15 must-see films at Fantasia International Film Festival 2017
Mohawk, pegged as an “angry, breakneck chase through the forests of Colonial America”, is the next feature film from Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here). Written as part of a collaboration with novelist Grady Hendrix, the film follows a young Mohawk warrior as she finds herself pursued by a battalion of military renegades hell-bent on revenge. Stars Kaniehtiio Horn (Netflix’s Hemlock Grove) in the lead, alongside Justin Rain (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Ezra Buzzington (The Artist), Ian Colletti (AMC’s Preacher), Noah Segan (Looper), Robert Longstreet (Take Shelter), and Sherri Foster (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).
Starring Robert Pattinson (Twilight, Cosmopolis, The Lost City of Z) in the lead, Good Time is set over the course of one adrenalized night, as a botched bank robbery lands Constantine Nikas’ younger brother in prison. In a desperate race against the clock to save him, Constantine must embark on a twisted odyssey, drenched in violence and mayhem, through the city’s underbelly. The film, featuring a career-defining performance from Pattinson, screened as part of the main competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Despite being treated to a six-minute standing ovation, Good Time lost out to Ruben Östlund’s The Square. Directed by Joshua Safdie and Ben Safdie, who shot to fame within the indie community following the success of Heaven Knows What (2014).
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) stars as agent Lorraine Broughton, the crown of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service. Sent into Berlin alone to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, Broughton must navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies. James McAvoy (Wanted), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane), Eddie Marsan (The Illusionist), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), and Toby Jones (The Hunger Games) star alongside Theron. Directed by David Leitch (V for Vendetta) and written by Kurt Johnstad (300), Atomic Blonde is based on the graphic novel series The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and illustrator Sam Hart. Expect a blistering blend of sleek action and gritty sexuality.
Look back over the history of cinema and pick out the most iconic scene. Surely there aren’t many that rank up alongside the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal classic Psycho (1960). The scene, a sheer stroke of genius from the master of suspense himself, killed off Janet Leigh (Touch of Evil) in the first act of the film. Now, nearly 60 years later, director Alexandre O. Philippe (Doc of the Dead) deconstructs the scene with the assistance of filmmakers and actors, including Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), Elijah Wood (Maniac), Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), and Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now). Confused about the name of this one? Not to worry, it’s a direct reference to the scene itself, having consisted of 78 setups and 52 cuts.
The story of Adah and Aaron, two recovering addicts who are struggling to stay sober. After meeting in their psychoanalyst’s waiting room, they fall in love, relapse on poppers, and become the biggest assholes in New York City. Fantasia have pegged this as a film that will “test your limits” – Assholes is described as a cross between Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom and The Squid and the Whale. The directorial debut from Peter Vack (Lace Crater), who also stars alongside Betsey Brown (his real-life sister).
Friends who slay together, stay together. At least, that’s the mindset behind Sadie and McKayla, the two social-media obsessed best friends in Tragedy Girls. In a desperate bid to build up their online following, the two girls kidnap Lowell, an unambitious local serial killer, and force him to mentor them into becoming modern-day horror legends. As they commit a series of murders that sends their small town into a media frenzy, it seems everything is going to plan (if you can call it a plan). That is, until Lowell escapes and the local sheriff begins to close in on them. Stars Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton), Brianna Hildebrand (First Girl I Loved), Josh Hutcherson (The Disaster Artist), Craig Robinson (Austin Found), and Kevin Durand (Real Steel). Directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Patchwork).
25 years ago, Mi-Hee was an ordinary housewife – until one stormy night, when she awakes on the floor of her living room, immersed by a cloud of darkness. In the basement, she finds her dying husband. Her son vanishes before her very eyes. The sole suspect in the ordeal, Mi-Hee is imprisoned. Now, as she’s released from prison, Mi-Hee returns to the home where everything took place. Directed by Dae-wung Lim (The Guest), House of the Disappeared stars Yunjin Kim (Lost) in the lead. Don’t expect any jump scares, this one relies purely on tension and suspense.
The provocative tale of a woman who snaps under crushing life pressures and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. Her philandering, absentee husband is forced to become reacquainted with his four children and sister-in-law as they attempt to keep the family together during this otherworldly crisis. Directed by Marianna Palka (Good Dick, I’m the Same), Bitch stars Jason Ritter (Freddy vs. Jason), Jaime King (Sin City), Sol Rodriguez (Devious Maids), and Palka herself.
Have a Nice Day follows Xiao Zhang, a mere driver, as he steals a bag containing one million yuan from his boss in a desperate bid to save his fiancée’s failed plastic surgery. As news of the robbery spreads throughout the small town in Southern China, a ragtag group emerges from the woodwork, each a personal motive for tracking down Zhang and claiming the dough for themselves. The second feature from Jian Liu, Have a Nice Day was the first animated feature from China to screen as part of the main competition at the Berlin Film Festival. Expect Tarantinoesque action and violence.
Francesca Eastwood (Final Girl) stars as Noelle, an introverted art student who is sexually assaulted on campus by a fellow student. With the justice system having let her down, Noelle decides to take matters into her own hands. Directed by Natalia Leite, M.F.A. is a terrifying, poignant, and deeply moving rape-revenge thriller. The screenplay was written by Leah McKendrick (Bad Moms), who also stars alongside Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr. (Transcendence), Michael Welch (Z Nation), Kyle McKeever (Odd Thomas), and David Sullivan (Netflix’s Flaked).
A Ghost Story sees a white-sheeted ghost return to his suburban home to console his bereft wife, only to discover that he’s become unstuck in time. Forced to watch on passively as the life he knew and the woman he loved slowly slips away, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history. Directed by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), A Ghost Story confronts life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. Stars Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara (Carol). Expect a “singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning”.
Shinji is a day laborer working construction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Blind in one eye and manically talkative, he accepts the label of being “weird” to cover up a deep sense of alienation. Mika works as a nurse by day, but by night she entertains lecherous men at a hostess bar. They both lead a lonely existence, young and grown-up at the same time. But somehow, they keep crossing paths under the Tokyo sky. Director Yuya Ishii (The Great Passage) ponders if loneliness can ever be experienced together, as he paints a picture of Japanese society in a desperate struggle for survival.
Fantasia has been a driving force in providing a platform for promising talent coming out of New Zealand, especially after Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople last year. This time around, it’s Matt Murphy’s turn with Pork Pie, a remake of his father’s film Goodbye Pork Pie (1981). The film tells the story of Jon, a novelist going through writer’s block, as he decides to attend his friend’s wedding to confront his ex. Along the way, he meets Luke, a young man on the run from police for stealing a Mini Cooper, and Kiera, an animal rights activist. Together, they embark on a wild ride through New Zealand’s stunning landscape. Stars Dean O’Gorman (The Almighty Johnsons), James Rolleston (The Dark Horse), and Ashleigh Cummings (Hounds of Love).
Be prepared to meet three of society’s forgotten and ignored: El Monstruo, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss; Crystal, a middle-aged drug addict; and Randy, a convict bearing a full-face swastika tattoo. Little do they know, their lives are about to collide as a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry. Blessed are the meek in the directorial debut from Ryan Prows. Stars Ricardo Adam Zarate (Deadly Sins), Nicki Micheaux (Their Eyes Were Watching God), and Jon Oswald (Mata Hari).
A psychological thriller set in the world of undocumented female immigrants hoping to make a life in New York City from filmmaker Ana Asensio (Zenith). Shot on Super 16mm, Most Beautiful Island follows one harrowing day in the life of Luciana, a young immigrant woman struggling to make ends meet while striving to escape her past. But this day is like none other that came before it, as Luciana inadvertently finds herself becoming a central participant in a cruel game where lives are placed at risk and psyches are twisted and broken for the perverse entertainment of an elitist few. Asensio stars in the lead, alongside Natasha Romanova (Love Is in the Air), Nicholas Tucci (You’re Next), and Larry Fessenden (Stake Land).