Fantasia: 20 years of wild and crazy movies!

July 14, 2016

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Directors and actors attending Fantasia for the first time are always amazed: audiences at this festival are intensely focused on the films. Naturally, the filmmakers come away wanting to return to Montreal as soon as possible, for another chance to be part of North America’s biggest festival of genre films.

It should come as no surprise that after 20 years, festivalgoers are still as eager as ever to see the latest science fiction features, but also movies so fantastical, imaginative and outlandish that they defy categorization.

We spoke with festival programmers and Camera Lucida section director Simon Laperrière.

How did a festival of genre films come together 20 years ago?

Fantasia came out of a group of movie lovers’ desire to share the genre films that weren’t very accessible in Quebec at that time. The idea was to show, in a movie theatre, Asian films that Montreal audiences – both the initiated and the uninitiated – could discover together. It was supposed to be a one-off, but the event was so successful that the organizers decided to do it again. They added an international section, sections for different genres, presentations, etc. It became an eagerly anticipated annual event.

What is the state of the festival today?

The 20th edition is a testament to the loyalty of an audience that has followed the festival every time it has taken a new direction. We have expanded the programming beyond Asian or pure fantasy films. We’ve added a Quebec section, for example. We have also been recognized by the industry both locally and internationally. So we no longer have anything to prove to the major studios, the big players that want to be part of Fantasia. With our Frontières program, we are also involved in co-producing films and we are working with the Cannes Festival. It is leading us in yet another exciting new direction.

Has Fantasia influenced the production of genre films in Quebec?

The festival has done a lot to help genre films get made. Turbo Kid, which premiered at Sundance, is a good example. There are other projects in the works. Since the beginning, Fantasia has played an important role in the distribution of foreign genre films in Quebec. Video stores even had special Fantasia sections.

What do you say to people who think Fantasia is all about monster and alien movies? How do you get them to the festival?

Fantasia reflects the tastes of viewers who want to see all kinds of films: from science fiction to animated dramas, from westerns to retrospectives of rare films. Not to mention the chance to meet the films’ directors. Above all, Fantasia is a collective experience. The audience has an active role. You have to experience it to understand that it’s far from being a festival for hardcore fans only, despite the myths surrounding genre films.

Fantasia in the Quartier des Spectacles

1. A selection of Quebec-made movies

The Genre du pays section celebrates films made here that are not always as well known as they should be. This is a perfect opportunity to discover L’Apparition (July 25, 6:30 p.m.), a film from the 1970s starring René Angelil. Fantasia will also have a tribute to Jean-Claude Lord, who will be the first recipient of the Denis-Héroux award, which celebrates the careers of important Quebec filmmakers. Lord’s first feature film, Délivrez-nous du mal (July 30, 6:30 p.m.), which he made when he was in his 20s, tops the bill. The Genre du pays section is presented at the Cinémathèque québécoise.

2. An evening with Mary or Ferris

In partnership with Just for Laughs, Fantasia will present two outdoor screenings in Place des Festivals. In celebration of the popularity of musicals, the Disney classic Mary Poppins will be shown on July 18 at 9 p.m. (French version with English subtitles). The following Monday at the same time, there will be a 30th anniversary screening of John Hughes’ teen classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Original English version, with French subtitles).

3. A retrospective exhibition

To mark the festival’s 20th anniversary, an exhibition called Fantasia s’affiche depuis 20 ans will be presented at the Cinémathèque. It includes every Fantasia poster made over the years, as well as memorabilia such as the Black Horse, the festival’s trophy. Honorary Black Horses will be presented to directors Guillermo del Toro and Takashi Miike this year.

4. An outdoor screening

As part of the Downtown Screenings Under the Stars series, presented every Tuesday in Place de la Paix, next to the SAT, Fantasia presents Les hommes d’une autre planète (July 19, 9 p.m.), a Thai science fiction classic from the 70s. Just to be safe, leave your brain at home!


July 14 to August 3