It was a good day to be bad at Fantasia, as the Cheval Noir Award went to Karim Ouelhaj’s “Megalomaniac,” loosely inspired by the horrifying true story of the “Butcher of Mons.” The Belgian serial killer is believed to have murdered at least five women in the 1990s. He was never captured and his identity was never revealed.
The jury of the event’s 26th edition, including Charles Bramesco, Elza Kephart, Maitland McDonagh and Heather O’Neill, presided over by C. Robert Cargill, fell for its unapologetic darkness, calling “Megalomaniac” “the very sort of film that festivals exist to share.”
“[It’s] an astonishing, brutal piece of art that challenges the audience while simultaneously saying something deeply profound. It is a lush piece of cinema whose intent is to disturb and it succeeds at every turn,” they stated, also awarding Eline Schumacher for her committed performance as the killer’s daughter Martha, forced to struggle with her family’s twisted legacy pretty much since the day she was born, as well as the crimes now perpetuated by her brother.
“Starting with Martha’s violent birth that Felix witnesses, and the consequences it will have on both of them, I show that children imitate us,” Ouelhaj told Variety before the film’s world premiere.
“I am not trying to provide Felix with an excuse, but the chain of evil is continually perpetuated if we are unable to face it. It was important to talk about family heritage here. How evil can be ‘built’ into a family and you can’t just wash it off.”
Another European production that did not go home empty-handed, Spain’s “The Elderly,” saw Zorion Eguileor celebrated for his disturbing yet strangely affecting turn as a grandfather who – following the sudden death of his wife – starts scaring his family with his odd behavior. Turns out, they might have a point, and the debilitating heatwave they are all experiencing is certainly not helping.
Best director award went to July Jung for “Next Sohee,” selected for Cannes in May, while Kosuke Mukai and Yuki Tanada were recognized for their script for the much-anticipated “My Broken Mariko.” Which, as pointed out by the jury, “doesn’t go easy on the heartstrings, coaxing out all the pathos from the bond between an ordinary Japanese girl and the friend who has just taken her own life.”
“Expertly skirting the maudlin, their writing nonetheless reveals the tenderness shared between two women knocked around by family and fate, their identification with one another both sweet and tragic. As if one can’t be had without the other.”
Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat added another trophy to his vast collection for his score to Michel Hazanavicius’ “Final Cut,” while cinematographer Daniel Katz was noticed for his work on Neil LaBute’s “House of Darkness.” Finally, the jury’s special mention went to “Special Delivery” by Park Dae-min.
“This film contains one jaw-dropping moment which unanimously had the jury go ‘WOOOOOOAH’ and several others that had us on the edge of our seats in awe of its brilliant craftsmanship,” they admitted.
On the New Flesh Competition front, Japan’s “Kappei” by Takashi Hirano was named best first feature (“For its playful embrace of smart-dumb comedy”) with two special mentions handed to “The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra” and one of festival’s favorites, “All Jacked up and Full of Worms” by Alex Phillips.
“There were moments when I thought the theater might be raided and we might all be arrested. Instead, Fantasia being Fantasia, they earned rapturous applause,” hilariously stated one of the jurors.
Japan continued its dominance also in other categories. “Inu-Oh,” a co-production between Japan and China, won best animated feature, with “Summer Ghost” getting a special mention. The AQCC-Camera Lucida Award went to “Just Remembering” by Daigo Matsui for “its reverse structure, which is perfectly calibrated and most stimulating, for its brilliance to give meaning in the long-term to everyday objects, for his accuracy in the selection of moments to make us feel the major stages of a love journey. For his strength to embark us in his universe and to touch us.”
However, it’s not over yet for the festival, now entering its third week and continuing to celebrate its lively in-person edition which already welcomed the likes of John Woo or Canadian Trailblazer Award winner Kier-La Janisse. The Audience Award will be announced at the end of the event.