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Fantasy Filmfest helps hype DVD titles

Homevid releases promoted at German event

BERLIN — Since its humble beginnings in 1987 as part of a punk music and movie showcase in Hamburg, Germany’s Fantasy Filmfest has grown into a major international platform for a wide range of genres, from sci-fi and fantasy to horror and psychological thrillers.

Many of the pics featured in the fest don’t ever see further theatrical distribution in Germany, but the event has become a key way to promote upcoming DVD releases.

The event, which kicks off a nationwide tour this month, has become a must for fans. With an average of 120,000 admissions a year, it’s one of the most successful film festivals in the country.

The three-week showcase kicks off on Aug. 18 with the world premiere of Alex and David Pastor’s pandemic outbreak thriller “Carriers,” starring Chris Pine.

This year’s nearly 75-feature film lineup also includes such highly anticipated titles as Neill Blomkamp’s gritty alien drama “District 9”; Nicolas Winding Refn’s prison biopic “Bronson,” starring Tom Hardy; Michael Cuesta’s Edgar Allan Poe-inspired “Tell Tale”; Ole Bornedal’s “Deliver Us From Evil”; Shimako Sato’s retro Japanese adventure “K-20: Legend of the Mask,” starring Takeshi Kaneshiro; Anthony DiBlasi’s Clive Barker adaptation “Dread”; and Michael Dougherty’s “Trick ‘r Treat.”

Running through Sept. 9, the fest tours seven major cities: Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich.

As usual, France is strongly repped with a slew of titles, including comic adaptation “Largo Winch,” ghetto war actioner “District B13: Ultimatum,” zombie thriller “Mutants,” anti-terrorism suspenser “Secret of State” and spy spoof “OSS 117 — Lost in Rio,” which closes the fest.

“This is again a year of the French,” says fest topper Rainer Stefan.

“Looking at European cinema, the French are by far the most exciting. The U.K. and France have long been our main suppliers. French filmmakers are definitely much more daring than the rest and come much closer to breaking taboos. And the U.K. produces chilling ice-cold thrillers.”

The lineup also carries over a trend seen in last year’s selection — kids gone bad, or more specifically, psycho.

“Actually, we could have a section called ‘Tortured Parents’ because we have six films about evil children, including ‘Case 39’ with Renee Zellweger, ‘Orphan,’ ‘The Children’ and ‘Grace.’ It’s a trend — children going on a rampage.”

Bloodsuckers are also back with a vengeance in such pics as “Blood: The Last Vampire,” “Thirst,” “Lesbian Vampire Killers” and the aptly titled Swedish pic “Vampyrer.”

Most of the films won’t see theatrical release in Germany — only around 10 of the fest’s 70 plus films make it to the bigscreen here. But companies using it to promote DVDs include Universum, which is presenting a special free promotional screening of Paul McGuigan’s sci-fi actioner “Push,” which didn’t make it into German cinemas.

It’s no surprise that the fest has continued to grow over the years, even without a penny of support from Germany’s deep-pocketed film subsidies. “We’re the cheapest festival around,” says Stefan. “We don’t cost taxpayers any money, just the 88 ($11.38) admission.”

Despite the economic downturn, the event continues to enjoy backing of such sponsors as 2K Games, NBC Universal’s local channels 13th Street and Syfy, post production and FX group Magna Mana plus German magazine Intro.

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