Demystifying Genre Films at Fantasia

From Local Indie Documentaries to International Hits, the Festival Is Presenting the Best of Genre Films Each Year

Fantasia is North America’s biggest genre film festival. Courtesy Fantasia

The Fantasia International film festival kicked off July 11 for its twenty-third edition at the SGWU Alumni Auditorium of Concordia University.

Often mistaken for a festival solely focused on fantasy or animation, or even Asian cinema, as it mostly was when it began, the event has opened up to new voices and aesthetics in the last decade.

From horror to comedy to arthouse action films, its lineup consists of a diverse selection, divided between 10 very different programs.

Proud of its reputation as North America’s biggest genre film festival, the organization is yet again attracting actors, directors, and cinephiles from across the globe to celebrate the infinite possibilities of film.

The festival is hoping to welcome over 100 000 visitors and hundreds of industry professionals this summer. Also featuring special events such as concerts, conferences, and virtual reality art exhibitions, it is Concordia’s most popular third-party event.

“At a time when more auteurist festivals such as Cannes will only have one genre film program, our entire festival is dedicated to the forgotten or sometimes snubbed genres and movies,” said Concordia film studies alumni Ariel Esteban Cayer in French.

Cayer is also the programming director of the Camera Lucida program at Fantasia. One of the 10 main programs of the festival, Camera Lucida focuses on experimental films with a genre twist.

“This year, we tried to combine movies that we knew our loyal audience would enjoy, with surprises from new emerging directors,” said Esteban Cayer.

“Many Québécois film directors are almost dependent on our festival because the gore horror films or the very niche comedies don’t get government subsidies.” —Rémi Fréchette

Jessica Forever, from Camera Lucida, by up and coming French directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, would be one of those fresh films to follow. Depicting the struggles of a small army fighting against the forces of evil in a surrealist dystopian suburb, the film will have its Quebec premiere at Fantasia on July 26.

The special selection will also be presenting more well-established names. Sho Miyake’s And Your Bird Can Sing “resembles the type of Asian movies [we] usually promote at Fantasia,” according to Esteban Cayer, but at the same time “reflects the audacity and aesthetic of a new form of cinema.”

With its Canadian premiere on July 27, the film is already being talked about as one of the best of this year’s official selection, as it has amassed important success in other festivals worldwid

Local talents also in the spotlight

Even if some of their films are borrowed from other international festivals such as Cannes or South by Southwest, Fantasia also proudly present more productions from Canada and Quebec every year.

Two of their special programs, Genres du pays and Fantastiques weekends du cinéma québécois, are fully dedicated to presenting exclusive screenings from local artists.

While Genres du pays brings back forgotten historical genre films from the twentieth century, the Fantastiques weekends often showcases young directors who wouldn’t otherwise have a platform to show their work on a big screen.

“As a director myself, I know how exciting and gratifying it feels to be accepted by a festival and be able to show my work to an audience,” said Rémi Fréchette, the programming director of the Fantastiques weekends.

“Many Québécois film directors are almost dependent on our festival because the gore horror films or the very niche comedies don’t get government subsidies,” he said.

Director Renaud Gauthier’s gore filled film _Aqualash_ premieres July 29. courtesy Fantasia.

“That’s ironic, considering that Les Affamés, for example, a successful award-winning zombie comedy by Robin Aubert, has been bought by Netflix last year,” he added.

The documentary L’inquiétante absence, by Félix Brassard and Amir Belkaim, which premiered on July 14, is particularly interesting in that regard. It shines a light on the issues of the genre film world in Quebec, opening with Robin Aubert, denouncing the “snobbery” of genre films by institutions.

Also including testimonies from other big names of the industry such as David Cronenberg and Erik Canuel, the documentary seems to perfectly embody Fantasia’s mission, to have genre films being taken seriously.

Another noteworthy Canadian production at Fantasia is Aquaslash, an “extreme gore” film from Quebec director Renaud Gauthier. Being shown for the first time on July 29, the film follows teenagers celebrating their highschool graduation in a waterpark that (literally) turns into a bloodbath in unusual and spooky circumstances. Fréchette believes it will be a tremendous success at the festival.

Whether it be to experience screenings of rare international films or to discover local emerging genre film creators, Fantasia is a unique opportunity to blend with passionate cinephiles and industry professionals.

The festival continues its activities at the SGWU Alumni Auditorium and at the J.A. de Sève theatre of Concordia University, as well as at the Cinéma du Musée near the campus for the Fantastiques weekends du cinéma québécois, until August 1.