Titane to Open Fantastic Fest 2021

Cannes winner heads up this year's lineup

Titane, the award-winning Cannes smash, is part of the first wave of Fantastic Fest 2021 titles

Mad gods, spurting space barbarians and a head full of metal. Yes, Fantastic Fest has announced its first wave of programming for 2021. The headliner? Titane, Julia Ducournau's Cannes Palme D'Or award-winning story of sex and cars, will be this year's opening night film.

After a virtual celebration of Fantastic Fest in 2020, the in-person festival returns this September 23-30 but ...

Hold up.

Before we talk movies, the festival has announced its COVID safety rules:

• All badge holders will be required to show proof of COVID vaccination.
• Please bring physical or electronic proof of vaccination to check-in. No vaccine, no Fantastic Fest, no exceptions.
• Additionally, masks must be worn at all times indoors when not eating or drinking.

OK, no we have that all out of the way, let's talk about the films ...


While Titane may be today's biggest announcement, the other 38 titles are bound to turn heads. Those with a love of film history will be thrilled that a near-mythical title finally makes its arrival: Mad God, the passion project of legendary stop-motion master Phil Tippett (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Starship Troopers), a work that may only be matches in sheer lunacy by This is GWAR, the story of everyone's favorite hypergonzo metal act (is it too much to ask for a live performance, maybe?), and sheer dedication to making movies under constant challenges by Once Upon a Time in Uganda, exploring the true, crazy story of the negative-budget cinematic scene known as Wakaliwood.

As always, a slew of FF alumni make their return (including Julia Ducournau, who brought her bloody debut Raw to FF 2016). Jim Cummings, who slayed virtually last year with his werewolf sociocomedy The Wolf of Snow Hollow is back with The Beta Test. Gigi Saul Guerrero, who made a splattertastic debut at the fest in 2015 with her luchagore short "El Gigante," brings her new feature Bingo Hell. On the lo-fi front, new fest darling Mickey Reece, the idiosyncratic Oklahoma innovator, heads to town with his religious horror, Agnes: and, proving that the family that films together wins together, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, and John Adams, the team behind the phenomenal and eerie The Deeper You Dig, return with Hellbender.

But Fantastic Fest isn't just about new releases, with retrospective screenings including the new restoration of Andrzej Zulawski's mindbending psychosexual creature feature Possession. For you literary types, there will be two sidebars linked to upcoming books. First, to celebrate the upcoming Warped and Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive, film historians Kier-La Janisse and Lars Nilsen are digging into the AGFA archives for exploitation oddities like Snakes and THe Visitor. Then continue your winter reading with These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed The World, Grady Hendrix and Chris Poggiali's book on Asian action movies in America, with new restorations of Dynasty in 3D, a special BingoDome screening of The Dragon Lives Again, and an unmissable presentation with 36 Cinema of Master of the Flying Guillotine, with a loving live commentary by Wu-Tang Clan founder and martial arts cinema expert RZA (can't make it in person? Don't worry, it will be livestreamed).

But that's just the beginning: here's what's in wave one (which means, yes, there's a lot more to come):

After Blue

D: Bertrand Mandico
France, 2021, US Premiere, 130 min
On a mysterious new planet populated entirely by women, teenager Roxy and her mother undergo a fantastical journey in pursuit of a murderous criminal.

D: Mickey Reece
USA, 2021, Texas Premiere, 93 min
Fantastic Fest favorite Mickey Reece is back with his most ambitious production yet, the story of a headstrong young nun accused of possession and her best friend who’s left to grapple with the aftermath.

D: Emily Bennett & Justin Brooks
USA, 2021, World Premiere, 83 min
As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

D: Charles Dorfman
United Kingdom, 2021, World Premiere, 90 min
An alpha male social media influencer and his beta brother meet for an explosive dinner with their significant others – one where secrets are revealed, lives are ruined, and chaos reigns (fox included).

Beta Test

D: Jim Cummings & PJ McCabe
USA, 2021, Texas Premiere, 93 min
Jim Cummings is back as co-director and star in this pitch black film biz satire. Cummings revels in the full spectrum of bad behavior, leaving you laughing and gasping in equal measure.

D: Junta Yamaguchi
Japan, 2021, North American Premiere, 70 min
Kato is a cafe owner in Kyoto who suddenly finds his bedroom computer screen linked to the one in his cafe, showing him exactly what’s going on downstairs – two minutes in the future. Things get really absurd when his friends find out and devise a way to go ... Beyond the Infinite 2 Minutes.

D: Gigi Saul Guerrero
USA, 2021, World Premiere, 85 min
The big, steel-toed boot of gentrification won’t stop one determined locally-grown advocate as a new building owner offers Bingo as a portal to financial prosperity – but the price is something far more sinister and much less liberating.

Cannon Arm

D: Mads Hedegaard
Denmark, 2021, US Premiere, 97 min
Kim Cannon Arm sets out to shatter records by playing Gyruss for 100 hours straight on a single coin and he can’t do it on his own in this funny and philosophical documentary about the importance of friends and community.

D: Chi-Hwa Chen
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1976, Repertory Screening, 90 min
At the nexus point where Jackie Chan’s star began to rise and Angela Mao’s (Enter the DRagon) was waning, they collaborated on this wild, rarely seen gem. Channeling Chan’s own acrobatic style, Mao avenges the defeat of her teachers using a powerful “dancing girl” kung fu style inspired by the gyrations of brothel attendants.

The Netherlands, Taiwan, 2021
North American Premiere, 98 min
D: David Verbeek
Five wealthy, fashionable friends wake up from a wild night in Taipei to find they’ve become vampires in David Verbeek’s aesthetically gorgeous thriller.

D: Chang Mei-chung
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1977, Repertory Screening, 92 min
Now! Dynasty! On the surface it looks like just another indie kung fu flick from Taiwan, but within minutes this crazy train has picked up a full head of steam and is on its way to a Never Never Land of wild weapons, mass mutilation, and major mayhem … all in 3-D!!!

D: Alejandro Hidalgo
USA, Mexico, Venezuela, 2021, World Premiere, 98 min
When children in a small Mexican town start dying of demonic possession, the inhabitants seek the help of Father Peter Williams, a priest haunted by a past exorcism gone sinfully wrong. What follows is an epic battle between good and evil.

Found Footage Phenomenon

D: Sarah Appleton & Phillip Escott
United Kingdom, 2021, US Premiere, 102 min
Whip out your phone cams and prepare to get immersive: Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott’s The Found Footage Phenomenon is a documentary-shaped crash course on the wobbliest horror films out there.

D: Toby Poser, Zelda Adams & John Adams
USA, 2021, US Premiere, 82 min
Fantastic Fest favorite filmmaking family Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams return with their newest creative endeavor Hellbender, a witchy, heavy metal coming-of-age thriller.

D: Eric McEver
USA, 2021, World Premiere, 88 min Two self-proclaimed geeks and a live-in Japanese foreign exchange student procure a long-lost anime classic that inadvertently turns them into superheroes ... just in time for a Y2K-era Kaiju face-off!

D: Renata Pinheiro
Brazil, 2021, US Premiere, 97 min
A young man’s ability to surreally “be one” with cars sparks a revolution that could save transport in his community. When his invention inadvertently accelerates the underlying problems, our hero’s quest must grow bigger than his own personal ambitions.

D: Frida Kempff
Sweden, 2021, Texas Premiere, 78 min
Molly seems to be the only one who hears strange knocking day and night in her apartment. But she won’t be deterred by unbelievers until she’s discovered the cause of the noises tormenting her.


D: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Iceland, Sweden, Poland, 2021, US Premiere, 107 min
On a remote farm in Iceland, a couple that experienced recent loss is caring for their flock of sheep. One day, one of their sheep gives birth to a very peculiar lamb that will change their lives forever.

D: Kazuya Shiraishi
Japan, 2021, Texas Premiere, 139 min
A hard-won truce between rival yakuza gangs threatens to erupt into bloody violence when a psychopathic hoodlum is released from prison and vows to avenge the death of his boss.

D: Conor McMahon
Ireland, 2021, World Premiere, 97 min
Sibling rivalry takes on a whole new meaning when one brother is turned into a vampire and has to rely on his younger brother to protect him. Will brotherly love win out or is someone getting staked?

D: Soi Cheang
Hong Kong, 2021, Texas Premiere, 118 min
A burnt-out cop and a by-the-book young detective team up to catch a vicious serial killer lurking in the garbage-filled alleys of Hong Kong in Soi Cheang’s grimy monochrome masterpiece.

D: Phil Tippett
USA, 2021, US Premiere, 83 min
An adventurer descends into a pit reaching the bowels of the Earth, searching for a spot on a crumbling map. On his journey in an apocalyptic world, he meets and fights monsters and creatures out of your worst nightmares in this passion project from stop-motion legend Phil Tippett.

D: Martin Zandlivet
Denmark, 2021, North American Premiere, 125 min
When Marco, a Romani kid without papers, is caught at the Danish border with the passport of a man who went missing, Detective Carl Mørck from Department Q unknowingly opens Pandora’s Box on what was supposedly a simple case.

Master of the Flying Guillotine

D: Jimmy Wang Yu
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1975, Repertory Screening, 93 min
A blind assassin armed with a vicious flying guillotine is out to kill the legendary one-armed boxer (martial arts superstar Jimmy Wang Yu). 36 Cinema presents Master of the Flying Guilltine with live commentary by RZA!

D: Kwon Oh-seung
South Korea, 2021, Texas Premiere, 103 min
Discover the twisted nighttime alleys of Seoul in the tense and thrilling Midnight, the gripping tale of a Deaf woman and the serial killer who has underestimated his opponent.

D: Lenny Guit & Harpo Guit
Belgium, 2021, Texas Premiere, 70 min
Issachar and Zabulon are two not-so-bright brothers who never manage to do anything right. When they lose Jacques-Janvier, their mom’s beloved dog, she gives them a day to find him ... or else. And of course nothing goes smoothly.

D: Carlos Conceição
Portugal, 2020, North American Premiere, 59 min
A serial killer is propelled into fame after he kisses a dying woman who has just thrown herself off a balcony. Viewed by the world as an act of kindness, that gesture may well be hiding something far more sinister.

Once Upon a Time in Uganda

D: Cathryne Czubek & Hugo Perez
USA, Uganda, 2021, World Premiere, 94 min
Documenting the rise of Uganda’s Tarantino and his complex relationship with a middle-aged white dude from New York, Once Upon a Time in Uganada tells the amazing story of a micro-film industry making $200 action films that have traveled the world, and how it happened almost by accident.

D: Andrzej Zulawski
France, Germany, 1981, US Premiere of 4K Restoration, 124 min
It took 30 years for people to catch up to Possession's bizarre, gelatinous majesty, and now it graces the Fantastic Fest screen in a breathtaking 4K restoration.

D: Yusuke Hirota
Japan, 2020, US Premiere, 100 min
In this animated adventure, a young chimney sweep meets a sentient pile of junkyard scrap one Halloween night, raising questions about the world outside the isolated, walled-off community the boy has known his entire life.

D: Randolph Zaini
Indonesia, 2021, Texas Premiere, 91 min
After Pandu witnesses a murder by a local gang – the unsavory mini-mob that his father works for – Deaf criminal Sandi has to turn against his own crew and flee town to protect him. Unfortunately, his boss Guru is not about to let go so easily.

This is GWAR

D: Rob Jabbaz
Taiwan, 2021, US Premiere, 99 min
As Taiwan succumbs to a viral pandemic that transforms ordinary peaceful citizens into sadistic, bloodthirsty maniacs, a young couple must battle to be reunited before they too become infected in this gleefully gory, morally reprehensible late-night splatterfest.

D: Charlotte Colbert
United Kingdom, 2021, North American Premiere, 95 min
After a double mastectomy, actress Veronica Ghent travels to a remote place in Scotland in order to recuperate. However, the land around the retreat radiates with a dark power that will ultimately help liberate her from a traumatic past.

D: Art Names
USA, 1974, Repertory Screening, 83 min
An exceedingly odd rural snake revenge movie — made on a zilch budget and scored by electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani — that will make you question your relationship with reality, relativity, and reptiles.


D: Scott Barber
USA, 2021, World Premiere, 110 min
GWAR is the galaxy’s greatest rock ‘n roll band, an intergalactic troupe of marauders who crash-landed in Antarctica and are committed to rocking your face off. But they’re also a bunch of amazing artists from Virginia determined to put on the wildest, bloodiest show you’ve ever seen. This is how.

D: Julia Ducournau
France, Belgium, 2021, US Premiere, 108 min
A car accident irreparably changes the course of one woman’s life, sending her down a bizarre, twisted path in the search for love and acceptance.

D: Tommy Wirkola
Norway, 2021, International Premiere, 113 min
A married couple travels to their isolated cabin in the woods for some peace and quiet, with the husband planning to murder his wife. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and things only get worse from there ….

D: Michael J. Paradise
Italy, USA, 1979, Repertory Screening, 108 min
This Italian-made horror/soap-opera/psychedelic light show was made to scoop up any stray dollars that The Omen and The Exorcist may have left on the table. Featuring an amazing will-work-for-food cast that includes John Huston as a kind of cosmic child pimp for the lord, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen, Sam Peckinpah (!!!), and of course Franco Nero as Jesus Christ.

D: Hugo Sakamoto
Japan, 2021, International Premiere, 67 min
And now for something completely different: Cannibal cultists and vengeful martial artists lead the way as found footage horror gets a cult film makeover courtesy of Hugo Sakamoto’s inventive and spirited debut.

Fantastic Fest 2021 runs Sept. 23-30 at the Alamo South Lamar. Tickets and info at www.fantasticfest.com, and follow our ongoing coverage at austinchronicle.com/fantasticfest.

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