Courtesy of Fantasia

The Fantasia International Film Festival brought its 25th edition to a close on Wednesday, August 25th with the sold-out in-person screening of Takashi Miike’s THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – GUARDIANS, bowing for its International Premiere at the festival, and the unveiling of this year’s esteemed award winners.

Once again responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fantasia took up a hybrid format for the 2021 festival, returning to Festival Scope and Shift72 for our Canadian geo-locked virtual component and holding in-person screenings at Montreal’s historic Cinéma Impérial and the Cinéma du Musée. Across our digital and physical screenings, the festival boasts over 100,000 in viewing numbers that include ticket sales, badge purchases, and streamed events. More than a record-breaking 500 journalists from around the world were accredited for Fantasia, which also saw a heightened industry presence with numerous distribution and sales acquisitions being announced out of the fest, including pick-ups by Shudder, Utopia, and Oscilloscope Films, and sales acquisitions by XYZ and Vanishing Angle.

Shunji Iwai with his Career Achievement Award

In addition to films, the festival presented a slate of virtual events accessible from anywhere in the world, notably headlined by masterclasses given by boundary-pushing Japanese filmmaker Shunji Iwai and Oscar-winning stop-motion animator and filmmaker Phil Tippett, who were honoured with a Career Achievement Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award, respectively. Additional highlights include a masterclass from legendary filmmaker and artist Stephen Sayadian, a panel on South African genre cinema, a talk on Indigenous horror works, and MONSTERS MUST LIVE!– presented by Untold Horror, featuring filmmakers Brian Yuzna, William Malone, and Richard Raaphorst discussing unrealized projects from their past.

In-person guests to Fantasia’s latest edition included writer/director Rob Jabbaz, who attended the North American Premiere of his explosive feature debut THE SADNESS, which earned him this year’s New Flesh Award for Best First Feature; and Mark O’Brien and Henry Czerny for the World Premiere of O’Brien’s celebrated feature directorial debut THE RIGHTEOUS, which was awarded Best Screenplay by our Cheval Noir jury.

Our monumental 25th edition included 25 feature film World Premieres, 12 International Premieres, and 34 North American, with 24 countries represented in the full line-up, and our strongest program of Quebecois cinema to date. Highlights and breakouts of the line-up include the world premieres of Mark O’Brien’s THE RIGHTEOUS, Lee Won-tae’s THE DEVIL’S DEAL, Paul Andrew Williams’ BULL, Richard Bates Jr.’s KING KNIGHT, Ruth Platt’s MARTYRS LANE, Travis Taute’s INDEMNITY, Jesse Dvorak’s BABY, DON’T CRY, and HELLBENDER, the latest from the Adams Family. In addition, the festival hosted the international premieres of Tsutomu Hanabusa’s TOKYO REVENGERS, Igor Legarreta’s ALL THE MOONS, Stef Lernous’ HOTEL POSEIDON, and Josef Kubota Wladyka’s CATCH THE FAIR ONE, as well as celebrated screenings that helped launch Rob Jabbaz’s THE SADNESS and Junta Yamaguchi’s BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES to exceptional critical and audience praise.

Closing out the festival, which launched on August 5th with the world premiere of Quebec zombie feature BRAIN FREEZE and a special screening in-celebration of Fantasia on August 4th of James Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD, both taking place the Cinéma Impérial, Fantasia is proud to publicly announce our award winners for 2021, including the prestigious Cheval Noir Competition, New Flesh Competition For Best First Feature, The International Short Film Competition, AQCC-Camera Lucida Competition, Axis Competition – Satoshi Kon Award for Excellence in Animation, and the Audience Awards.

Voice of Silence l Fantasia

► CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS

The 2021 Cheval Noir jury was presided over by award-winning Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczyńska, director of the 2016 Sundance breakout THE LURE, which was awarded a Cheval Noir Special Jury Prize at Fantasia for “being a timeless cinematic fairytale – an instant cult classic!,” and the 2018 Cannes’ Critics Week selection FUGUE.

Further jury members include Kambole Campbell (freelance writer and critic), Paula Devonshire (producer on Clarice, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, REMEMBER), Mónica García Massagué (author and General Manager of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival), and Simon Rumley (FASHIONISTA, RED WHITE AND BLUE).

BEST FILM: VOICE OF SILENCE (South Korea, d. Hong Eui-jeong)

“We gave the award for best film to VOICE OF SILENCE, for the quality of its craft as well as its unparalleled ability to surprise. In a film festival that’s known as a melting pot of genres, VOICE OF SILENCE feels like an excellent representative for the top prize in the Cheval Noir section. It’s earnest and sincere in tone but also unpredictable and experimental, impossible to pin down, and truly idiosyncratic. Put simply, it’s unlike anything we’d seen before.”

BEST DIRECTOR: Igor Legarreta (ALL THE MOONS, Spain/France)

“The jury wants to highlight the beautiful work of this director, who has managed to capture poetic horror with pictorial precision. The award for best director goes to Igor Legarreta, director of ALL THE MOONS.”

BEST SCREENPLAY: Mark O’Brien (THE RIGHTEOUS, Canada)

“Fantasia’s Cheval Noir award for the best screenplay goes to Mark O’ Brien for THE RIGHTEOUS, for its compelling and intense script which investigates grief, compassion, faith, love, self-doubt and madness, all the things, therefore, that make us the creatures that we are, that make us human.”

BEST SCORE: John Adams (HELLBENDER, USA)

“The jury is thrilled to present the award for best score to a very talented family, in front of and behind the camera. The award for this nightmarishly cool music goes to John Adams for HELLBENDER.”

BEST ACTOR: Yoo Ah-in (VOICE OF SILENCE, South Korea)

“With a lot of extremely strong competition, Yoo Ah-in’s non-verbal performance blew us away. Communicating a vast wealth of emotion with physicality alone, he provides a clarity that anchored us among the film’s many swerves and obfuscations.”

BEST ACTRESS: Zelda Adams (HELLBENDER, USA)

“The power in her performance and her overwhelming presence confirm the award for this young actress. The award for best actress goes to Zelda Adams, main character of HELLBENDER.”

JURY SPECIAL MENTION – CINEMATOGRAPHY: Imanol Nabea (ALL THE MOONS, Spain/France)

“The jury decided that we absolutely must give a Special Mention to Imanol Nabea for their cinematography on ALL THE MOONS. Its expert visual narration, through beautiful light and evocative camera movement, just blew us all away. It was a highlight of an already exquisite work.”

JURY SPECIAL MENTION – RISING STAR: Sienna Sayer (MARTYRS LANE, UK)

“Her captivating performance both broke and chilled our hearts. The jury unanimously wishes to acknowledge this talent to watch with a Rising Star award for Sienna Sayer from MARTYRS LANE.”

JURY SPECIAL MENTION – SOUND DESIGN: Stef Lernous (HOTEL POSEIDON, Belgium)

“We felt that the sound design of HOTEL POSEIDON deserved a particular shout-out, paramount in the film’s visceral experience. The blurring of the line between score and sound effect proved particularly haunting for the jury!”

THE SADNESS l Fantasia

NEW FLESH AWARD FOR DEBUT FILM

The New Flesh jury, which awards debut feature films and their creators, was presided over by UK author, critic, and broadcaster Kim Newman and comprised of Jill Gevargizian (THE STYLIST), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark entry CULTURE SHOCK, upcoming BINGO HELL), Brian O’Malley (LET US PREY, THE LODGERS), and Myriam Sassine (Co-Founder of the Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival and producer of AMAL, A SON, ALL THIS VICTORY).

BEST FILM: THE SADNESS (Taiwan, d. Rob Jabbaz)

“We are pleased to present THE SADNESS with the New Flesh jury award! Though the jury had their jaws dropped to the floor, they were incredibly impressed with such a slickly produced rampage of gore. A wild ride that doesn’t stop! Sadists, cannibalism, lust… one could say it has been a while since a film has managed to horrify and scare them in the level this film did. THE SADNESS was not afraid to take risks and go beyond any infection film we have seen to date, touching on political themes that our world isn’t too far off of, but still maintaining thrilling entertainment for the viewer. Congratulations to the entire team of THE SADNESS!”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES (Japan, d. Junta Yamaguchi)

”BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES receives a special jury award for its ‘outstanding achievement in filmmaking’. Remarkable in both its mind-bending concept and its expert execution, the whole jury marvelled at the sheer cinematic brilliance of this magnificent contribution to the time travel genre.”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: OFFICE ROYALE (Japan, d. Kazuaki Seki)

“A feast for the eyes, OFFICE ROYALE is a bonkers and hilarious debut film which we are awarding with a special jury mention. Its intensely feminine aesthetic mixed with extreme violence and gore is as thrilling as it is refreshing.”

VULNERABILTY l Fantasia

► INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM COMPETITION

The International Short Film Competition jury was presided over by co-jury presidents Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (LET THE CORPSES TAN, THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) and comprised of Prano Bailey-Bond (CENSOR), Yfke van Berckelaer (XANGADIX LIVES!, Fantasia 2019 award-winning short LILI), and Faye Jackson (STRIGOI, Fantasia 2020 special jury mention short SNOWFLAKES).

BEST FILM: VULNERABILITY (Japan, d. Eiji Tanigawa)

“The direction, visuals, editing, narration and performances from the two main actors combine to create a deeply powerful cinematic experience. It’s a playful, clever portrait of humanity’s beauty, flaws, and fascinating destructive impulses. We were particularly taken back by the chaotic side of the film.”

BEST DIRECTOR: Cory Williamson (SILLY HUMAN, USA)

“Director Cory Williamson crafts a menacing, totalitarian sitcom set in SILLY HUMAN that manages to convey a whole sinister world in a few contained scenes. Beautifully paced with brilliant performances, Williamson’s confident hand tightens the tension moment by moment, perfectly balancing it on the edge with pitch black humour.”

BEST SCREENPLAY: Steph Kwiatkowski (RACHELS DON’T RUN, USA/France)

”A beautifully paced script that taps into our need for connection whilst gracefully allowing us into the character, painting her needs, desires and vulnerabilities through the action, story and behaviour of others. This is a really smart and neat concept, skillfully executed, which builds us up only to crush us emotionally.”

BEST ACTRESS: Victoria Villier (INHERITANCE, USA)

“From the moment she first appears on screen Victoria Villier makes you feel like you’ve known her for years. Her performance is pitch-perfect, entirely grounded in truth and absolutely captivating to watch from beginning to end. With just one look she can make you feel for her, fear for her, and make you want to see everything else she’ll ever be in.”

BEST ACTOR: Ian Cramer (OTHER BODIES, USA)

“Ian Cramer manages to suck you into his tale and slowly tighten his grip on you throughout the entire movie. Much like he does to the protagonist, he leaves you feeling seduced, haunted, depraved and, quite literally, breathless.”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: THE TENANT (Spain, d. Lucas Paulino & Ángel Torres)

“For its fun and efficient establishment which leads to relentless suspense, congratulations to the directors Lucas Paulino & Ángel Torres and actress Belén Rueda for having achieved the challenge of creating such tension in just a few minutes!”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: HENCHMEN (Singapore, d. Alistair Quak)

“HENCHMEN is a brilliantly choreographed, wildly entertaining slice of action comedy. Director Alistair Quak expertly subverts narrative expectations and wields screen violence with the sort of playful, creative, manic glee that genre audiences will never get enough of.”

► JURY AQCC – CAMERA LUCIDA AWARD

The AQCC-Camera Lucida Jury, annually arranged from members of the Quebec Critic’s Association, was comprised of local film critics Jean-Marie Lanlo, Martin Gignac, and Claire Valade.

AQCC-CAMERA LUCIDA PRIZE: THE STORY OF SOUTHERN ISLET (Malaysia, d. Chong Keat Aun)

“For its contemplative atmosphere, its fantastic cinematography in which reality collides with surrealism, and its portrait of evaporating cultures, the AQCC-Camera Lucida jury gives its award to the Malaysian film THE STORY OF SOUTHERN ISLET.”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD (Philippines, d. Dodo Dayao)

“For the progressive affirmation of a cinematic identity, the AQCC-Camera Lucida jury decided to give a mention to the Filipino film MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD.”

AXIS: SATOSHI KON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN ANIMATION

The Axis jury, which oversees awards for the festival’s animation programming, was presided over by jury president Hefang Wei (animator, Weilaï Productions Co-Founder, Kazak Productions Art Director) and comprised of Ashkan Rahgozar (author, director, Founder and CEO of Hoorakhsh Studios) and Kalp Sanghvi (director, writer, Co-Founder of Ghost Animation Collective).

BEST FEATURE: CRYPTOZOO (USA, d. Dash Shaw)

“This film is a psychedelic paean, it is a modern and fascinating mythological painting, and it is also a strong political metaphor.”

SPECIAL JURY MENTION: FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO (Japan, d. Ayumu Watanabe)

“The jury mention award goes to FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO because of its creative storytelling and stunning animation.”

BEST SHORT FILM – GOLD: SEEN IT (India, d. Adithi Krishnadas)

”This film instantly stuck to me in terms of its graphic style. Lovely visuals and brilliant portrayal of haunting experiences with the use of humour.”

BEST SHORT FILM – SILVER: GHOST DOGS (USA, d. Joe Cappa)

“This film is about a dog’s feelings during midnight. The author’s sense of humour and the creepiness of the environment elicit a strange and fantastic emotion in the viewer.”

BEST SHORT FILM – BRONZE: MONDO DOMINO (France, d. Suki)

“Because of the important message of the film, its outstanding animation, and music.”

► AUDIENCE AWARDS

BEST ASIAN FEATURE – GOLD: BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES (Japan, d. Junta Yamaguchi)

BEST ASIAN FEATURE – SILVER: MIDNIGHT (South Korea, d. Kwon Oh-seung)

BEST ASIAN FEATURE – BRONZE: THE SADNESS (Taiwan, d. Rob Jabbaz)

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE – GOLD: ALL THE MOONS (Spain/France, d. Igor Legarreta)

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE – SILVER: ULTRASOUND (USA, d. Rob Schroeder)

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE – BRONZE: KING KNIGHT (USA, d. Richard Bates, Jr.)

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE – GOLD: DREAMS ON FIRE (Canada/Japan, d. Philippe McKie)

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE – SILVER: THE RIGHTEOUS (Canada, d. Mark O’Brien)

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE – BRONZE: BRAIN FREEZE (Canada, d. Julien Knafo)

BEST DOCUMENTARY – GOLD: WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR (USA, d. Kier-La Janisse)

BEST DOCUMENTARY – SILVER: ALIEN ON STAGE (UK, d. Lucy Harvey & Danielle Kummer)

BEST DOCUMENTARY – BRONZE: SATOSHI KON, THE ILLUSIONIST (France/Japan, d. Pascal-Alex Vincent)

BEST ANIMATED FILM – GOLD: MAD GOD (USA, d. Phil Tippett)

BEST ANIMATED FILM – SILVER: HAYOP KA! THE NIMFA DIMAANO STORY (Philippines, d. Avid Liongoren)

BEST ANIMATED FILM – BRONZE: THE DEER KING (Japan, d. Masashi Ando & Miyaji Masayuki)

MOST GROUNDBREAKING FILM OF THE FESTIVAL: MAD GOD (USA, d. Phil Tippett)

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT – GOLD: DIGITAL VIDEO EDITING WITH ADOBE PREMIERE PRO: THE REAL-WORLD GUIDE TO SET UP AND WORKFLOW (South Korea, d. Hong Seong-yoon)

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT – SILVER (TIED): DANA (Spain, d. Lucía Forner Segarra)

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT – SILVER (TIED): VIEWERS:1 (Japan, d. Daigo Hariya & Yosuke Kobayashi)

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT – BRONZE: DEATH AND THE WINEMAKER (Switzerland, d. Victor Jaquier)

BEST CANADIAN SHORT – GOLD: FREYA (Canada, d. Camille Hollett-French)

BEST CANADIAN SHORTSILVER: FRUIT (Canada, d. Ivan Li)

BEST CANADIAN SHORTBRONZE: SHE WHISTLES (Canada, d. Thirza Cuthand)

Fantasia looks forward to returning in 2022!
Sarah Musnicky
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