The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has reached its landmark tenth iteration this year and Festival Director John Allison and his team have ensured that this is the Fest’s biggest and brightest year yet by expanding it to six days, hosting a Drunken Cinema screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street, hosting another Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cereal Cartoon Party, and bringing in as special guests director Joe Dante and actress Belinda Balaski for a three film retrospective. The SFFF kicked off with something of a soft-open with another new addition – a five film virtual reality experience held preceding the theatrical film program each weekday. Attendance was sparse on Day 1 so let this be a warning to those content to let the VR program pass them by – miss the SFFF’s Virtual Reality Experience section and you will certainly be missing out on some of the Fest’s most intriguing aspects.
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s second day was unusually specific in its program, devoting itself to short films that explored “innocence being encroached upon by outside forces” and a pair of horror-thriller features set around the sex industry. It was an impressive night of screenings, but also one that certainly made demands of its audience.
The “Paradise Lost” block of shorts was long on atmosphere and scares but slim on explication. Most films chose to grab their shocks and get out rather than flesh out their worlds. Faye Jackson’s The Old Woman Who Hid Her Fear Under the Stairs (2018) recalled Bobby Miller’s The Master Cleanse (part of SFFF’s program from 2016 and now titled simply The Cleanse). The short considers the situation of its title character who extracts her sense of anxiety out of herself, hides it in a tin, and faces down some dark, ominous threat that stalks her outside her home. Jackson’s film is wonderfully constructed, full of humour and dreadful tension, and its quality therefore demands more of itself, needing to unpack its conflict and its resolution before letting its credits roll. And the same could be said of other shorts in the block. Milk (Santiago Menghini, 2018) is a chilling tale of a boy trapped between two unsettling maternal figures and choses aesthetics over explanation. Wild (Morgana McKenzie, 2018) is a pastoral fantasy about a girl’s encounter with a magical, deadly, and ultimately unresolved female figure in her uncle’s cornfield. Saturn Through the Telescope (Dídac Gimeno, 2018) follows a boy’s efforts to watch a scary movie at home and is a slickly made and energetic short, while Make a Stand (Camille Aigloz, Lucy Vallin, Michiru Baudet, Simon Anding Malandin, Diane Tran Duc, and Margo Roguelaure, 2017) is a gorgeously animated film set in pre-Columbian Mexico and that seems to tease a supernatural spectacle that never arrives. Uncertainty is a great tool of the macabre, but it’s best used as a lacuna where meaningful questions spring forth. These shorts are uniformly affective and expertly fashioned, sure to be enjoyed by viewers. My only wish is that these films more fully met their narrative challenges as well as the aesthetic ones.
Sure, MMC! made the Buried Alive Film Festival’s first day of full programming sound great, but BAFF really comes into its own on Friday, November 16th. There, BAFF offers three feature-length movies, one live score, one supporting short, and a full program of 10 short films entitled “Bury Me With My Favorite Films.” There’s plenty to see and enjoy at the 7 Stages Theatre this Friday. Those on the fence about attending or those looking for a preview of what to watch thankfully have MMC! to point the way.
Here, dear reader, are MMC!‘s five favourite reasons to BAFF this Friday!
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.
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.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Bloody Sunday.
With breathtaking verisimilitude and startling immediacy, Bloody Sunday re-creates Northern Ireland’s most controversial contemporary tragedy. Director Paul Greengrass presents the events of January 30, 1972, in convincing verité fashion, based on Don Mullan’s influential account Eyewitness Bloody Sunday. Civil rights leader and Member of Parliament Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt) leads a tense march through Derry’s Catholic “bogside” community protesting the British practice of internment without trial. He watches in horror when his peaceful march splinters and unarmed protesters are gunned down by British paramilitary soldiers. Told from the perspectives of both the civil rights movement and the military authorities, Bloody Sunday commemorates the 30th anniversary of the massacre at Derry and offers a cathartic statement on its long contested history.
- New, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director Paul Greengrass, with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary featuring writer/director Paul Greengrass and actor James Nesbitt
- Audio commentary featuring co-producer Don Mullan, author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday
- History Retold, interviews with cast and crew
- Ivan Cooper Remembers, interview with Ivan Cooper and James Nesbitt on location in Derry, Northern Ireland
- Q&A session at London’s Curzon Cinema, with Paul Greengrass and James Nesbitt
- New interviews with Irish rock band U2 and producer Steve Lillywhite on Bloody Sunday, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
- Inside Story Special: Remember Bloody Sunday, a 1992 BBC 50-minute documentary special on Bloody Sunday
- Blood Sunday – A Derry Diary, Margo Harkin’s 85-minute documentary following the course of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry from the perspective of the victims’ families
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by actor James Nesbitt and film scholar Duncan Greenlaw