Fantastic Fest Flashbacks: 2007


Fantastic Fest 2007

Jenn's been taking us back in time to the early days of Fantastic Fest: 2005 and 2006. I'm switching on the time machine for 2007, a big year for the festival. The fun kicked off with a badge pick-up party outside in the back parking lot of Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, with odd pinatas and a machine that aimed bloody spatters at willing victims and some interesting mechanical devices courtesy of Dorkbot Austin. This was the first year FF started using "traditional" badges, as I recall.

From a movie news point of view, 2007 was the year that surprised everyone when There Will Be Blood had its first public screening ever as a secret screening at the festival. I remember going to NYC the next year and hearing a PR rep fuss that "Can you believe? They screened it in Austin!" Of course all important movies should screen in New York and LA first, not the flyover.

In addition, 2007 was a big year for me because of Southland Tales. I realize a lot of people dislike this movie. I can't say I loved it, but I thought it was interesting -- my review refers to it as "a fascinating mess." It reminded me of some kind of alternative art exhibit where you admire the originality and the talent without actually wanting to take it home and put it on your wall, or even see it again. But "fascinating" and "extraordinary" were enough for the publicity folks, who asked me if I minded if they pulled those quotes from my review and attributed them to me in the publicity materials for the film. This is why we own the Southland Tales DVD: it's the only one with my name on the cover. I am by no means a quote whore, but it was an amusing experience for me.

In addition, I interviewed Southland Tales director Richard Kelly during the fest. This was downright scary for me. In 2007, I hadn't interviewed that many well-known people or big-name directors. Or anyone, other than software developers for my day job. There was a SXSW interview with someone well-known that had not gone well for various reasons, and that didn't help either. I felt like terribly inexperienced. The interview took place at Alamo South Lamar -- in fact, Kelly was set up in a corner in the lobby, which I found unacceptable. A couple of us talked with his PR rep and got the interview moved to the corner by the kitchen where the Bone Shack sign is, which was somewhat quieter. Enough that I could transcribe the interview later. Despite all my freaking out, it was a good interview and I enjoyed talking with Richard Kelly. I hope he comes back here for another movie so I can talk with him again.

Fantastic Fest 2007: Richard Kelly

Apart from these assignments, I relaxed and ducked into movies on a whim, finding a lot of hidden gems, which is really the best way to enjoy Fantastic Fest. I met Todd Brown from Twitch that year; he's since become one of the programmers for the festival. He introduced me to a filmmaker whose movie was playing the fest, which Brown had helped produce. The film was getting some serious buzz, which surprised the filmmaker. The film was Timecrimes, which was one of my very favorite films that year (my review), and the filmmaker was Nacho Vigalondo, who has become a FF regular ever since. Timecrimes was bought by Magnolia for distribution shortly after FF, and many of us believe that it was the film's great success at the fest that led to it. Now that's a film I want to see again (fortunately it's on DVD).

2007 was the first year that FF felt somewhat crowded to me. For 2005 and even 2006, you got to know a lot of people over the festival time period, everyone was friendly in lines, it felt almost intimate. But the Mel Gibson secret screening in 2006 raised the profile of the festival and suddenly it had become extremely popular. Still, the fest retained its cozy, personal atmosphere at times. The opening-night film that year was Diary of the Dead (my review), and after the screening, director George A. Romero hung out with everyone in front of Alamo South, chatting with fans and seeming to have a good time.

Fantastic Fest 2007: George A. Romero

My favorite Fantastic Fest t-shirt -- one of my favorite t-shirts, period -- is from FF 2007. I loved the crazy South Korean animated film Aachi and Ssipak (my review), and after seeing it, I bought one the t-shirt Alamo designed to go with the movie, bright blue with one of the Diaper Gang on the front and "Like a Juicy Bar for Your Eyes" on the back. People talk about the wonderful horror movies and science-fiction movies they see at Fantastic Fest but I truly love the bizarre animated films that the programmers manage to unearth. That year, I also saw Persepolis, which is not at all bizarre but is a fascinating, compelling, funny movie about a girl growing up in Iraq.

I nearly forgot that I first saw Son of Rambow at Fantastic Fest 2007, which was just delightful. Have you seen this movie yet? Go rent it right now. You might enjoy it more after watching The Expendables or some other Sylvester Stallone movie.

Chris Holland and a few other FF attendees got a sneak peek at the Alamo Ritz, which didn't open officially for another month or so. Patton Oswalt and Simon Baker were there for Sex and Death 101. I went to an evening party and saw Paul Thomas Anderson and wondered what the next night's secret screening might possibly be. I bought a VIP badge for 2008 while sitting in the Alamo lobby because I heard (correctly) they were about to sell out -- this was the first year that people rushed to buy badges during the fest for the next year's fest. Fantastic Feud started this year and was a rousing success.

This may be the only description of a Fantastic Fest that doesn't mention many graphically gory, scary, or disgusting movies. I did see Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (my review) and did not like the long sequences where the main character was tortured psychologically and physically. And there may have been some gore in Flight of the Living Dead (my review) but it was so forgettable that I can't really recall.

Here's my Flickr set from Fantastic Fest 2007 -- the last year I used my crummy point-and-shoot to take fest photos, I might add. Still, I managed to get some entertaining pictures, like the one below of Nacho Vigalondo and Tim League.

Fantastic Fest 2007: Tim and Nacho