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 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 its 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.
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has upgraded the apparatus with its 2018 edition. That means fewer midnight screenings in favour of an extra day of programming, a 3-hour cartoon and cereal party, a snazzy new booklet, new voting ballots, some clever bumpers running before the screenings, sponsorships and promotions from Vinegar Syndrome and Shudder, and even an after party with cast and crew of Supergrid. And with turnout for Day 1 looking robust, Festival Director John Allison and his team must be feeling positive about the prospects for this year. There’s always a desire to find a theme to a given day’s program but finding a common thread between Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2018), Rock Steady Row (Trevor Stevens, 2018), Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983), and their supporting short films is something of a challenge. At best, it might be said that most of these films attend to breakdowns in community and some very unlikely ways to reassemble them.
The Criterion Collection’s announcements for January 2019 look great, but it’s the contrast between the trailers of two forthcoming films that I find particularly intriguing this month. On the one hand, we have the simple, elegant, unadorned trailer for Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames (2017). Painterly and quietly compositional in its attention, the trailer ably expresses Kiarostami’s focus on “movement, perception, and time.” More non-narrative films go Criterion please!
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has announced the balance of its 2018 feature film titles and this second wave includes an award-winning, true crime documentary; a singing and dancing Scottish BAFTA nominee set amid living dead; an “in competition,” neo-giallo title from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival; and an animated psychosexual odyssey. SFFF programming director Steven Landry notes:
Not only are we screening the absolute best of this year’s festival circuit darlings such as TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID and SATAN’S SLAVES, but we’ve dug deeper to highlight some of this year’s best new young talent, such as Mitzi Peirone’s BRAID, Elle Callahan’s HEAD COUNT, and Tílman Zinger’s LUZ. As well we’re thrilled to screen two fantastic queer and sex-work positive films, the 70’s giallo throwback KNIFE + HEART and the techno-terror film CAM!
MMC! has updated its Letterboxd list and there’s more to come when the SFFF announces its short films and its full program on November 1.
Here are the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival second and final wave of feature film announcements:
This just in – the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has gotten bigger and bolder in 2018! This 9th edition of the festival will run November 14 to 18 and includes an extra day of programming, a Kier-La Janisse curated “Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cereal Cartoon Party” (a past MMC! favourite), and a body horror retrospective featuring Criterion and Arrow Video title Videodrome, Arrow video classic Society, and past MMC! subject Body Melt. Festival founder and director John Allison remarks:
Adding in the extra day has allowed us to up our game with the festival. Our focus continues to be bringing in the best new genre films to Saskatoon but with the extra time available we are screening more movies than ever, adding in the Saturday morning all you can eat cereal cartoon party, and the first of hopefully many retrospectives, with this year’s subject being Body Horror.
The first wave of announced titles include a pair of MMC! favourites from the Chattanooga Film Festival – Trevor Stevens’ Rock Steady Row and Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid – and a number of exciting movies as yet unseen by MMC!, including Joko Anwar’s terrifying Satan’s Slaves, Gaspar Noé’s delirious Climax, Tilman Singer’s diabolical Luz, and Zeek Earl and Christopher Caldwell’s tenacious Prospect.
MMC! plans on being in attendance so check back for further announcements and reports or visit our Letterboxd list for some hot takes from the SFFF itself.
Here are the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s first wave of announcements:
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).