Ten years ago, Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival moved from its original digs at the Imperial Theatre on Bleury Street to Concordia, and never looked back. The 17th edition of the wildly popular genre film festival will take over the Alumni Auditorium in the Henry F. Hall Building and the J.A. DeSève Cinema from July 19 until August 9, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever.
“I think it’s a record year in all respects,” says Simon Laperrière, one of the festival’s programmers and director of its Camera Lucida section. “We’re screening more movies than ever, and we’ve got a record number of guests; over 200 filmmakers and actors are coming to Montreal this year.”
Among the invited actors is Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy. Hamill stars in a film by Kern Saxton called Sushi Girl, which will have its international premiere at the festival.
Laperrière began working as a programmer for the festival in 2007. He says the university has always been a gracious host. “We’ve always been very happy to work with Concordia. It’s a great place to have our festival,” he says, adding that most of the filmmakers are very impressed the first time they see the Alumni Auditorium. “They always say things like, ‘Woah! My movie’s really going to play in this gigantic room?’ Yes, yes, and there are 700 seats and we’re going to fill them!”
This year’s edition of Fantasia is particularly noteworthy for Concordia because the university has just signed an agreement further solidifying its partnership with the festival. According to the agreement, Concordia students will benefit from the university’s partnership with Fantasia over the coming years through activities including scholarships, internships and master classes.
"Concordia has already gained a lot of visibility through Fantasia, and we hope the collaboration will intensify, and provide more opportunities for students,” says James Larden, manager of the university’s Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) Cinemas.
Larden has been involved with the Fantasia Festival since it first came to Concordia in 2003, first as a projectionist, then as a technical supervisor, and now as Cinemas manager with IITS. He and his staff are in charge of all the technical and operational logistics of hosting the festival at Concordia, collaborating extensively with the Facilities Management Department and Hospitality Services. He says this year presents a number of new and exciting challenges for him and his team.
“We have many international guests arriving at the festival, so there are concerns about security,” he says. “It’s also the first year that we’re going to have digital cinema and a 3D screening.”
Fantasia Industry Rendezvous
A new edition to the festival this year is the Fantasia Industry Rendezvous. One aspect, called the Frontières International Co-Production Market, will provide a chance for a select group of genre filmmakers to pitch their projects to production houses. The other aspect, the Fantasia Film Market, will support the sales efforts of the features on the program this year.
The festival will include 10 documentary screenings this year, twice as many as last year. “It was a tremendous year in terms of documentaries,” says Laperrière, who estimates he screened over 300 films during the selection period leading up to the festival. “People are always surprised when we tell them we screen documentaries, but during the festival itself, those are the movies that do very, very well. There is always an audience for them.”
One documentary that is likely to draw a large crowd is We Are Legion, the story of the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous that made headlines this year in Montreal when they attacked the Montreal Grand Prix website.
Another documentary Laperrière is particularly excited about is called Despite the Gods, directed by Australian Penny Vosniak. The film is a brutally honest account of American filmmaker Jennifer Lynch’s foray into Bollywood, India’s filmmaking industry. “The doc is brilliant. You really see an artist being pushed to her limits,” Laperrière says.
Lynch, the daughter of celebrated genre filmmaker David Lynch, will host the event. She will also host the world premiere of her own latest genre film, Chained, about a taxi-driving serial killer who abducts a young boy, and raises him to assume his murdering ways.
“Lynch is a fascinating filmmaker. Her work has always been outstanding … Chained is an amazing, very heavy thriller,” Laperrière says.
Since this year marks the 10th year Concordia is hosting Fantasia, the festival will finish with a showcase of works by filmmakers from the university’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. “It should be very exciting,” Laperrière says. “It’s a tribute to … the great students who have managed to make interesting shorts over the years, and also to the school itself, which is the place where the festival happens every summer.”
• Fantasia Film Festival 2012
• “Fantasia’s Must-See Films” — NOW, July 11, 2012
• “Concordia and Fantasia Film Festival Formalize Partnership” — NOW, June 13, 2012