By Sean Boelman
One of the world’s premier genre film festivals, this year’s Fantasia Film Festival is happening later than usual and in an unprecedented way with an all-online presentation. With a blend of offerings available on demand and being shown via livestream, this year’s selection is packed with some amazing and exciting offerings for genre cinephiles in Canada.
Unfortunately, due to rights restrictions, these screenings have to be geo-blocked to Canadian audiences only (with the exception of the new Troma film #ShakespearesShistorm, which I personally can’t wait to see), but disappointment media is still covering many of the films in the lineup because many will make their way to international audiences sooner or later. That said, for our Canadian friends, here are five films that you absolutely will not want to miss in this year’s festival.
Screening: August 20 @ 9:45 ET
Japanese filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda made his way to American audiences in a big way with his ambitious genre-bending zombie movie One Cut of the Dead (which also played at Fantasia), and his newest movie Special Actors is somehow even better. Like One Cut, this is best experienced knowing as little about the plot as possible, but know that it’s a quirky comedy that doubles as a satire of the art of acting. With plenty of laughs and some truly unexpected twists, it’s an insanely fun film in more ways than one, but it also packs a surprising amount of emotional heft.
Crazy Samurai Musashi
Screening: On Demand
Speaking of one-takes, the movie that seems most likely to gain a cult following out of Fantasia is Yuji Shimomura’s insanely ambitious action flick Crazy Samurai Musashi. Inspired by a real battle that has become the stuff of legends, the film is one take minus a brief prologue and epilogue. It’s certainly more of a technical feat than a narrative one, and it’s far from perfect, but the things that Shimomura is able to pull off are insanely impressive. Holding it all together is a committed performance from martial artist Tak Sakaguchi, who handles the intense choreography with both grace and intensity.
Screening: On Demand
Noah Hutton’s sci-fi/comedy directorial debut Lapsis was supposed to receive its premiere at this year’s SXSW, but that festival was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. Luckily, the film was still able to secure U.S. distribution thanks to great buzz, and Canadian audiences get a chance to see it as a part of Fantasia. This wickedly funny satire is set in a not-so-distant future where independent contractors embark on dangerous hikes in order to connect cables for an emerging trading market. Examining the flaws and preaching the fears of the ever-growing gig economy, this film is even more relevant now given a recent unemployment crisis.
Screening: August 22 @ 7:00pm
The other film that just screams timely is the Taiwanese rom-com I WeirDo. Telling the story of two people who suffer from OCD as they find love in each other’s compulsions, it’s eerie how much the character’s feelings of isolation resonate with the current situation. That said, even without that connection, the film would still be great, largely thanks to the wonderful chemistry of its stars Austin Lin and Nikki Hsieh. Also impressive is that the film has some gorgeous iPhone-shot cinematography and ridiculously detailed production design. It’s a charmer made with a lot of care, something that is rare for the genre.
Texas Trip - A Carnival of Ghosts
Screening: On Demand
Steve Balestreri and Maxime Lachaud’s documentary Texas Trip - A Carnival of Ghosts is one of the hardest films in the lineup to sell, and it may have a hard time appealing beyond its niche, but that’s all the more reason to catch it while you can at the festival. Connecting drive-in theaters with alternative music artists, it’s almost as if Joe Bob Briggs and the guy from Frank got together to make a movie about creative expression. It’s weird as hell, but also a mesmerizing and beautiful sensory experience. This is one of those smaller and more out there festival films you just have to take a chance on.
With how massive the lineup is this year, there’s no shortage of films to check out, and there truly is something for everybody. If you live in Canada, even if none of these five films tickles your fancy, you should check out the lineup because I can pretty much guarantee that there will be something that will. Stay tuned to disappointment media for our ongoing coverage of the festival.
Virtual tickets are now on sale for the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 3, geoblocked to Canada.
The Snake Hole
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