung-bae’s impressive feature debut COLLECTORS is the perfect fusion of OCEAN’S ELEVEN and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, featuring an all-star cast led by the talented Lee Je-hoon (BLEAK NIGHT). CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- DREAMS ON FIRE (Canada-Japan–Dir. Philippe McKie): DREAMS ON FIRE tells the story of Yume, a young Japanese woman making her way into the world of dance in Tokyo. Featuring colorful visuals and spectacular dance scenes, the film depicts an environment with no place for the weak. Exploring different Japanese dance styles, the debut feature from Philippe McKie, a Quebec filmmaker who’s been living in Japan for 10 years, stars popular dancer Bambi Naka in her first leading role. Official Selection: Glasgow Film Festival 2021. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
- GEORAMA BOY PANORAMA GIRL (Japan–Dir. Natsuki Seta): Ah, teenage romance! It’s full of embarrassing misunderstandings and cruel twists and turns that make you feel like your life is over. Director and screenwriter Natsuki Seta (A LIAR AND A BROKEN GIRL) exposes this delicate period of our life with this beautiful, sensitive, and touching coming-of-age story adapted from Kyoko Okazaki’s manga. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- HOLD ME BACK (Japan–Dir. Akiko Ohku): Mitsuko (Non) thrives on being alone–until her heart gets in the way. The latest from romcom master Akiko Ohku (TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT) that shatters the conventions of the genre and culminates in a psychologically driven portrait of a woman on the verge of a personal breakthrough (or breakdown?). Winner of the Audience Award, Tokyo International Film Festival 2020. QUÉBEC PREMIERE.
- MOTHER SCHMUCKERS (Belgium–Dirs. Lenny and Harpo Guit): MOTHER SCHMUCKERS follows 24 hours in the absurd and adventurous lives of Belgian misfits Issachar and Zabulon, their father (Mathieu Amalric), and a parade of characters, each more dim-witted than the last. The debut feature from the Guit brothers is a crazy, trashy, and wacky comedy, reminiscent of comedic masters Tim & Eric by way of Gaston Lagaffe comics and STEP BROTHERS, and full of deliriously over-the-top poop jokes, self-produced cinematic inventiveness, and the largest dose of camp you’ll see this year. Official Selection: Sundance 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- ORA, ORA, BE GOIN’ ALONE (Japan–Dir. Shuichi Okita): Momoko (Yuko Tanaka), a 75-year-old widow living alone in the suburbs of Tokyo, reflects on her younger self (Yu Aoi) and the “voices of her heart” come alive as a comedic trio that transports her through the past and present. Official Selection: Busan International Film Festival 2020, Tokyo International Film Festival 2020. QUÉBEC PREMIERE.
- PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK (UK–Dir. Nick Gillespie): Bodies begin to stack in the aftermath of a talent competition gone bad as big-hearted, well-meaning loser Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) becomes simultaneously Internet-famous and hunted by the police. The hilarious sophomore feature from regular Ben Wheatley collaborator Nick Gillespie (TANK 432) co-stars Alice Lowe, Johnny Vegas, and Kris Marshall. Official Selection: SXSW 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND (USA–Dir. Sion Sono): 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 U.S. 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.
- SEXUAL DRIVE (Japan–Dir. Kota Yoshida): Fermented soybeans, mapo tofu, fatty pork ramen. A sex film without sex; three unexpected stories of food and libido, from new school pinku director Kota Yoshida. Official Selection: International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- STRAWBERRY MANSION (USA–Dirs. Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley): In a future where the government records dreams and taxes them, a dream auditor (co-director Kentucker Audley) gets caught up in an aging eccentric’s subconscious. Richly cinematic, playfully inventive, and very, very funny, this unconventional fantasy-romance will have you smiling through the rest of the year. From the makers of SYLVIO. Official Selection: Sundance 2021, Seattle Film Festival 2021. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
- TIME (Hong Kong–Dir. Ricky Ko): 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.
The third and final wave will be announced in late July, with ticket sales for all films and events beginning shortly thereafter. For more information on Fantasia, visit its official website.