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Stuff I’ve Been Doing ’round Town: Fantastic Fest

This image of the Alamo was provided by the Alamo.

This image of the Alamo was provided by the Alamo.

So down south of the river there’s this movie theater called the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s this 5 screen cinema world famous for its serious approach to movie food (really good) and its annual film festival, Fantastic Fest. I was there for the fifth, Fantastic Fest 2009, and experienced 35 films — 16 of them features — in seven days.

And then there was the rain.

In 5 years the Fantastic Fest has become one of the premier film festivals in North America, not to mention the world. Film industry trade publication Variety named it one of the top ten audience-friendly film festivals. The brainchild of Alamo, founder Tim League (a really really cool guy) and Harry Knowles of, this year’s Fantastic Fest hosted the world premier of Jarad Hess’ new comedy Gentlemen Broncos, as well as about ten dozen other films.

That's me. Yeah, me in the jacket right there. Photo by David Hill.

I managed to see a few of these movies, and in the process, met cool people on both sides of the entertainment industry. Highlights include Nacho Vigalondo, (Timecrimes), turning “Chaos Reigns” into a catchphrase, and the Fantastic Debates, an event where two industry pros debate topics like “Is independent film dying or dead?” and “Does Mike Bay deserve the death penalty more than an Oscar?” for 3 minutes with the winner in a boxing match.

German filmmaker Uwe Boll debates Alamo founder Tim League. Photo by David Hill.

Like I said, I’ve seen 35 movies in 7 days (I took Sunday and Tuesday off) so with that comes the pain of getting minimal sleep between classes. That and the constant rain all week really put me under the weather this weekend, and I’ve developed something akin to a cough. Ah well, what’s done is done. But aside from the headaches induced by the precipitation, I had lots of fun and expect to return next year to once again burn my self out. OF FUN.

Some choice films that you should probably see if you get the chance-

  • Macabre- if you like smart, funny horror, you’ll dig this Indonesian picture by the Mo Brothers.
  • Antichrist- Lars von Trier does psychological freak out, and goodness gracious it’s beautiful. Transcendent performances from all the actors in this intense film, all 2 of them.
  • A Town Called Panic- Based on a series of five minute claymation shorts from Belgium (go look them up on youtube RIGHT NOW go on I’ll wait), this 75 minute ball of energy is an explosion of childlike imagination that is guaranteed to delight and please.
  • Bronson- Powerhouse job from actor Tom Hardy drives this plotless character study.
  • Crazy Racer- A mainland China (not Hong Kong) version of a Guy Richie movie. Yeah, I know!
  • Yesterday- No-budget zombie flick from Canada. Great irrelevant tone, shared a ride home with the film makers.
  • Revenant- Only vampire movie I can honestly recommend anyone; take your girl to this one and leave Twilight at home.
  • Fish Story- This one is probably the hit of the festival. No North American distributor as of yet (it bombed in its native country of Japan) but it looks like chances are good after festival buzz gets people talking. Stay away from all promotional material when this gets big, and walk into it knowing as little about the plot as possible. This movie, which is the only movie I have ever seen to successfully pull off using Impact as a titles font, basically boils down to a certain song by an obscure mid-70s proto-punk band eventually saving the human race from total annihilation by the 2012 meteor. It is worth your time.

Photos provided by the Alamo Drafthouse and David Hill. Thanks Hill.

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October 5, 2009 | | Comments are closed for this post

1 Comment to Stuff I’ve Been Doing ’round Town: Fantastic Fest

Hi – THANKS for the photo credit and thank you for enjoying and spreading the photos. Fantastic Fest was so awesome this year. Hope to see you there next year.

October 19, 2009
— David Hill
photo of Ao