I love when Fantasia gets weird. Featuring its fair share of bigger budget horrors, Asian epics and the occasional mainstream genre pic – it’s the little ones from far off places and no-name filmmakers that excite me the most. This year’s a goldmine for my particular tastes, and it’s been years since I’ve been so excited by their lineup. Most of the films I’m most eager to see are from filmmakers I’ve never heard of, or from countries I’ve nary seen a single film. Living up to its reputation as the world’s largest film festival, Fantasia has allowed it’s breadth to shed focus on new talents and new cinematic languages. This year’s lineup is better than ever, but I managed to choose five films I’m most excited to see. What would be on your list?
Anguish (Sonny Mallhi)
If the synopsis doesn’t sell you on Anguish – the trailer certainly will. I don’t necessarily love films that explore mental health issues through the use of horror but this one seems to transcend most of my common complaints. The trailer itself is shocking and jarring, relying on a surprising lack of jump scares. The film is the directorial debut Sonny Malhi, who produced The Strangers and At Devil’s Door. Anguish is about a sixteen-year-old girl who has been plagued with psychological issues since her early childhood, but has never had a clear diagnosis. Doctors describe her problems as being rooted in identity, and her experiences seem connected to an unexplained relationship to the dead. The energy from the trailer feels fresh and hopefully it lives up to that promise rather than falling back on old stereotypes.
Crumbs (Miguel Llansos)
Crumbs first came to my attention when I noticed it on the Rotterdam program. It featured an image of a woman standing by a windmill adorned with plastic bottles, and a mirage of a floating city in the background. In a distant future, almost all of human history has been erased, in its place a new religion has taken shape. Candy (Daniel Tadesse), tired of his daily routine of salvaging objects from bygone civilizations, undertakes a quest to conquer his fears and find the source of the mysterious UFO floating on the horizon. This year’s edition of Fantasia is focusing on the much-neglected world of African cinema, and while I’m excited to see all the films being featured, this one seems particularly compelling.
Marshland (Alberto Rodriguez)
Marshland has found rare renown for a genre film and is considered among the most awarded film in Spanish history. Set in 1980, two ideologically opposed police officers are sent to a small forgotten town in the marshlands to investigate the murders of two teenage girls. The film’s setting lies in the shadow of Franco’s dictatorship, and the slow painful recovery the country continues to experience in that aftermath. Spain has always been on the forefront of great genre cinema, and this seems to continue the same legacy, tying politics to difficult, challenging and even fantastic stories.
Nina Forever (Chris and Ben Blaine)
There are already whispers about the darkly comic and utterly devastating Nina Forever being the “film of the fest”. It received some strong buzz at SXSW for its blend of comedy, despair and sex – it is a film about getting over your ex. This is startling feature debut has all the markings of a classic gothic love story – about love that just won’t fade, and the dead who won’t stay buried. Holly develops a crush on her co-worker Rob, who has more than a little baggage… Rob’s girlfriend died in a horrifying car crash, unable to cope he tries to kill himself. Holly doesn’t let this deter her, and soon her and Rob are shacking up… but they’re not alone, as his exes bloodied corpse appears every time they have sex.
She Who Must Burn (Larry Kent)
With a career spanning five decades, Larry Kent has never shied away from controversy. Kent has always pushed boundaries, several of his films have been banned, but his worldview has been uncompromised. Over fifty years after his debut, She Who Must Burn continues that legacy by addressing the issue of choice in regards to female authority over their own body when it comes to abortion. The film is confrontational, offering moral questions in biblical proportions. Angela runs a Planned Parenthood clinic out of her home making her the target of anti-abortion protesters. Believing themselves to be on a mission from God, her opponents quickly abandon peaceful resistance.