Fantasia 2023 Picks from the Fest

Fantasia 2023 - Picks from the Fest

Insomniacs After School

I dare to say it (if only because I have very limited experience) — Fantasia is the best international film festival dedicated to Asian and genre film. What is genre film? Films that fit into a certain categories through a combination of aesthetics, character, and narrative, but in this case, genre film refers to anything that isn’t your standard romance, drama, comedy, tragedy sort. Fantasia is about horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, and anime. Every film is tinged with something supernatural, something beyond the ordinary. And while many films do come from Asia, other countries like the US, Canada, and Europe are well-represented too. Nonetheless, every film, short form or long, has a certain feel and that feel can best be described as not mainstream Hollywood (also not Cannes). Thank your lucky pikachus, because Fantasia is a welcoming, inclusive, utterly unsnobby, fly your freak flag proudly kind of film festival. Spectators meow in expectation of the film to come, and that alone is worth waiting in line 45 minutes for. The event takes over Concordia University’s theatres, all of which are quite comfortable and offer a decent selection of movie snacks to munch on at prices that don’t make you want to. cry.

Montreal Rampage picks of films that we're excited to see.

It’s hard to judge the extent Fantasia is affected by the writers guild strike and the more recent SAG-AFTRA strike. For the moment, the only obvious change is that Nicolas Cage will not be attending because of it. The performers strike, which began in mid July, along with the one by the writer’s guild is something the Fantasia staff take quite seriously and according to the website, “[Fantasia’s] hearts are with the actors, as well as the WGA.”

So, while we miss out on Nicolas Cage, the Festival can still celebrate those who aren’t members. Independent producers like Charles Band and Larry Kent are lined up for public interviews. Also expect a few book launches on new works related to genre film. Finally, Maywa Denki, creator of a niche Japanese instrument, the Otamatone, among other inventions, will be honoured in the Otamatoons, a series of short, wordless video vignettes.

But Fantasia is really about the films, and there are, as always, several spotlights this year. Special programs are developed around international animation, Korean Cinema, spotlights on the works of Larry Kent and Juraj Herz, and films Quebec cinematic historical films, and cutting edge documentaries dedicated to counter-culture issues. For those wishing to indoctrinate/educate their children into alt-culture, My First Fantasia series has shorts that are a little less gruesome but way better than the kind of mind numbing stuff your offspring catch by scrolling through YouTube videos on kid iPads.

People Who Talk to Plushies Are Kind

Adopted from a Japanese novella, this film focuses on the members of The Plushies Club, a club for introverts who talk to stuffed animals rather than one another. Members are able to explore the things they can’t discuss with other people, like gender issues, sexuality, pressure. But then a group member goes missing and members begin to question if the group goes to far in its alternative to Japan’s high pressured society. This is rising star director Yurina Kaneko’s second film at Fantasia (first appearing in 2019 with 21st Century Girl). As a film that gives a glimpse into the uniqueness of Japan’s culture and its impact on the people who don’t thrive in it for being too gentle, this film should prove an interesting window.

July 31 and August 2. Details HERE.


Films that address the idea of altering the past when the present sucks feel like they’re much more close than ones about zombie apocalypses. Aporia is about Sophie, a nurse, whose husband is killed in a drunk driving accident and she is falling apart. Her husband’s best friend has created a machine that can bend time and perhaps give Sophie a present with her husband still in it. This film looks like it tackles the question with masterful storytelling, great acting, and surprising twists.

July 27 and 28. Details HERE.

Red Rooms

The opening film directed Pascal Plante is Quebec made and also happens to be the event opener. In it, serial killer Ludovic Chevalier’s case has just gone to trial. A young woman living alone, Kelly Anne, can’t stop going to watch the trial unfold at the house of justice and she starts to hunt down the final piece of the case’s puzzle.

July 20. Details HERE.

Shin Kamen Rider

Reinventing Japanese genre is what Hideaki Anno does best. He brought us Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman. Now its time to hit the motorcycle riding superhero. Shin Kamen Rider will probably be nostalgic while inviting new levels of violence and darkness of previous incarnations of the type.

July 22. Details HERE.

Stay Online

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t stop Ukraine. Not its tech industry. Not its film industry. The first feature film shot since the beginning of the invasion is Stay Online, and that alone is a reason to include it in our picks list. The film, though, also sounds gripping. It followed Katya, a volunteer, whose donated laptop discovers a boy who is searching for his parents. The film gives a glimpse into the present state of war-impacted Ukraine.

July 22 and 24. Details HERE.

Restore Point

If Philip K Dick books and other dystopian worlds excite you, Restore Point is for you. Set in 2041, death has been eliminated because one can live virtually under the auspices of a corporation. But, on the eve of going public, murder happens. Everything about this film sounds excellent.

July 24. Details HERE.

Fantasia runs from July 20 to August 9. For details on all films and show times, click HERE.

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