35th Fantasporto: an Exclusive Look at the Oporto International Film Festival

Best international film festivals: Fantasporto

This year Fantasporto celebrates its thirty-fifth anniversary and I am attending for the first time. It’s a mix of emotions, because for me it’s a lot more than attending a film festival. I’m attending a film festival that has made history and has awarded and recognized some of my favorite directors, films and actors.

About twenty years ago, when I still lived in a tiny and isolated island, I picked up a VHS from the local video rental (that doubled as a cafe and a hardware store). I was drawn to the title “Braindead.” Seemed like my kind of movie (thank you, dad, for allowing me to watch John Carpenter’s “Halloween” behind mom’s back. I didn’t sleep well for one week, but it was worth it!). On the top of the cover, just before the title, a logo that would forever be the icon of my movie “Mecca”: Fantasporto.

Peter Jackson would become famous many years later only with the spectacular productions of Lord of The Rings and Hobbit, but in 1993, as a young newbie New Zealand director, he introduced his zombie comedy gore film to the fans of Fantas and won the award “Grande Prémio Fantasporto.” Along with him, my very favorites have been honored, for a genre that (usually) seems not to be taken very seriously.

Why “Fantas” Matters

The answer to this is quite simple: all independent film festivals matter. In a world that cares too much about mass media, mainstream and big chains (of everything), the new directors need a place where they can showcase their work, free from the need of being politically correct, looking for a real audience to their art. This is the bottom line.

Contrary to what many people think, the horror/fantasy genre is not a minor one (in fact you find it quite present in literature and in any other art form over time), and this festival has consistently shown us, for thirty-five years, some of the best work in this field (and trust me, for a few years high-quality films in this genre weren’t a “thing”, so the work never came easy but it always came out of pure, genuine, heartfelt passion). That is why I’m shocked to know that, lately, the festival has been hanging by a thread, not receiving the attention it deserves (and by the attention I mean proper funding and support). Do people travel to Porto because of Fantas? Yes, they do. It’s one of the reasons why I’m visiting the city. Should the festival be seen as a tourism opportunity? Yes, it should.

“Oporto, the capital of the North of Portugal, over the Douro River and “Best European Destination” 2013 and 2014, welcomes the 35th edition of Fantasporto, Oporto International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in the world.

More than ten days dedicated to celebrating the film industry and where producers, directors, actors, other film professionals and a significant number of film fans are welcomed to a program with all genres, with shorts and features, but with a strong accent on fantasy and thrillers.

The most recent films, many in European and World Premieres, are present in 4 competitive sections – Fantasy, Directors Week, Orient Express and Portuguese Cinema. The productions of 26 countries have been selected out of the 51 countries that sent films for selection. All in all, about 200 films to be screened, also in retrospectives and tributes.”

Fantasporto Press Release

The festival is now on its third day, and this year for the Fantasy section alone (my very favorite of the three) there are 27 features and 19 shorts in competition. Fantasporto will present 9 World Premieres, 12 European Premieres, and many films which will only be released internationally this year.

Have you been to Fantasporto before? What are your thoughts on independent Film Festivals?


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