Spoilers really enjoyed coming along this year 🙂
There is no single Fantasia experience. Every viewer’s selection of films will vary. A lot of them are genre films but there’s enough outliers and subversive ones to throw you off from having the same experience. Being in the same audience doesn’t mean you make of the film the same thing and depending what you watch before or after might also give you a different take. All this to say, we’re all biased and I don’t believe my experience will match yours. This is also my attempt to explain why these awards (which btw are completely made up by yours truly) are going to differ from both the official accolades and the audience selection.
The One-Not-To-Be-Missed: NEXT EXIT by Mali Elfman. This was a close call (I considered calling it a tie), but in the end the drama of two people dealing with grief and willing to sacrifice their lives edged out THE ARTIFICE GIRL by a hair. It has engaging characters, amazing performances, solid production values, amazing cinematography and a genre mix of a realistic drama, humour with horror elements and it’s all on a sci-fi background. I would see this one again in a heartbeat. Runner-Up: THE ARTIFICE GIRL.
The Mind Bender: THE ARTIFICE GIRL by Franklin Ritch. This award usually goes to the film that has a few surprises. They all don’t need to be twists. This film accomplishes through pure dialog to convey intrigue, thrill, surprise and a rather well executed premise with some amazing performances. I’m still thinking this should easily get the top prize above if I reconsider it again. Definitely an amazing watch, specially when you see it the first time without any expectations. It also won Fantasia’s Gold Audience Award for Best International Feature. Runner-Up: NEXT EXIT.
The Science Faction: THE ARTIFICE GIRL by Franklin Ritch. I can’t deny technically VESPER has more sci-fi visual concepts, but THE ARTIFICE GIRL gets it because its execution and carefully researched script gets to the point to making us believe this is a short step from happening. If you have an IT background and/or know your way around the internet, listen to Garrett’s dialog and notice he’s using existing terminology from today to extrapolate and project the evolution of AI. Runner-Ups: VESPER, NEXT EXIT.
The Immersive Horror: MEGALOMANIAC by Karim Ouelhaj. As I said in my review, this one makes the ambiance part of the main cast. It manages to pull you into a room and keep you there while everything around you drips with dread. I felt almost claustrophobic watching this film, not because there’s any actual special effect it was just the combination of the right palette, music, performance and tone that envelops you like a web. This film won Fantasia’s Cheval Noir Award Runner-ups: HUESERA, THE HARBINGER.
The Tension Meter: ONE AND FOUR by Jigme Trinley. This one measures a film’s capacity to introduce tension to a thriller. This feature was the unchallenged winner by keeping us interested and on the edge of our seats without being able to tell what was going to happen. Runner-ups: THE ARTIFICE GIRL, MEGALOMANIAC.
The Guilty Pleasure Funhouse: WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEAD KAIJU by Satoshi Miki. Parody, satire and a barrel of laughs must dominate to get this award. This is also usually the one with the most audience interaction. The runner-ups are actually very funny, but this feature just takes the award for consistently making us fall out of our chairs. Runner-Ups: POPRAN, THE MOLE SONG: FINAL.
Nostalgia City Population Me: SHIN ULTRAMAN by Shinji Higuchi. Need I say more? This is the award for the film that took me back to younger days. Now, I don’t recall names or lore of the first time I saw the original. As a matter of fact, it might have even been a different spin-off version the one from my childhood. Nevertheless for a moment everything was good with the world. Runner-up: WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEAD KAIJU.
The Indiana Jones Theme: FREAKS OUT by Gabriele Mainetti. This award is given to the film which is all about adventure and emotion. There’s no doubt that this film did both while adding some drama and conflict on top or a realistic war setting. It even managed to flesh out a villain we almost feel sorry for. Runner-up: SHIN ULTRAMAN.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: THE FIFTH THORACIC VERTEBRA by Park Syeyoung. This one I can’t explain. I mean I can explain the award, just not the movie. Usually this ends up being a movie that either goes completely over my head or is just too weird for my taste. The level of interest is questionable, but the fact this one’s for the weirdest film I saw should be clear by now. Or not. Runner-up: THE COW WHO SANG A SONG INTO THE FUTURE.
The Art Gallery: VESPER by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper. I save this award for the best looking film and/or offers the most intriguing visuals of the festival. VESPER was also a runner-up for my top science fiction film. It does have the most intricate world-building I have seen in a while that both fits the narrative and is relevant to the plot. Runner-up: NEXT EXIT.
The Meditation Chamber: CHOROKBAM by Yoon Seo-jin. Sometimes a movie slows down and asks us to contemplate rather than react. This one is the kind of film that simmers under the surface but slow burns its way throughout its runtime. Films of this type might turn off casual audiences, but they do have an emotional undercurrent if you’re in the mood for them.
As always, I want to thank all the people that make Fantasia, both the organizers and volunteers that donate their time and effort into making this festival be something memorable. This 26th edition also marked the return to theatres and actual physical audiences being present. That meant for a lot of them to come out and do this in the middle (Are we past the middle yet? Don’t ask me) of a global pandemic. It was always a level of risk and they did all their best to offer preventive measures. To them my heartfelt thanks. As for the audience of fans, regulars, critics, reviewers, bloggers, reporters, actors and filmmakers in general, this couldn’t happen without you. Thanks to you all.
That will do for now.