The Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival came to a close last Saturday, and top honors went the Kiwi horror-comedy
Gerard Johnstone's ferociously inventive update on the haunted house genre won the hearts of Neuchatel jurors and ScreenAnarchy's own Peter Martin, who wrote
quickly tears apart the classic haunted-house movie piece by piece, and then reconstructs it on the fly with fresh new materials, garnished with oodles of blood, dark comedy, strong characters, and genuine suspense.
But there was much love to go around. After a heartfelt speech from festival Guest of Honor George R. R. Martin, David Robert Mitchell's John Carpenter-meets-John Hughes-thriller It Follows won two prizes. First was the Denis-de-Rougemont Youth Award, presented by a jury of students, and second, the NIFFF Internation Critics Award, presented by, well... yours truly.
Yes, ScreenAnarchy had the real privilege of being included on the International Critics Jury, and alongside friends and colleagues from Mad Movies, Deadline Magazine, Nocturno and SciFiWorld, and after much heated debate, we threw our clout behind the film Jason Gorber described as
"a kind of pure thriller, with a few shocks mixed into what's a remarkably consistent vision that makes for a quite powerful experience."
So, by all means, seek it out.
Other awards went to Eskil Vogt's fiercely intelligent character study Blind and Takashi Miike's milestone 900th film, The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji.
We will be running some reviews and interviews from the festival in the coming few days, but in the meantime, check out the full list of winners below. And look into taking some time off for next year's 15th edition, because, and we say this from experience here, it's well worth the visit.
The 14th Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) ended Saturday night with the awards ceremony, followed by a screening of YOUNG ONES by Jake Paltrow. The president of the International Jury, Edouard Waintrop, presented the "Narcisse" for the best feature film to HOUSEBOUND by Gerard Johnstone (NZ, 2014). For 9 days, Neuchâtel was bathed in fantasy, allowing the festival to reach a new attendance record: 33'000 tickets were sold (compared to 31'200 in 2013), with an additional online audience of over 125'000 watching the conferences via stream on the NIFFF website.
The NIFFF 2014 in figures
True to tradition, the NIFFF presented a selection of the best current fantastic films and offered several glimpses into cinematic history. In a total of 138 screenings, the festivalgoers saw 108 films (80 features and 28 shorts) from 28 different countries. Always eager to please film lovers who enjoy meeting the masters of contemporary fantastic cinema, the festival welcomed more than 120 guests. The two guests of honour in particular met with numerous fans and journalists. The high-spirited Kevin Smith, on location at the beginning of the festival, was heartily welcomed by an audience eager to (re-)discover his films and to witness his one man show. George R.R. Martin on the other hand delighted his huge fan base and contributed to the NIFFF's history by agreeing to participate in a public meeting and a colloquium on TV show scriptwriting, as well as a public reading, two autograph sessions and a carte blanche showing three movies of his choice. These public appearances can be viewed per stream on the NIFFF website, where they have attracted a global online audience of 125'000 so far (availability: one month).
Quality and diversity
Being the core piece of the festival's sections, the International Competition had a prestigious selection to offer and once again presented works of both established filmmakers and newcomers. The special programme "Imaginary Japan" delighted genre lovers with some highlights of contemporary Japanese cinema.
Mention should also be made of the growing importance of the side events organized by the NIFFF as they attract an increasingly diverse audience of both professionals and amateurs. Among them: The first edition of the colloquium TV Series Storyworlds, which united international artists with some main protagonist of Swiss TV production in front of a professional audience, the 9th edition of the Imaging the Future Symposium, where the contributions from the specialists coming from the great VFX studios in London were particularly well received; the tremendous success of the literary forum New Worlds of Fantasy, dedicated in parts to the A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE saga by George R.R. Martin and welcoming the most American of all Swiss illustrators, David Boller; and the enthusiastic Epic Game Jam, for which 110 independent game developers from 14 countries were given 45 hours to create a total of 39 game projects. Finally, the second edition of the NIFFF INVASION day confronted the Neuchâtel population as well as festivalgoers with free events all over the city.
Hommage to HR Giger
The festival team would like to dedicate this 14th edition to HR Giger, who passed away in May. We are not only remembering an extraordinary artist who designed our famous "Narcisse" award, but also a man who came to Neuchâtel almost 15 years ago in order to support a bunch of passionate freaks with an insane project up their sleeve: the NIFFF.