Extraordinary real-life horror stories, mind-bending theories testing the bounds of reality as we know it, and surreal profiles of those on the fringes – Fantastic Film Festival Australia (16 April – 1 May) has announced its new program of weird and wonderful films screening only in cinemas at Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn (VIC) and Ritz Cinema, Randwick (NSW).
Home to trendsetters, truth talkers, trailblazers and loose wires, Fantastic Film Festival Australia is dedicated to showing the world's most daring works from filmmakers with innovative and unique perspectives.
"Genre cinema has an unmatched ability to conjure up a truth that is raw and gets under our skin," said Fantastic Film Festival Artistic Director Hudson Sowada. "Having leaped into 2021 with a sense of hope, we should look to those on the fringes to take risks, kill our darlings, and help us question reality. From trippy adventures, surreal deep-dives into the human psyche, and a mirror held up to society – expect a program of films like no other."
Hot off a Sundance premiere is the opening night film Prisoners of the Ghostland, from renegade Japanese auteur Sion Sono (Love Exposure) and starring Nicolas Cage. This absurd Acid-Western " set in a fantastical fictional city that is half Westworld and half Tokyo Disney " follows Cage as a shotgun-toting outlaw on a rescue mission through a post-apocalyptic world.
Closing the Festival is the shocking and boundary-pushing, Mother Schmuckers, from directors Lenny and Harpo Guit. When two dim-witted brothers lose their mother's beloved dog, they take to the streets of Brussels to locate it before their mother kicks them out of home – and along the way, find themselves on an adventure unlike any other put to the screen.
Not to be missed are three deeply unconventional love stories: when a gambler becomes obsessed with his favourite cam girl (Uncut Gems' Julia Fox), the line between customer and client blurs in PVT Chat; a thrilling new piece of Australian genre cinema, Bloodshot Heart, follows a reclusive and deeply repressed man who hatches the "perfect plan" to win the heart of his new tenant; and Jumbo, the fable-like story of an amusement park worker (Portrait of a Lady on Fire's Noémie Merlant) entering an erotic relationship with a merry-go-round.
From Plato's cave to Elon Musk's Twitter feed, A Glitch in the Matrix dissects the 21st century's greatest existential fear: are we living in a simulation? Acclaimed director Rodney Ascher (Room 237) presents a staggering synthesis of perspectives on simulation theory, drawing on a variety of sources from conspiracy theorists to scientists and philosophers to craft a conceptual, considered and sensitive trip down the rabbit-hole.
Films that hold a mirror up to our society include, Come and See, is a 2K digital restoration, critically acclaimed, ruthless depiction of human evil. Come and See is an anti-war film reimagining the events of 1943, when the Nazis entered Belarus, through the eyes of a naïve boy. Lapsis, a scathing critique of modern workplaces and the emerging dystopia of the gig economy; and documentary Miracle Fishing: Kidnapped Abroad, in which director Miles Hargrove captured the gruelling process of rescuing his father from a Colombian drug cartel holding him ransom for 6 million dollars.
Sink deep into the psychological abyss with Siberia. Long-time collaborators Willem Dafoe and Abel Ferrara (New Rose Hotel) embark on a beautiful and nightmarish journey into the subconscious, as a tortured man (Defoe) exiles himself from civilisation and attempts to navigate the wilds of northern Canada and his mind.
The Festival program also includes genre films from Asian nations including, Korean writer-director Kim Yon-hoon's neo-noir Beasts Clawing at Straws that follows a group of cash-strapped people and a bag full of money; and Get the Hell Out, a manic zombie movie about braindead politics.
Audiences can go further down the rabbit-hole with special festival events, including a carefully curated program of 16mm films from the 60s, 70s, and 80s in Melbourne titled Analogue Orgy (24 April, from 6PM); and Dungeons & Dragons (25 April, from 3:30PM) in which fans can craft their own fantastic adventure with the help of Sydney and Melbourne's most experienced Dungeon Masters. The screening of Bloodshot Heart will include an in person live Q&A with cast and crew, while some other titles in the program will have live digital Q&A's.
2021 Fantastic Film Festival Australia
MELBOURNE Friday, 16 April – Saturday, 1 May 2021 Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn
SYDNEY Friday, 16 April – Friday, 30 April 2021 Ritz Cinema, Randwick