One of Austin’s pivotal film festivals, Fantastic Fest, is set to return for its thirteenth year on September 21-28, with a new theme, new films, new events, and new experiences for film fans.
“This year at Fantastic Fest we’re focusing on Arabic genre films,” says Evrim Ersoy, the creative director for Fantastic Fest. “This came about through a confluence of fortuitous spark of curiosity, subsequent fascination bordering on obsession, and a journey of discovery through research and countless illuminating conversations with brilliant experts in the subject material met along the way. When we build a theme for the festival, we try to find one which is multi-faceted and open to exploration from almost a multi-sensory vantage point. All the things that surround and are a part of film culture–we look to create an atmosphere of reverence and awe for our audience, echoing the joy and deepening appreciation experienced during our own curatorial journey.”
Fantastic Fest remains the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and films that are just plain weird. Ersoy first developed his love of genre film growing up in Turkey, when a military coup coincided with an explosion of culture. The new government was keen to develop a close relationship with the U.S. and one of the results was new and sudden access to foreign media, including VHS tapes of American movies available pretty much everywhere. Ersoy loved what he saw so much he eventually became a film critic, which turned into something more.
“[I was] inspired to create and develop my own film projects and to co-found and curate a popular film club in London,” he states. “Further curating and programming opportunities came my way as I discovered and fell in love with the film festival lifestyle. An opportunity to help out the Fantastic Fest team at Cannes a few years ago was soon followed by an official invitation to join the festival , which, as anyone will tell you, is pretty much the stuff that dreams are made of.”
Already cinephiles are excited about the first wave of programming. Embracing cinema spanning from Egypt to Lebanon to Iraq to Afghanistan, the fest celebrates the best of the region, along with plenty of representation from other countries around the world.
“I’m very keen to give our audience an opportunity to view these countries through a different lens than is usually highlighted,” Ersoy added. “I want to point out the similarities between the genre audiences both in U.S.A. and in places like Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. I also hope that our audience will see how film is a universal language, and especially how well genre travels and reflects the anxieties and interests of a society as a whole, in a way that is immediately accessible to an American audience which highlight concerns about society and government that will absolutely resonate.”
One of the biggest changes this year is that Fantastic Fest will simultaneously launch in other markets – namely Denver, San Francisco and New York – meaning that moviegoers in those areas can attend screenings of some of the same films in their local Alamo Drafthouse. There’s also a new focus this year on podcasts.
“The team realized that individually we were all listeners but never really thought about bringing our favorite shows and guests to Fantastic Fest to record here, so we’re looking forward to hearing these conversations and finding out the audience reaction to them!,” Ersoy said.
Fantastic Fest is one of the events that makes Austin not just weird, but also great. For more info, visit fantasticfest.com.