With the horrible specter of COVID still hanging over the world, the folks at the Frontières co-production market were a little concerned that their genre submissions would be heavily virus-centric.
However, they needn’t have worried. The lineup for the 2021 market, organized by the Fantasia International Film Festival in collaboration with Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes, features a wildly creative array of projects, including one about a telepathic serial killer cat, another about deportation and a deadly virus which kills white people, and yet another which puts a horrifying twist on the often harrowing experience of coming out.
“I am very happy that our lineup is not about COVID,” says Frontières executive director Annick Mahnert. “We did have a couple submissions on that theme, but overall people said no, we don’t have to write about this. It’s happening in real life, but we’ll find something else to talk about.”
The market will be virtual for the second year running and will feature around 20 genre projects from around the world which are in the early stages of development, as well as eight more advanced ones in the Forum section. Among them is the first ever series to grace the Frontières list which, according to Mahnert, signals an intent to push towards more episodic selections going forward.
Mahnert says this year’s selection shows the continued trend of genre fare moving away from pure horror, as well as incorporating different cultures and more stories about people of color.
“People are realizing that it can be a mix of genre and comedy, it can be a drama, it can go into art house, it can do science fiction. And I think people are also looking at their culture and how they can bring cultural elements into their genre stories,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a white, male protagonist any more.”
Here is the lineup for the 2021 Frontières edition, taking place from August 3-6:
U.S, Canada (Alberta)
Dir. Joshua Erkman
Distilled from the director’s fears of environmental collapse, forced isolation and civil unrest, “The Arsonists” is the story of a middle-aged woman and her agoraphobic daughter who are trapped in their suburban home and forced to contend with their dissolving relationship as the world burns around them.
LA MALA MADRE (THE BAD MOTHER)
Dir. Alicia Albares
“La Mala Madre” centers around a woman who has completely lost her memory after a car accident which also killed her daughter, a girl she never wanted to have. Produced by indie outfit Mordisco Films, the project is currently searching for an international co-production partner, a sales agent or an interested platform.
BEYOND THE FOREST
Dir. Jan-Willem de Kraaij
Currently in the casting and financing stage, “Beyond the Forest” tells the story of Annabel, a twenty-three-year-old actress who wakes up in a remote house and finds that reality is slowly starting to fall apart, uncovering a horrific murder.
Dir. Christa Boarini
This tasty-sounding pic about a gifted confectionery chef who develops an insatiable urge to decorate her gorgeous cakes with human body parts, hails from “Into the Dark” producer Christa Boarini. It is being produced in partnership with Germany’s MMC Studios.
Dir. Mario Furloni
Furloni’s second film, after the 2020 SXSW stand out “Freeland,” is an environmental horror tale which is inspired by Brazilian folklore and the titular child snatching creature which haunted the director’s imagination since he was a small boy.
Dir. Charlie Vundla
This Western feature is inspired by a chapter from the historical anthology book “Murderers, Miscreants and Mutineers” which details the true story of young Huguenot refugee Maria Mouton who, with the help of her slave lover, murdered her abusive husband. She became the first white woman executed in South Africa.
Dir. Ashar Medina
The first ever episodic selection at Frontières, “hAPPiness” is a psychological thriller which uses the limitless ways of modern communication to put a spin on classic fairytales. Ashar Medina, whose previous credits include the popular Dutch series “Mocro Maffia,” is in place to direct.
Dir. Amelia Moses
Hailing from ElliFilms, which produced last year’s Fantasia selection “Bleed With Me,” “Hearing Things” sees a mind-reading misfit team up with her ex to fight a hoard of mysterious tentacled-monsters that crash their impromptu high school reunion.
Dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska
From “The Lure” director Agnieszka Smoczynska, “Hot Spot” is described as an erotic crime story set in the near future, which centers around a cynical detective who starts an investigation in a refugee camp. He soon finds himself caught between two powerful forces that will change his nature for good.
Dir. Aaron McCann
After reading an article in lockdown about an old woman who passed away and whose cat began consuming her corpse, writer-director McCann was inspired to create this heist-style project in which the protagonist is manipulated by his telepathic, murderous cat. Michael Facey’s Scullface is producing, with Monster Pictures having snapped up the Australian theatrical rights.
Dir. Vivienne Vaughn
This queer coming-of-age horror film, produced by Maya Korn and production outfit MHK Productions, is inspired by the traumatic experiences that make up female adolescence. It is set in a desert town ravaged by unexplained suicides, and centers on a young girl struggling with her sexuality who realizes that her adolescent transformation may be otherworldly.
Dir. Marco Cacioppo
“Nightshade” focuses on the relationship between two women struggling for survival inside an isolated household which soon turns into a claustrophobic environment of forced coexistence. The plan, per producer Lene Borglum, is to shoot the film on location in Italy either in Fall 2021 or Spring 2022.
Dir. Nizar Sfair
Hailing from Beirut-based production outfit Clandestino Films, the hero of this picture is a Lebanese writer living in Sweden whose dark distant memories inevitably creep into his peaceful present. Its themes delve into a society wounded by war that still lives in denial of its turbulent past.
Norway, Canada (British Columbia)
Dir. Austin Andrews and Henrik Dahlsbakken
This film is partly inspired by the true story of Pyramiden, a ghost town in northern Europe that was mysteriously evacuated in the late 1990s. The project is near completing the development phase and is aiming to start principal photography in September.
Dir. Kaniehtiio Horn
“Letterkenny” and “Barkskins” actor Kaniehtiio Horn is in the director’s chair for this home invasion thriller about Ziggy, a mid-thirties social media sensation who loses everything and leaves the big city in search of her indigenous roots.
Dir. Faye Jackson
Building on her acclaimed short which starred “Sex Education” alumna Sharon Duncan-Brewster and “Hanna” star Cherrelle Skeete, Faye Jackson’s feature (pictured above) tells the story of two women who are being forcibly deported from the U.K. to Jamaica, when a deadly virus which makes you feel good and only kills white people breaks out.
Dir. Nicholas Payne Santos
“Strange Creatures” tells the story of a young woman who receives a call from her missing brother and travels to the site of his disappearance, only to find herself face to face with unspeakable evil. Santos’ directorial debut “It Cuts Deep” was released last year by genre outfit Dark Sky Films and is currently streaming on Showtime and Shudder.
Dir. Meloni Poole
“Thirst” is inspired by the director’s conversations with sex workers who spoke about ‘performance’ of sexuality and how they lived a “vampiric lifestyle.” It centers around a young female vampire who travels across England in search of her sex-trafficked sister, leaving a bloody trail of vengeance in her wake.
Dir. Maude Michaud
Michaud’s first feature “Dys-“ won the Audience Award for best Canadian feature at the 2014 edition of Fantasia, and her latest work is described as “a balls-to-the-wall road trip picture.” It’s about two young women obsessed with serial killers who embark on a road trip with a body count and fall madly in love, for better and worse.
YEAR OF THE HEART
Dir. Kelly Holmes
Exploring menopause and the horrific transformation it can represent for many women, “Year of the Heart” is set in 1960s suburbia and is about a lonely housewife who indulges in an adulterous affair as her body goes through ‘the change’. She struggles to keep up a façade of control when her symptoms worsen and she hallucinates someone has stolen her kidney during the night, but is she hallucinating if her lover can see her scars too?
Dir. Thibault Emin
Inspired to make a film even more terrifying than David Cronenberg’s darkest imagination, Emin’s “Else” is about the world getting very sick, the rules of living and non-living, and things going upside down with no going back. The plan is to start shooting by December 2021, and casting is currently under way.
Finland, Latvia, Estonia
Dir. Jenni Toivoniemi
After her successful comedy debut last year with “Games People Play,” Toivoniemi’s latest is a horror-satire about a young actress Eeva, who sells her soul to the devil in order to become a part of a community. The film currently plans to shoot in Latvia in summer 2022.
Canada (Ontario), U.S.
Dir. Robbie Lemieux
Inspired by Lemieux’s own struggle to come out, this queer horror project focuses on a closeted young man whose body and mind unravel in horrifying ways after a mysterious and alluring man moves into his apartment, forcing him to confront his deepest insecurities.
Canada (Ontario), U.S U.K., New Zealand
Dir. David Carson
Described as “Dawn of the Dead” meets “Lord of the Flies,” “Heart Land” is set in the wake of a mysterious infection that turns all adults into pestilent monsters, and depicts a small band of kids struggling to survive in a brutal, post-apocalyptic America.
SEARCHING FOR THE BLACK RAINBOW
Dir. Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
A Lovecraftian folk horror from the director of “Luz: The Flower of Evil,” this project aims to be a portrait of modernism and the modern man: a selfish being who wants everything for himself, regardless of the chaos and the destruction that his decisions may unleash on nature.
Dir. Stephen Scarlata
This documentary dives into the world and phenomenon of shark cinema. It hails from “Jodorowsky’s Dune” producer Stephen Scarlata, whose previous credits also include the 2016 horror movie “Beyond the Gates.”
THE LAST MOON
Dir. Sean McConville
“The Last Moon” is about a man who believes he was attacked by a werewolf and, on the night of a full moon, invites his estranged brother to their remote family home to convince him to shoot him with a silver bullet at midnight. However, an unexpected guest arrives and the brothers’ reunion takes a terrible turn. Filming is scheduled for early next year, with a budget of around $1.5 million.
UNTITLED MUSIC MONSTER MOVIE
Dir. Bill Watterson
Described as a cross between “Blues Brothers” and “Big Trouble in Little China,” this project sees a musician, an eccentric billionaire and a scientist form a band to attempt to appease an ancient beast which was awoken by the former’s music.