There’s a running joke in Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze (2017), a film about a man who builds a massive cardboard maze (bigger inside than out) and then gets trapped within it. As Dave’s friend Gordon (Adam Busch) repeatedly points out, the maze is full of traps, making it, in fact, a labyrinth. Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival offered a disparate collection of films – a comedy recounting a slacker’s epic quest in a DIY fortress; a trippy, coming-of-age, prom night parable; a genre-mixing, science fiction blockbuster; and a dreamy descent into a housewife’s trauma and a cult’s terrifying prophecy. Each offers its own twists and turns, finding new dangers as they progress through corrugated caverns, genre conventions, and layered realities. In fact, they’re all labyrinths in their own ways.
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival went globe-trotting to start Day 2. The “Drawn from Around the World” block of animated shorts offered some enthralling works. Many conveyed a sad or lamenting poignancy. Keiro (Tatiana Jusewycz, Benoît Leloup, Franck Menigoz, Zoé Nérot, and Charlotte Poncin, 2016) traced a girl’s journey to adulthood and its effect on the giant creature that accompanies her, Beyond the Books (Jérôme Battistelli, Mathilde Cartigny, Nicolas Evain, Maéna Paillet, Robin Pelissier, and Judith Wahler, 2017) envisioned the highly detailed collapse of an impossibly immense library, the Spanish short Dead Horses (Marc Riba and Anna Solanas, 2016) revealed the brutality of war from a child’s perspective and amid fabric devastation, and the Indian film Schirkoa (Asian Shukla, 2017) imagined political strife in a world where citizens wear bags and boxes on their heads. Others brought the funny, like Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s Hi, It’s Your Mother (2017), about motherhood, blood loss, and middle class living told in crude claymation, and Deuspi (Megacomputer, 2017), a very short work about a pair of astonishingly inept stick-up men and their hilarious fates.
Even before I arrived in Saskatoon, I felt like Fantastic Film Festival-action was meeting me like a herald of things to come. It had something to do with the man waiting at my flight’s gate conspicuously wearing a black eyepatch that threatened spy movie villainy. It also had something to do with the man behind me in security and his laptop that tested positive for “explosive residue.” Fortunately for me, action-thrillers weren’t slated until Day 2 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and my flight proceeded without complication, bringing me to Day 1 of SFFF and a block of films featuring some disturbed title characters.
While the bad news is that our next Arrow Video proposal will be delayed, the good news is that this delay will be due to MMC! attending the 2017 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival! This year’s edition boasts 17 features and 29 short films, including top prize winners at the Fantasia Film Festival, FrightFest, Fantastic Fest, TIFF, Macabro, Boston Underground, and Calgary Underground. Go to the SFFF’s website to see the full program.
Look out for daily reports at MMC! on each of the SFFF’s four days of screenings. Last year was excellent, with no less than seven films making my TOP 50 for 2016. What surprises does 2017 hold? Check back later this week to find out!
Once an Icelandic colony, Gimli sits at the edge of Lake Winnipeg, a beach community in the province of Manitoba that is home to a couple of thousand residents and that hosts an ever growing film festival for five days each July. The seventeenth and latest iteration of the Gimli Film Festival was its largest so far, including approximately 45 feature films and various shorts. Needless to say, no attendee can see the entire program. I was lucky enough to attend for three of the five days of programming, making it to 14 screenings and avoiding the dozen plus titles I had already seen.
The hallmarks of the GFF are its free sunset screenings on the beach with its massive 11 metre tall screen set up out in the water. This year featured Twister (Jan de Bont, 1996), Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen, 1984), and the Criterion title Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009). Classic car owners came out en masse for the screening of American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973), lining the beach with some beautifully chromed vehicles, however the most inspired selection was Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds (1963) with Gimli and its gulls allowing Bodega Bay to spread out beyond the screen’s limits.
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival closed with a massive final day that included five feature films, five shorts, and screenings of the films participating in the Festival’s 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge. SFFF closed the four day run with a trio of Asian films – the Mo Brothers’ Headshot (2015), Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan (2016), and Kôji Shiraishi’s Sadako vs. Kayako (2016) – that were collected to thrill audience members and get their communal adrenaline pumping. These efforts seemed to prove successful, but the best of Day 4 was found elsewhere and the final day offered some welcome surprises along the way.