I mention the Fantasia Film festival fairly often on this site. It’s one of the few events with a large audience I still make time for every year.
Fantasia started out as a festival focused on Asian cinema and Anime in 1996, when streaming was a distant dream and subs far from a guarantee. Getting your hands on Japanese animation in Montreal, let alone in a language you could understand, was a rare treat worthy of celebration. So three friends, Martin Sauvageau, André Dubois and Pierre Corbeil decided to pool whatever ressources they could to bring this great gift to the eager french Canadian masses.
It was a labour of love, if not exactly organization. In those early years, show times were a vague suggestion and it wasn’t uncommon for you to wait over an hour after the movie should have started just to get in the feather. And since you couldn’t find Anime elsewhere, you really had to get there at least an hour in advance if you wanted a decent seat. Especially if you were more than two people who wanted to sit together.
There was no concession, you occasionally were stuck in the isle. The occasionally very creative subtitles could be almost impossible to see because of colour and font. Sometimes they would dip below the image and disappear altogether. It was often loud. And absolutely magical!
Everyone, from organizer, to special guest to simple fan was incredibly psyched to be there. Audiences were electric and boisterous. Hooting and hollering! Responding to characters on the screen. Audibly gasping. They would break out in standing ovations in the middle of particularly rewarding scenes or start laughing at everything when the movie got boring.
A fantasia crowd was a unique beast that transformed your movie viewing experience. Seeing a movie there was just different from seeing the same movie under different circumstances. It was a time were there were no real anime community online so for many people this was your once a year shot to talk about something you loved. Everyone was welcomed, even if you were a complete novice. We couldn’t afford to gatekeep! It was great in its way.
With time the festival grew immensely, becoming one of the bigger ones. They added screening rooms and found more suitable venues. The number of movies increased and genre selection widened. They traded in that frantic atmosphere a bit for efficiency. Movies start on time, there’s a concession stand and plenty of bathrooms. You can always read the subtitles and the projectionist never shows the wrong movie. The crowd is respectful and unobstructive. There’s still no gatekeeping but I also don’t talk with strangers about the movies I just saw so maybe there is. It’s like going to the teather.
It’s been that way for a while now.
Why am I telling you this? Because I went to see 4 movies at Fantasia this year: Human Lost, Relative Worlds, Twilight and Promare. I am going to tell you all about it in the coming weeks. And this year, for the first time in a while, we had a fantasia crowd! It was magical. Surely it affected my viewing experience and my reviews. That’s fine! But before I talk about movies I just wanted to talk about movie festivals. If you have the chance, go! With an opened mind. Have fun! It’s a unique experience and you should try it once. Then you can tell us about it!!!!