The Fantasia Festival has long been one of our favourite festivals. Hosted in beautiful Montréal, the city of bagels, the festival is a cinematic wonderland of fantasy, horror, and science fiction gems by filmmakers from around the world. Naturally, we’ll be continuing our annual coverage of the festival. And, also naturally, we’re going to spotlight a few films on this year’s program that were made by female filmmakers.
Culture Shock (2019, dir. Gigi Saul Guerrero)
Culture Shock is the first feature-length film from Tex-Mex gore queen Gigi Saul Guerrero, a Mexican-Canadian filmmaker with a vibrant and distinctive visionary style who never pulls her punches (read our interview with Gigi in the first issue of Grim magazine). Addressing the horror of the border crisis, cultural alienation, and the terrifying modern political climate, Culture Shock tells the story of a young woman, Marisol Ramirez (Martha Higareda), who is desperate to cross the Mexican-American border to start a new life with her unborn child. There are violent complications during the journey and Marisol awakens—along with several of her fellow travelers—in a seemingly idyllic suburb of Anytown, USA, with no memory of how she arrived. Though the neighbours seem welcoming and kind, Marisol can sense something sinister below the surface; a dark motive peeking through the pastel-coloured facade. The film also stars horror legend Barbara Crampton, Richard Cabral, and Shawn Ashmore. We can’t wait to see this one!
Culture Shock was produced by Blumhouse Television as part of the Hulu Into The Dark anthology series. It screens on Thursday, July 25th at 9:45pm alongside Izzy Lee’s 2019 short film Re-Home, which imagines a dystopian future after the completion of the border wall.
Darlin’ (2019, dir. Pollyanna McIntosh)
Scottish-American actress Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead, Hap & Leonard) has branched out into writing and directing with her first feature film, Darlin’, a coming-of-age tale injected with a liberal dose of horror which serves as a sequel to Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011). The eponymous character is a feral, fierce, non-verbal adolescent (Lauryn Canny) who winds up in a Catholic hospital. Unable to share her story or identity, she’s taken to a boarding school run by a Bishop (Bryan Batt) and a bevy of nuns, where she’s meant to be rehabilitated and transformed into a good, godly young woman. For the school, this transformation is more than just a religious service—it’s an opportunity to garner praise and publicity and raise more money for the institution. But their efforts may be stymied by The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh), who is determined to reclaim the young woman whom she raised in the darkest reaches of the forest, no matter the cost. Imagined through a female gaze and mixing in a strong dose of social commentary, Darlin’ is an intriguing addition to the Fantasia program. It screens Monday, July 15th at 9:15pm.
The Father’s Shadow (2018, dir. Gabriela Amaral Almeida)
The Father’s Shadow, Brazilian filmmaker Gabriela Amaral Almeida’s second film, started its life as a short film in 2014. Now a full-length feature, the film tells the story of a young girl named Dalva (Nina Medeiros), who has recently lost her mother. The film deals with themes of loss, grief, and family dysfunction, and chronicles Dalva’s desperate attempts to return her family to the way they used to be. Poignant and darkly imaginative, The Father’s Shadow screens Monday, July 22nd at 7:00pm and Tuesday, July 23rd at 5:05pm and will be presented alongside Alvaro Rodríguez Areny’s short film Le Blizzard (2018).
Jessica Forever (2018, dir. Caroline Poggi & Jonathan Vinel)
The debut feature from celebrated French short filmmakers Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, Jessica Forever is poised to become a notable demonstration of the power of alternative French cinema. In the dystopian near future, Jessica (Aomi Muyock) has taken charge of a gang of misfits and cast-outs, striving to keep them safe in a hyperviolent and dangerous new reality. Poggi and Vinel offer stylish setpieces, an arthouse sensibility, and a feminist approach to a well-trod science fiction premise and the film’s violent action sequences are tempered by moments of tender quietude. Catch Jessica Forever on Friday, July 26 at 5:15pm or Tuesday, July 30th at 4:25pm.
Judy & Punch (2019, dir. Mirrah Foulkes)
Australian filmmaker Mirrah Folkes’s feature debut, Judy & Punch is a darkly comedic live-action take on the traditional (and traditionally violent) 17th-century puppet show, Punch and Judy. Starring Mia Wasikowska as puppeteer Judy and Damon Herriman as her puppeteering and romantic partner Punch, the Early Modern period piece explores themes of domestic violence, patriarchy, and revenge, wielding a fairy-tale vibe and a predilection for the unexpected. As Judy and Punch strive to achieve fame through their craft, Punch’s self-indulgence and violent impulses threaten their livelihood and ultimately result in a life-changing tragedy. How does Judy respond? You’ll have to catch the film on Wednesday, July 31st at 7:20pm or Thursday, August 1st at 1:00pm to find out!