Fantasia Week 1: Welcoming Back the Audience

It’s been a good two years since the Fantasia Film Festival had the opportunity to showcase the premier genre film festival to an audience on the big screen, having a limited opportunity last year with the gradual reopening of the theaters. I had some time to catch some theater screenings that played well with the audience, which only proves that the audience is the heart and core of the festival. It was also great to see some familiar faces and audience members who haven’t seen each other in a while due to the pandemic. Despite the fact that there are still concerns of the pandemic, there is still the same familiarity of the festival that audience members feel and love.

My most pressing viewings are always getting as many films in from the Documentary From The Edge section in as possible. I don’t think I will be able to get all the films in, however I was able to catch up with a screening of A Life on The Farm from director Oscar Harding. The film centers around Charles Carson and his home video films he created all about his life on Coombe End Farm. Right away there is an eccentricity to Charles who seems like a larger than life character that never got famous, shares details on his farm life to helping with calf births, his own designed farming inventions and family members who are dead that are featured as corpses in the film in his own form of grieving. Not for everyone given Charle’s eccentricities, however the documentary is a deep dive into the humanity of one man’s life and how he was a pioneer when it came to creating movies on VHS that would later find his own cult following and celebrity status posthumously. 

For my first in-person experience alongside a Fantasia audience I decided to watch a film from Belgium: Employee of The Month (L’Employée du Mois) from director Véronique Jadin. It is a dark comedy in the similar vein of The Office, if the episode never got aired due to graphic nature. The film, however, delves deep in the topic of feminism in the workplace environment and how the female characters empower themselves sometimes in some uncanny ways when everybody doesn’t want to give them the opportunity to succeed. What surprised me the most was the film's the ability to switch to an emotionally profound moment among the film's humorous moments. This film played well with the Fantasia audience and I would see this film playing well with all audiences that enjoy The Office

Sissy is an Austrian dark comedy horror film from directors Hannah Barlow and Kanye Senses. Cecelia is an influencer on instagram with a massive following, and runs into her best friend from elementary school Emma at a pharmacy. The two reconnect, leading Cecelia to be invited to Emma’s bachelorette party. Things are better for Cecelia; she is stronger and more self aware when in control of her actions. The bachelorette party turns into a nightmare from hell for Cecelia who is confronted by her high school bully Alex, who used to call her Sissy, and is Emma’s best friend. Cecelia tries to let bygones be bygones, reminding everyone that her name is not "Sissy" but "Cecelia." However the weekend brings out the worst and leads Cecelia on a path of writing those who have wronged her, so you better stay out of her path. Kenneth Lampl score for Sissy is bubbly and light as influencers would love in a similar vein of Michael Giachino’s score for Pixar films. Where Sissy finds it stride is always blurring the lines of sympathizing with Cecelia’s quest for writing the wrongs at all cost, despite her good will nature as an influencer as the camera work puts you uneasy with some upside-down reverse shots. 

Where The Witch Lives is a short feature from director Mariel Sharp that premiered right before, Dark Water (review coming for week 2). After moving to an old isolated house alongside her new single mother and little sister, Cassie must come to terms with the ominous presence of the river witch that dictates her life alongside her single mother who must appease the river witch. However when Cassie starts asking questions and tries to uncover what happened to her other mother, Mommy Heather, things start to get a little more suspenseful. Overall, the film is a really well developed short feature from Mariel Sharp about the control of one mother over the paternal mother. The score from Strange Familiar sets up the emotional tones of the film alongside the film's clever use of sound design. As well, it should be noted that the film makes great use of natural lighting to create atmosphere, sometimes shooting around dusk. 

A switch in pace from a film screening, I decided to attend a panel discussion all about the film industry and the climate crisis, Stop F*%#king up the Planet: Concrete Steps the Film Industry Can Take To Reduce Our Carbon and Waste Footprint. The panel couldn't have been more timely, as some of the worst heatwaves are plaguing Europe presently, as well as the rest of the world. The panel of guests included Elza Kephart (Director of Slaxx), Dr Heather Short (PhD Earth Sciences and Climate Science Educator), Annie Contant (a representative of Rolling Green “On tourne vert”), Anne-Catherine Lebeau (Representative of Éco Scéno) and Barbra Shrier (Producer). The discussion was informative and had some practical information on how the film industry can change their ways for the better when it comes to solving the climate crisis. Upon exiting, I still pondered how many CO2 emotions have been emitted from the Fast and The Furious franchise alone that is heading for its 10th film. 

All in all it was a good week at the movies, and a good start to Fantasia. I even got a chance to catch up with Thor: Love & Thunder, an underwhelming film from Marvel that seemed to only get the license from Guns N' Roses music. (Side-note: there needs to be more Thor with the Guardians Of The Galaxy, because those moments were the best). I also had the chance to see the Arrow film distribution table that had a great selection of films for sale. I cannot wait for week 2. For now enjoy the festival, say hello to the CJLO DJ’s at the Hall Theater and as always, bon cinéma! 

Remi and Danny host At The Movies, which can be heard every Tuesday morning from 8:00 - 9:00AM. Tune in for discussions about movies, soundtracks, and iconic film scores. At The Movies also covers film festivals that are located in Montreal.