Fant-Asia anticipating Toronto debut

Montreal: Determined to put the fun back into movies and make a buck while they’re at it, genre filmmakers in Canada are expecting the appreciation of their craft to gain new heights as Fant-Asia ’98: The International Festival of Fantasy & Action Cinema makes its debut in Toronto.

The festival has quickly emerged as North America’s leading genre film festival, with more than 80 films from Hong Kong, Japan, the u.s., Canada and Europe on this year’s program.

The third Montreal edition unspools simultaneously with the inaugural edition of Fant-Asia Toronto, July 10 to Aug. 9. The Toronto festival takes place at the 950-seat Bloor Cinema.

Toronto festival director and filmmaker Julian Grant says the public and industry response is phenomenal.

‘The festival will legitimize the genre cinema that now gets dumped straight to pay-cable,’ says Grant. ‘Now [these films] will be screened in a genuine festival showcase the way they were meant to be seen, and that will boost home video, pay-cable.’

Emerging filmmakers

Grant says Fant-Asia should also constitute a major boost to Canada’s emerging wave of genre filmmakers such as Stag director Gavin Wilding, Cube director Vincenzo Natali and Grant himself (Hostile Intent), whose latest action film Airborne is on the program and is distributed Alliance Communications.

Grant says the ‘publicly funded Canadian wanker’ films have had their day.

‘The old school is dead,’ he says, ‘and we’re making market-driven films for an international audience.’

Forty films from Hong Kong are on the Fant-Asia ’98 program, a dozen from Japan.

Highlights include world premieres of Don Coscarelli’s Phastasm: Oblivion, the fourth entry; Brian Yuzna’s slasher movie The Dentist 2; Nacho Cerda’s short film Genesis; and Quebec filmmaker Maurice Devereaux’s Lady of the Lake, a medieval fantasy. All four filmmakers are attending both festivals.

Other films on the program are Keita Amemiya’s Makaraga, set in medieval Japan; Juanma Bajo’s Ulloa’s Airbag, a Tarantinoesque hit in Spain last year; and Agustin Villaronga’s creepy atmospheric-horror movie, 99.9.

Also on tap is Russel Mulcahy’s highly anticipated Talos the Mummy, a tribute to the Hammer films of the 1960s starring the venerable Christopher Lee, with Mulcahy attending screenings in both cities.


Japanese animation films are well represented and likely to draw crowds. This year’s offerings include Koji Moromoto’s Noiseman Sound Insect and Astro Boy and Black Jack from Jungle Emperor Leo creator Osamu Desaki.

Quite a few international industry guests plan to attend including Makoto Kakurai of Japan’s Shochiku and filmmaker Takashi Ishi, whose films Gonin, Gonin 2 and The Black Angel will be screened at the end of July.

Also attending are Peggy Lee of Hong Kong distrib Win’s, Eastern Heroes editor/publisher Rick Baker, u.s. directors Steve Wang (Drive) and Jim Van Bebber (Deadbeat At Dawn), Portuguese fantasy film fest director Mario Dorminsky, Fangoria’s Michael Gingold and Milky Way Image (Hong Kong) producer Johnny To (Odd One Dies/Longest Nite).

Special sections include a tribute to Spanish Cinema and a showcase for Independent American Films.

About 70% of the Montreal program is being reprogrammed in Toronto, with the balance of the Toronto program made up of exclusives including Peter Svatek’s teen sci-fi thriller Laserhawk, as well as highlights from Fant-Asia ’96 and ’97.

Montreal Fant-Asia ’98 opened with Jet Li’s Hitman and closes with the North American premiere of John Carpenter’s Vampires, a rollicking vampire western, starring Sheryl Lee and James Woods. Based on the John Steakly cult novel Vampire$, the film will be released internationally by Sony-Columbia Pictures this fall.

A new Golden Harvest cut of the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon is on the Toronto opening night program, as is Sundance Film Festival winner (best director) Darren Aronfsky’s pi. Carpenter’s Vampires is the closer.