IF…. An Ithaca Fantastik Preview

Ithaca Fantastik kicks off tonight! This seventh edition of IF runs for ten days and offers a superb collection of films that it describes as dwelling “in that unsettling terrain between the uncanny and the marvelous” and represents “the most exciting and intriguing, mind-bending, beautiful, and flat-out weird films.” MMC! is pleased to be covering the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik, so let’s take a quick look at some tantalizing trailers!

Opening night kicks off with Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage (2018). Set in 1970s Columbia and concerning an indigenous family’s role in the booming marijuana trade, this crime drama blends cultural specificity, poetic surrealism, and all-too human greed. Guerra and Gallego’s follow-up to 2015’s spell-binding Embrace of the Serpent looks like a must-see take on the drug trade.

IF’s Cinema Pur section collects some exciting titles: Tilman Singer’s demonic début, Luz (2018), and A. T. White’s tale of grief, mixtapes, and the apocalypse, Starfish (2018); Joel Potrykus’s gross-out Pac-Man marathon, Relaxer (2018), and Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s surrealist story of a floundering soccer player, Diamantino (2018). I’m particularly interested in Quentin Dupieux’s bizarro police investigation, Keep an Eye Out! (2018), but the trailer for Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life (2018), a film about the making of a schlocky horror movie which questions the line between inclusion and exploitation, is captivating, particularly for the reappearance of Under the Skin‘s Adam Pearson.

IF’s Midnighters and Down Under programs offer some truly unusual picks: redneck killers and girl’s volleyball teams in Girls With Balls (Olivier Afonso, 2018), a single-take zombie flick in One Cut of the Dead (Shinichirou Ueda, 2017), suicidal cults in Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh (Vivieno Caldinelli, 2018), blackly comic murder plots in Brothers’ Nest (Clayton Jacobson, 2018), absurd Kiwi time-travel in Mega Time Squad (Tim van Dammen, 2018). Still, few things look as truly insane as Ujicha’s Violence Voyager (2018), the filmmaker’s latest effort in “gekimation.”

Frank Henenlotter’s documentary Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana (2018) rests at the opposite end of IF’s schedule from Violence Voyager but its interest in Diana’s disturbing comics (and its associated legal controversy) seems like the perfect companion film to Uchija’s leaking paper cut-outs. As someone who has previously supported the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund and as a fan of Neil Gaiman, this looks like required viewing.

IF’s Retrospective program features killer kids while its Throwback Thrillers celebrates over the top action. MMC! is pleased to see the forthcoming Arrow Video release Bloody Birthday (Ed Hunt, 1981) on the schedule and bringing some much needed attention to danger of eclipse-born children who are unable to feel and prone to murder. Finally!

Adult animation studio Bobbypills takes the spotlight at the 2018 IF, offering a trio of nudity-filled, excessively violent, and gender-bending works. The psychosexual, apocalyptic hellscape of Crisis Jung (2018) looks like a Métal hurlant dream come true and I’m ready for its inappropriate glory. And those looking for more bite-sized weirdness should adore the nearly 50 short films also scheduled to appear at IF.

IF’s International Competition is stacked with a double-shot of Vanessa Paradis in Dog (Samuel Benchetrit, 2017) and Knife + Heart (Yann Gonzales, 2018), the Michael Haneke-Yorgos Lanthimos-esque misery fest Love Me Not (Alexandros Avranas, 2018), and MMC! favourite Nicolas Pesce’s latest, Piercing (2018). Christopher Caldwell’s blue collar, sci-fi western, Prospect (2018), looks extremely promising with legitimate frontier tension, beautifully low-key VFX, and some a wonderfully lived-in production design.

MMC! will cover the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik with some round-up reports and hopefully some imagined editions of IF’s favourite films. Those looking for more immediate reactions should keep an eye on my Letterboxd list for some hot-takes on the program.

Let’s do this thing, Finger Lakes-style!

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