If anything, the name actually undersells what we can anticipate. But with a title like Fantastic Film Festival Australia, expectations for a quality program were always going to be high. For their 2021 edition, the fest brings forth a line-up this year that is challenging, weird, exciting, fun and of course, fantastic.
Taking place at Melbourne’s Lido Cinemas and Sydney’s The Ritz Cinema Paddington, Fantastic Film Festival Australia has prepared a hearty and fulfilling curation of films, events and curiosities. Whether it’s a mind-warping collaboration between Sion Sono and Nic Cage with Prisoners of the Ghostland, Q&As with various directors or an immersive one-shot Dungeons & Dragons campaign, even the most casual fans of the obscure and baffling will find something they simply cannot wait to dive into.
There’s a lot of content to process, which is a good problem to have for all you soon-to-be ticket holders. To get your planning ball rolling, we picked some of our choice titles that, in our not-so-humble opinion, make the festival utterly unmissable.
You can check out the full program here.
Akilla’s Escape is an incredibly powerful film, with one source of its unyielding force being that while this particular narrative may be fiction, the situations and scenarios are unfortunately all too real and all too common.
Set to the backdrop of the never-ending cycle of crime spanning generations, Akilla’s Escape follows the trials and challenges of its titular character, thrown into the crime world from a young age. Despite his best intentions to leave, it simply won’t let him out of its clutches. The film’s soundtrack bears the fingerprints of Massive Attack’s 3D and features a bone-shakingly strong performance from musician and actor Saul Williams.
Come And See
Widely regarded as one of the most horrific films ever made, Come And See is an absolutely relentless and unflinching documentation of war from the point of view of a Belarusian teenage boy in the throes of World War II. It’s an arduous journey which is certainly not for the faint of heart, but the reason that you should watch goes beyond the thrill.
The impact of Come And See is visible even in the face of lead actor Aleksey Kravchenko, who seems to age exponentially as the film progresses. It’s well reported that the role had a lasting impact on him both physically and mentally. This is something that needs to be seen to be believed, hence the title.
A coming-of-age story that’s sure to have knots in your stomach, Make Up comes from the mind of UK director Claire Oakley and stars Molly Windsor. Windsor has long been handpicked as one of Britain’s breakthrough talents, even winning a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for her performance in BBC series Three Girls.
The film’s remote coastal setting starts off as ideal, pleasant even, but as the story unravels, the sense of isolation and the dreary surrounds soon take on a much darker tone. At its core, Make Up is a singular tale of self-acceptance and sexual awakening, but meanders through a plethora of genres as protagonist Ruth starts to see that paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I Blame Society
I Blame Society is a fourth-wall shattering, hilariously bleak film that toes the line between fiction and real life in a manner a little too close for comfort (which we suspect is the point). Gillian Wallace Horvat wrote, directed and stars in the film, taking on the mantle of a semi-fictionalised version of herself. In doing so, she adds a hefty dose of serial killer to her stats.
On the surface, I Blame Society follows the journey of a young filmmaker hellbent on creating the film she envisions no matter how much blood needs to be spilt. But upon shedding layers, it becomes clear this is also a film that takes aim at the prevailing norms of the film industry, especially when it comes to the treatment of women.
From director Kevin Lewis, this film will be gracing Fantastic Film Festival Australia for a good time, not a long time, with just one screening. That said, any chance to see Nic Cage go full Nic Cage is a “stop whatever you’re doing and watch” moment.
Night At The Museum on crack, Willy’s Wonderland follows a down-on-his-luck drifter duped into a janitorial job at a defunct theme park restaurant type deal. But rather than quipping mini cowboys, Cage finds himself up against demonic animatronics. If only these demonic animatronics knew who they were going up against.
Obviously, whatever Willem Dafoe does is worth your time, but Siberia, from director Abel Ferrara, is a standout in a career of standout moments. Existing in the gooey centre between horror and National Geographic, Siberia follows both the physical and psychological descent of a character named Clint as he embarks on a new life in the vast and dystopic far north Canadian wilderness.
Both surrealist and experimental, Siberia sees Clint grapple with nightmares buried deep within what the wilderness manifests. A dark past is exposed via non-linear storytelling and punctuated with stunning cinematography by Stefano Falivene.