The 2021 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is just around the corner and MMC! is happy to report that it will be covering this year’s FIFF once again! Fantasia’s full slate of films and special events are now lined up and its merch store is online and ready to take your money. MMC! will provide round-ups of the Festival like last year as well as find some worthy titles for potential spine-numbering, but ongoing coverage can be found at my Letterboxd list for the Fest. (I’ll try to set up a separate list for short films but there’s sooooo many short films being shown at Fantasia…)
In the meantime, let’s check out a few trailers from FIFF’s various programs that have piqued MMC!’s interest!
“The titan Takashi Miike takes us back to the magical world of the Yokai as a war threatens to destroy Tokyo. An irreverent fairytale!”
Fantasia’s “Cheval Noir” section is its flagship, juried competition and MMC! can’t help but be drawn to Takashi Miike’s The Great Yokai War – Guardians. The film returns Miike to the wacky world of his 2005 movie The Great Yokai War and features a pair of boys who discover they are the last descendants of a legendary fighter and the only hope to save some gentle demons and the city of Tokyo. And in an elegant bit of programming, Fantasia has slotted Miike’s latest to close the 2021 Festival, book-ending it against the director’s earlier film that opened the 2006 Festival.
“Submerge yourselves in the dark depths of Bustillo & Maury’s new-found footage horror film.”
Playing in Fantasia’s main selection is Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s The Deep House, about a pair “urbex” explorers who visit a haunted house submerged at the bottom of an artificial lake. ‘Nuf said. You had me at underwater haunted house.
“A mysterious letter leads a government dream auditor to the farmhouse of an elderly eccentric with years of VHS-recorded dreams.”
MMC! is a sucker for its Wes Anderson-inspired, Michel Gondry-esque quirksploitation and Strawberry Mansion looks like it perfectly fits that bill. Comedic, fantastic, and decidely surreal, Fantasia promises a film that balances its quirk with a sweetly heartfelt story and an unashamed love of fried chicken. Another promising title from FIFF’s main selection!
“Yan must save her husband’s soul in this remarkable debut, set in the rural Malaysia of the 1980s.”
Fantasia’s “Camera Lucida” section promises experimental and audacious movies from the margins of genre cinema. MMC! was a big fan of last year’s Climate of the Hunter by Mickey Reece and so MMC! is stoked to see his latest, Agnes, about a convent gripped by demonic possession. Still, it is Chong Keat Aun’s The Story of Southern Islet that has most captured MMC!’s interest for this section. Billed as an “uncannily autobiographical” take on folk horror through the slow cinema tradition of Tsai Ming-Liang or Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Story of Southern Islet sounds captivating and fascinating.
“A poignant, detailed portrait of the late Satoshi Kon, a transformative anime talent who toyed with truth and illusion.”
MMC! is always keen to see what Fantasia has programmed for its “Axis” section and there are plenty of intriguing animated films on the slate: Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo, Takahide Hori’s Junk Head, Jardel Sandrina and Joann Sfar’s Little Vampire, Phil Tippett’s Mad God, Takayuki Hirao’s Pompo: The Cinéphile, and virtually every other title programmed. Still, it is Pascal-Alex Vincent’s Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist that draws the most attention as Kon is bona fide legend and the “Axis” section’s Award for Achievement in Animation bears the animator’s name. Needless to say, MMC! is more than happy to spend 81 minutes listening to praise get heaped on Kon and his work.
“If Ridley Scott and Christopher Guest had the most joyful documentary baby…Get on board the Nostromo-bus, next stop Alien City.”
Fantasia’s “Documentaries From the Edge” section boasts Keir-La Janisse’s epic Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror and Celeste Bell and Paul Sng’s rock-doc Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché. Punching at MMC!’s nerd-card and tugging at its underdog heartstrings is Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer’s Alien On Stage, a wonderful looking charmer about a collection of Dorset bus drivers and their DIY efforts to bring Ridley Scott’s Alien to the stage. It’s real life “Swede-ing” à la Be Kind Rewind and MMC! is on board.
“Two monsters must survive a medieval curse in the goriest puppet movie ever, bloodthirsty, bone-crunching and strangely heartwarming.”
The lo-fi time travel of Junta Yamaguchi’s Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes has MMC! jonesing for Fantasia’s outsider cinema section, “Underground.” Even more enticing is Evan Baily and Jane McGregor’s puppeteered bloodbath, Frank & Zed. Having missed the film at last year’s Nightstream Virtual Film Festival and Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, Frank & Zed can’t drag their felt-covered feet to MMC! fast enough!
“The extraordinary is never out of the ordinary in the sequel to Funky Forest. A fantastic, feel-good freak show of the finest sort.”
MMC! has been waiting even longer to see Shunichiro Miki’s 2011 film The Warped Forest, the bizarre sequel to 2005’s equally bizarre Funky Forest: The First Contact. If Japanese weirdness isn’t your bag, then the “Fantasia Retro” program has some other great options including past MMC! favourites Mill of the Stone Women and The Unknown Man of Shandigor. (Looks like MMC! will be getting that Arrow Video edition!)
“In this mockumentary, a masked Mexican wrestler is recruited by the American secret service to flush out the spies of the Third Reich.”
Finally, Fantasia’s “Fantastiques weekends du cinéma québécois” showcases the talent of Quebec’s filmmakers and apparently at least one knows of MMC!’s abiding love of luchador films. Alain Vézina’s Opération Luchador promises a delirious mockumentary, inventive photographic tricks, and a joyous riff on B-movie genres. Don’t we all like watching Nazis take vicious beating?
The 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival kicks off on August 5th for viewers in Canada! See you there (virtually)!