Fantasia runs from August 20th to September 2nd.

Every now and then I’m faced with the surreal scenario of explaining Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival to someone new to the concept. My classic short version is that this genre film compendium is the punchline to the unlikely comedy line, “a zombie, a ninja, a robot and a ghost walk into a bar…” and that sort of works. You get movies with an independent, out-there flavor with strong genre flavor.

A genre film is produced with the intent of fitting into a specific genre and an already formed audience. Fantasia started first as primarily a festival aimed at lovers of Asian films (from the French, Fan-de-Asia or phonetically, Fan-t-Asia) to expand to worldly films (hence the “International”) with an emphasis on cult films, horror, science-fiction and usually mixing in drama and comedy. You can mix genres up – it’s not rare to see zombie musical comedies in Fantasia, they’re practically a genre here.

The festival hasn’t forgotten its roots. It still includes a ton of films from Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Singapur, Malaysia, India as well as Russia and the Middle East. The rest of the world is included but most movies are still looking for a distributor, which is why there’s a ton of movies that premiere here. You can also find anime films as well as experimental movies. The level of mainstream to independent varies.

Fortunately for me, Fantasia rarely has a boring movie in the bunch. Yes, there’s probably been a few exceptions. Only a few movies are boring to watch AND boring to review. Usually a bad movie can have a rather fun review if I think it missed the mark. Since in Fantasia you can’t watch everything you must choose what fits your schedule. That conundrum means I have to choose between two films. Sometimes is the film that appeals more to my taste, sometimes is the weirdest of the two or it can be the road-less-traveled sort which is a kind of movie that completely departs from anything I’ve seen before. If there is no clear indication, I will go with the movie that looks/feels less mainstream – the one that has no known names in the production/cast or simply is playing on the smaller theatre.

It’s hard to give recommendations before the Festival nowadays. There’s just too much movies in the schedule and on demand throughout the festival to make a short list. I would recommend you check out the trailers and pick something you like or just read the descriptions and screenshots in the main site. Even if you don’t feel like picking anything, go to the online film site and open an account. There’s a couple of freebies you might enjoy too.

Fantasia International Film Festival begins this Thursday, August 20th and runs until Wednesday, September 2nd. This site’s reviews should start rolling this week by this Friday. Bon cinema!

That will do for now.