There are a lot of film festivals these days. Some focus on the work of one big director or actor – like the John Wayne Film Festival now in its fourth year in Dallas. Other festivals have a theme – perhaps it’s films by or about the LGBT community, or only documentaries.
But a film festival in Austin still manages to set itself apart. It puts the films that might be relegated to midnight viewings elsewhere – front and center.
Fantastic Fest truly revels in the weird and the wild.
“Our goal, is if you’re into this sort of thing, then this is your best week of the year,” Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest founder Tim League says.
“This sort of thing” means films – especially sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Fantastic Fest is actually the largest genre film festival in the country – but League says planners very purposefully reach outside of the U.S. to find content.
“We scour the globe looking for the best of the best,” League says. “We have about 80 features, 50 shorts and a lot of them are foreign language. So it’s an incredibly international festival. Of the 80 features, I’d say that probably 60 of them are foreign language films – and from all over the globe. We get excited if we find genre films that are popping up in areas where we haven’t seen them before. We’re showing a really incredible Israeli film this year. We’ve got an East African film this year. We’ve got a South African heist movie. So we’re looking all over the place.”
One film getting a lot of buzz this year is “The Lobster.” It’s an English-language film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.
“What I’m looking for when I see a movie is to watch it for the first time, be unsettled and just come out of the theatre – electric,” League says. “And I had that with “The Lobster.” So, for me, it’s this perfect package. It’s really funny but it’s darkly funny, it’s completely absurd – it’s some alternate reality near future – but it has a lot to say about just the nature of love and true love and destiny and human relationships… but packed into this bizarro fantasy-land tale.”
For film fans, one of the most exciting part of going to festivals is getting up close with their on-screen heroes. This year’s biggest name is Kurt Russell – who is bringing his new western “Bone Tomahawk.” But the thing about Fantastic Fest is that it won’t just be a glimpse of Russell on the red carpet.
“We’re going to bus people out to a ghost town and have a crazy, over-the-top party,” League says.
Over the top is kind of a theme at Fantastic Fest.
“Over the course of eight days it becomes this community of like-minded weirdos that are into the same thing, we watch movies all day and then we have really unique and sometimes outrageous parties every single night,” League says.
In fact, League cancelled one party after an online petition claimed it was going a little too far. The plan was to shoot feral hogs from a helicopter with automatic weapons. That party isn’t happening anymore – but there will still be plenty of wild and weird at this year’s Fantastic Fest.