Film festival cranks up the fear factor
Any film festival that opens with a remake of George A Romero’s zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead”, is guaranteed to have audiences on the edge of their seats.
This year’s Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) aims to keep them there by showing more than 70 horror, sci-fi and action movies from around the world.
“We like to open with a tough one because that’s the screening where we get all the officials and politicians, and we like to shake them up a little bit at the beginning,” festival director Olivier Müller told swissinfo.
In its international competition, the NIFFF is screening haunting mainstream movies such as British director Michael Winterbottom’s “Code 46”, starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton, and “The Machinist”, with Jennifer Jason Leigh.
But elsewhere – notably in the “Fantastic Borderless” section – the festival is also showcasing lower-budget films from India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria and Ghana, which are seldom seen outside their home countries.
“There is an incredible boom in Nigeria and Ghana right now for low-budget straight-to-video horror films, romantic comedies, musicals and so forth. People buy these tapes by the hundred,” said Müller.
“What we are trying to do with this retrospective is to show the type of cinema which is being watched and bought in these countries.”
Müller says highlights in this section include two South Korean chillers: “The Housemaid” and “The Evil Stairs”.
Far East films
Films from the Far East have been gaining recognition among Western filmmakers and audiences alike.
Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s recent suspense masterpieces “The Ring” and “Dark Water” were both snapped up by Hollywood, and the NIFFF is screening other films that have made a lasting impression.
The festival's “New Cinema from Asia” section features Hong Kong blockbuster “Infernal Affairs” and Japan’s spectacular sword-slashing epic, “Azumi”.
“We also have an incredible selection of films from the early days of Chinese cinema – two films from the 1920s and one from the 1940s – from before China became a communist country. These are animation puppet films which are beautifully detailed,” added Müller.
Heading the festival's international jury is the “king of the B-movies”, Roger Corman, whose never-ending list of credits include “A Bucket of Blood” (1959), “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957) and “The Creature from the Haunted Sea” (1961).
Müller says the legendary director and producer’s presence is a real coup for the festival, which is now in its fourth year.
“It’s very cool for us, because we are showing the B-movies of today – what’s being done in independent fantastic cinema all over the world – and he’s the guy for whom the term was probably invented,” he said.
The festival’s guest of honour is special-effects wizard Phil Tippet, who won an Oscar for his work on Steven Spielberg's “Jurassic Park”.
swissinfo, Adam Beaumont
The six-day event runs from June 29 to July 4 in Neuchâtel.
The NIFFF is a member of the European Federation of Fantastic Film Festivals.
This year the festival is running a new competition, the Silver Méliès, for the best European fantastic film.
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