The Austin Chronicle

Fantastic Fest 2015: Tim League Speaks!

By Richard Whittaker, September 24, 2015, 9:00am, Picture in Picture

With Fantastic Fest bearing down on us like a flame-throwing, kipper-juggling, jello-shot-shooting juggernaut, co-founder Tim League has a lot on his mind: world premieres, wrangling filmmakers, red carpets, plus, he noted, "I've got a boxing match to attend to."

Wait, didn't he say he was giving up the infamous Fantastic Debates (50% Lincoln-Douglas, 50% Marquis of Queensberry) after getting pummeled by an Irish bare-knuckle boxer, the stars of Man of Tai-Chi, and notorious MMA fan Ti West? "I got talked into it again. I've done it every year, so it's kind of a tradition."

Before he gets to nurse new bruises, there's the actual screenings to talk about. "I love so many of the films," League said, and one of his big gets is undoubtedly surrealist, revisionist, cannibalistic Western Bone Tomahawk, not least because it means the first official visit by star Kurt Russell to a Drafthouse event. That said, he's been in the room before, just as a patron. "He came to the Drafthouse pretty regularly during the filming of Grindhouse," said League. "They were doing night shoots, so on their off-days, and because Quentin [Tarantino] loves to program films, they would schedule these events at the theatre, and he came to a few of those." Ever since then, getting the Tombstone star for a screening has been a dream for League, "and it's finally come to fruition."

Of course, there are always some regulars with films on the roster. Take Love and Peace, the latest film for the ridiculously prolific FF veteran Sion Sono (Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Tokyo Tribe). Well, latest is a slight exaggeration, since the eclectic cult director has been a little busy in the last 12 months. "There were six [Sono films] to choose from," said League, and it was a process of elimination for the booking team to work out which one to pick. "We didn't like all of them, and then Matter of Exposure – which we did like – had been playing around a little bit much."

So what else is League looking forward to? Here's a quick rundown of his top titles to catch:

The Lobster: "That's top of my list. I'm a huge Dogtooth fan. I went into Cannes with that as my number one priority to watch, and I came out of the screening absolutely electric."

Anomalisa: "It's fabulous. It's stop-motion animation, and all the voices except for one character are done by Tom Noonan. … It's really spectacular, the best of the best of Charlie Kaufman, but in a puppet movie."

Son of Saul: "Fantastic Fest has built this reputation for showing films that aren't necessarily perceived as genre films, but this is just heavy and dark and intense enough of a film that I think the genre audiences are really going to respond to it. I think it's a shot for Best Foreign Language Film this year. Everybody was talking about it, and I worked really hard to convince the distributor that this would be a really great way to expand the potential audience for it when they release it this Christmas."

Stand by for Tape Back-Up: "We've kind of wedged it into the documentary category, and it's technically a documentary. It centers around this VHS tape and the true story of what it means. It's about this kid who went to his grandparent's house over the summer, and his grandparents had one VHS tape, and one of the treats growing up was to be able to record a movie on this tape and to be able to watch it for the rest of the summer. His grandfather passes away, and he finds the tape, and he basically does this spoken word performance with a remote control in his hand, going over the tape. It may or may not have some really awesome freestyle rap in it."

Hard to Get: "A great crime thriller, but the two protagonists are in love, kind of like True Romance, but set in South Africa with a much smaller budget and less pop culture references."

Tikkun: "Devin Faraci saw it at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and he didn't think it was going to be Fantastic Fest material, but then about halfway through, gears shift, things happen. I won't say too much about it, but this is firmly in our arena. It's very measured, it's very slow, it's black and white, it's about the Hasidic community, people who are deep in study, but then, zingo! You're in Fantastic Fest territory."

Fantastic Fest runs Sept. 24-Oct. 1 at the Alamo South Lamar. More info at

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