Fantasia Week Two: A Weekly Recap of The Genre Film Festival

*Please note that one of the films deals with subjects of substance abuse and suicide. Reader discretion is strongly advised. 

In the final week and few days I had left at the Fantasia International Film Festival, I made a concrete condensed list of all the films that I wanted to see. These were mostly some films from the Documentaries From the Edge section of the festival, along with some feature length films that came from the suggestion of my At The Movies co-host Danny Aubry. Having those suggestions also on my list for viewing made it an easy decision on what to focus on for the final week.

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché from directors Paul Sng and Celeste Bell (the latter being the daughter of Poly Styrene) is a musical biographical documentary about Poly Styrene, the lead singer of the UK punk band X-Ray Spex. Maybe not so well known as The Sex Pistols in the UK punk world, X-Ray Spex came on the scene with their own unique sound that included the raw punk aesthetic mixed with a saxophone and lead singer Poly Styrene, who broke the mould of the conventional punk bands through her singing and appearance. The film also does a deep dive into the UK punk scene at the time and its appearance in America, notably in New York at the CBGB club. There is also an introspective look at behind the music and the life of Poly Styrene through her daughter, who had a sometimes tumultuous relationship with her mother, and personal journal entries from Styrene narrated by actress Ruth Negga. After seeing this documentary there is no denying the impact that Poly Styrene left on the punk music scene and the life of her daughter both as an on-stage and off-stage presence. The morning after viewing this documentary, I had the song "Germ Free Adolescents" on repeat for a good ten minutes.

With 60 Minutes on hiatus this summer, I turned to some more serious investigative documentaries like You Can’t Kill Meme and Lost Boys. There is a light-heartedness to meme culture that is supposed to be fun, however You Can’t Kill Meme subverts this general stereotype of meme culture with more of a deep dive into the culture of “Meme Magic” from director Hayley Garrigus. The documentary also looked at how the alt-right of the United States used this “Meme Magic” to push them to a position of power and elect a president, who himself was a meme. A little bit more surreal than the experience of Feels Good Man, You Can’t Kill Meme takes viewers down the “Meme Magic” matrix whether you want to follow along or not, and will introduce you to some interesting and colourful characters that only memes can elicit.

Lost Boys from directors Sadri Cetinkaya and Joonas Neuvonen is more of a true crime story while also exploring the dark side of Cambodia. Three good friends Jani, Joonas and Antti, who live in a small Finnish community nestled six kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, are life long friends who have always been involved in criminal activity and substance abuse problems as seen in their previous film Reindeerspotting: Escape from Santaland. Lost Boys takes an unfiltered lens as the friends decide to take a trip to Cambodia, where their drug habits get the best of them as Jani is found dead, ruled as a suicide by local authorities, and Antti has gone missing. Joonas has to put the pieces together and travels back to Bangkok and Phnom Penh to get to the bottom of what happened to his friends, where he interacts with locals and the last people who saw Jani alive. The film has one of the best confrontational moments with a person named Lili, one of the last people to see Jani alive, as she is still crippled with an addiction that helps her cope with the guilt of Jani being gone. However, I find the film’s ending a bit ambiguous as it left me with many unanswered questions as to what really happened to Jani. 

Strawberry Mansion from directors Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney is a not-so distant futuristic story about James Preble (Kentucker Audley), a dream auditor for the federal government who goes through peoples’ dreams for the sole purpose of taxing them. His latest audit is an older woman by the name of Arabella Isadora who is behind on her technology and has all her films recorded on VHS tapes. Along the way he falls in love with Arabella in his dreams. This has to be one of the best original and visionary films that this year’s festival has to offer audiences and reminds me a lot of the works of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry

The Righteous is one of the last films that I caught up with after hearing some positive feedback from my co-host Danny Aubry about the film’s sound design and score - two things that I enjoy in a film. From director Mark O’Brien and shot in black and white, the film deals with an ex-priest by the name of Frederic and his wife who are both grief stricken by the recent loss of their daughter. During one uneventful evening, a stranger by the name of Aaron is found on the lawn of their property with an injured foot asking for help. Reluctantly, in a sign of good faith Frederic and his wife let Aaron enter the house, unbeknownst to them who he really is or how he will shape their lives - not to get into too many spoilers. Is Aaron the idealistic stranger of a lost soul or a soul to save? The film is reflective on the themes of grieving and forgiveness in the face of tragedy and handles these thematics with grace and maturity. 

In closing this has been another solid year for programming and films at this year’s monumental 25th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival. I can’t wait to get back into the theatres with a Fantasia audience in the not-so distant future where the lights go dim and the resounding “meows” fill the room. I would like to thank everyone involved with the festival for allowing CJLO media coverage, as well as the entire CJLO magazine team for their hard work and dedication. Finally, a big thank you to my co-host Danny Aubry for his recommendations and coverage of the festival.

As always, stay safe et bon cinema!

Here is my At The Movies co-host Danny Aubry covering his second week of Fantasia films.


My second week at Fantasia was once again quite a thrill for me. Despite being impacted by the excruciating heat wave which we have been enduring as of late, I still managed to buckle down and watch some really cool films. Although I watched several films during week 2 of Fantasia, there were three specific films which really stood out to me. The underlying theme which these films have in common is the supernatural. The supernatural elements that we see occur within these films are the bad, the good, and the outrageous.

The Righteous is a Canadian film directed by Mark O'Brien. It focuses on an ex-priest named Frederic and his wife Ethel. Frederic and Ethel are grief stricken by the recent passing of their daughter. With each day that goes by, they struggle to find ways to cheer themselves up - that is until one particular evening when they find a young man named Aaron lying on their backyard lawn nursing an injured foot. They decide to take Aaron in, to nurse him back to health. They find themselves keeping Aaron for longer than originally intended because they enjoy his company and he makes them feel like they’re parents again. However, Frederic later discovers that Aaron possesses supernatural powers driven by an evil force within him. Aaron asks Frederic to commit a heinous act, or else Aaron would harm someone Frederic cares about through the use of his powers. I really enjoyed this film because the score suited the mood of it. The film was done in black and white which I feel was a smart move to make because it added to the eeriness of the film. And it has an interesting plot twist as you find out how Aaron is linked to Frederic's past.

When I Consume You is an American film directed by Perry Blackshear. It focuses on the Shaw siblings Wilson and Daphne. The two live in a small apartment and they are always there for one another to cheer each other up. On one horrible evening Wilson walks into his apartment to see Daphne dead. The cause of Daphne's death is unknown until Wilson encounters the shapeshifting demon who murdered her. The demon physically beats Wilson to a pulp. Shortly after the beating, Wilson is guided and trained by Daphne's spirit both physically and mentally in order to defeat the demon and eliminate him from his life altogether. I really enjoyed this film because it had an important message within, which is to always value life as long as you are still living. Daphne's spirit constantly reminded Wilson of how lucky he is to still be alive because he can still find ways to live his dreams and better himself. I was also very impressed with the acting in the film. I feel that Evan Dumouchel in particular, the actor who played Wilson Shaw, did a great job.

Wonderful Paradise is a Japanese film directed by Masashi Yamamoto. The main character is a girl named Akane who lives in the Tokyo suburbs with her father and brother. In the beginning of the film, Akane feels down because she and her family are moving from their current home. Her father attempts to cheer her up by saying to "make fun memories." She misinterprets that by going on Twitter and stating that there is a big party happening on the day of the move. On the day of the move, distinct characters gravitate towards their home to party. Throughout the day, supernatural circumstances occur, such as a talking cat, a little boy who turns into a stick, Akane's grandparents coming back from the dead, their kitchen magically turning into a coffee shop, and a coffee bean growing into a giant plant-like creature. Although some people within the party are miserable with everything that is going on around them, for Akane and others it is indeed a wonderful paradise. I really enjoyed this film because I found it to be very funny - as a matter of fact it was the funniest Fantasia film of the year. I also found it to be very imaginative, and an example of how there is no denying that once in a while we find ourselves asking, wouldn't it be cool, or wouldn't it be funny if this happened? Of course, while knowing that it is highly unlikely to happen.

For all three films we see supernatural elements occur within them, but they occur in different fashions. For The Righteous we see supernatural elements used for bad when Aaron threatens to do wrong with his powers unless Frederic does what he wants. For When I Consume You, we see supernatural elements used for good, although Wilson is stalked by an evil entity, he is guided by a good spirit, which is that of his sister's. And for Wonderful Paradise, we see supernatural circumstances occur which are outrageous because impossible things happen in a ridiculous way.

All in all, I've really enjoyed the Fantasia International Film Festival throughout the two weeks that At The Movies covered it. I have once again enjoyed the wide variety of film choices that the festival has provided. I'd like to take the time to express my gratitude to those involved with Fantasia for once again providing me and my co-host Remi Caron with the opportunity to cover the event. I'd also like to congratulate them for still being able to run the festival regardless of the circumstances.

Tune in on Aug. 30 at 9:00AM for a special At The Movies Extra Fantasia 2021 Wrap Up Party with Remi, Danny and other CJLO DJs.

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.