Sci-fi, fantasy, anime and The Rotten Monk: Fantasia marks 12 years at Concordia
North America’s biggest genre film festival runs from July 17 to August 5
June 18, 2014
By Marilla Steuter-Martin
What do Edgar Wright and Omar Antonio Iturriaga-Barragan (BFA 14) have in common?
Both are directors whose films were selected to premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. But while many are familiar with Wright and his film The World’s End (2013), Iturriaga-Barragan is a newcomer to the scene.
The Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema graduate’s The Rotten Monk (2014) is among the films set to screen at this year’s fest, which will take place from July 17 to August 5.
Iturriaga-Barragan decided to submit his work after winning the Fantasia Award — established in 2013 to celebrate a decade of collaboration between the School of Cinema and the festival — at the school’s 2014 Cinema Awards.
The Rotten Monk follows Odilo (Stuart Fink), a young monk who abandons his monastery and begins questioning what it means to be holy.
“To prove to himself that a person can still be pure, he ventures out to a magical place known as the Holy Forest, notorious for entrapping souls tainted by sin, and setting free the holy ones,” Iturriaga-Barragan says.
The budding director credits Concordia with preparing him for the project and the challenges that lie ahead.
“The Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema was great for me in terms of learning how to collaborate with others while still maintaining the integrity of my vision.”
Known for its focus on genre films, Fantasia was a perfect fit for The Rotten Monk, Iturriaga-Barragan says.
“It can now be showcased for a larger audience and finally be exposed in an environment that welcomes and encourages films like it. The festival gives The Rotten Monk life.”
Cinema of all stripes
Since its inception in 1996, Fantasia has grown into the largest festival of its kind in North America. Though it maintains its original focus on Asian film, it also spotlights horror, thriller and fantasy titles, along with documentaries and offbeat comedies. In 2003 — the first year Concordia hosted it — the festival drew 63,000 attendees; by 2013, that number had swelled to 125,000.
Concordia is proud to serve as Fantasia’s permanent home. Films are shown in the J.A. DeSève Cinema in Room LB-125 of the J.W. McConnell (LB) Building, the D.B. Clarke Theatre in the Henry F. Hall (H) Building and the Alumni Auditorium in Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall (H) Building.
Over the course of the festival, it is not uncommon to see fans in costume lined up outside of these venues, waiting to see any number of obscure, highly anticipated titles from around the world. Last year, Don Mancini’s Curse of Chucky (2013) — the latest instalment in the Child’s Play series of horror movies — premiered at the fest.
Katie Gilkes (BFA 04, MA 09), cinema manager with Instructional and Information Technology Services, is among those charged with preparing the university’s spaces for Fantasia’s use.
“I went to film school at Concordia,” she says. “It’s a dream job to get to help make the festival happen.”
While the Alumni Auditorium was closed for renovations last year, it has since reopened and is festival-ready.
“We have worked very hard to bring our cinemas up to industry standards,” Gilkes says, noting that new seats were installed and the auditorium’s sound, lighting and projection equipment were upgraded, allowing it to better accommodate 3D screenings.
The university has also established master’s classes, workshops and other initiatives that draw on its unique relationship with the festival. It has created more than a dozen internships in support of it, with positions falling under fields like communications, marketing, accounting, hospitality and more.
Sean English (BA 13) served as a communications intern two years in a row. The job offered the communication studies student valuable work experience.
“Film is my passion,” he says. “I saw this internship as a chance to finally stop studying film and reading about film and learn about the real film experience.”
While his first day was intimidating, the Fantasia team welcomed him and kept him busy.
“That’s why I came back the next year. I knew they appreciated my hard work.”
For Iturriaga-Barragan, this year’s edition of Fantasia represents the culmination of more than a year of work, including many rewrites. He is looking forward to premiering The Rotten Monk at a festival that has long supported projects like it.
"From the onset of writing the film, all the way up to post-production, I had strived to make something heavily genre-driven and fantasy-oriented,” he says. “Getting into Fantasia was a big deal for me. In a sense, it validated the vision my crew and I had while making the film."
The 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival takes place from July 17 to August 5.