Montreal’s genre festival ran from July 17-Aug 6 and saw audiences of more than 129,000; its Frontières co-production market also drew a record attendance, up 30% on 2013.
With more than 129,000 people attending screenings and events over its 18th year, Fantasia International Film Festival co-director Mitch Davis (pictured) has marked the event as an “extraordinary” year.
Speaking to Screen, Davis was particularly pleased that the smaller films shone through.
“We showcased just over 160 feature films, which is more than our norm and is, frankly, no subtle number,” said Davis. “The worry in doing that is the chancing that certain so-called smaller films could somehow fall between the cracks.
“I’m thrilled to say that this didn’t happen. It’s often the smaller independent discovery titles that we have some of the strongest love for and we go the extra mile to make sure they stand out and even then, anything could happen. Happily, a good number of our indie breakouts ranked among the most popular films at the festival.”
The 2014 edition saw world premieres of the likes of Leo Gabriadze’s Cybernatural, Sarah Adina Smith’s The Midnight Swim and Bennett Jones’ I Am A Knife With Legs. In addition, Mamoru Oshii and Tobe Hooper received Lifetime Achievement Awards at the festival.
90,000 tickets were sold for the festival’s 216 theatrical presentations, representing more than 70% of the theatres’ full capacities. While, 19,000 spectators attended Fantasia’a two outdoor screenings, presented in collaboration with the Just For Laughs festival.
Highlights and winners
For Davis, it was two of the world premieres that stood out as personal highlights.
“The I Am A Knife With Legs and Cybernatural premieres were two of the most charged screenings I’ve experienced in a good while. Every beat landed beautifully, building to palpable energies of joyous, collective discovery and thrilled amazement that were downright rapturous.”
Both Cybernatural and I Am A Knife With Legs received special mentions of the jury.
Other winners at this year’s festival included Ken Ochiai’s Uzumasu Limelight (for best film and best actor), David Zellner’s Kumiko The Treasure Hunter (best director), Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man (best first feature film) and Mizuho Nishikubo’s Giovanni’s Island (best animated feature).
Audience award winners included Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Miss Granny, Hans Petter Moland’s In Order Of Disappearance, Maude Michaud’s Dys-, Jennifer M Kroot and Bill Weber’s To Be Takei and Wong Ching-Po’s Once Upon A Time In Shanghai.
This year’s festival also saw the fourth edition of the festival’s international co-production market Frontières post record attendances, a 30% increase over its 2013 edition at Fantasia. Its third edition was held at this year’s Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival.
More than 360 industry attendees from more than20 countries participated in the four-day event, which saw the inaugural Works-in-Progress session screen previews of upcoming projects like Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here, Nicolas Kleiman and Rob Lindsay’s Why Horror? and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring.
Twenty-four film projects were presented in the Frontières and Off-Frontières line-ups, as well as three returning Brussels projects.
The 2014 Frontières project award, presented by the Producers Network of the Cannes Marché du Film, went to Mike Ahem and Enda Loughman’s Extra Ordinary, produced by Ailish Bracken and Katie Holly.
“We are beyond satisfied with this fourth edition of Frontières,” said Stephanie Trepanier, market creative director. “Nearly 600 meetings took place to discuss the projects and I believe many of them have strong chances of getting into production.”
“With every edition, the market has taken big steps up, a growth that’s also been reflected in the quality of the pitches, teaser visuals and promotional materials brought upon by the presenting teams. The bar has been set high for the following edition of the market.”
This year also marked Trepanier’s last at Fantasia, having worked for the festival for the past nine years in a variety of roles including creating Frontières.
“I’m part of what we’re starting to call the ‘Fantasia Generation’ at home, having attended the festival for eight years before becoming part of the team. As with many cinephiles and filmmakers here and abroad, Fantasia was incredibly fertile grounds for my film knowledge and career development.
“It’s been most rewarding to plant the seed of Frontières and see it quickly grow into an important event for the international genre film community. Many new relationships were created at the event and we are starting to see the fruits of our labour, with films actually getting made. I’m very proud of what we’ve created here.”
For upcoming editions of Frontières, Lindsay Peters will be market director.
The North American premiere of Abel Ferrera’s Welcome To New York closed this year’s festival and saw a post-screening Q&A last for more than an hour.
This saw Ferrera “telling the room how much he loved the vibe of the festival because people here really came out to appreciate films, not to hate on them,” said Davis.
“He’s absolutely right. One may think that would be the case with any festival audience, but it isn’t always so. There’s a beguiling lack of cynicism in our audience.
“When you experience a screening at Fantasia, you really can feel a love for cinema and respect for filmmaking; you can be swept away by an enthusiasm and mass sensitivity that’s as uncommon as it is sublime.”