Neuchatel 2019: EXTRA ORDINARY Takes Top Honours at Record-Breaking 19th Edition
Irish supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary was honoured with the H.R. Giger “Narcisse” Award last Saturday night, as the 19th Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival came to a rousing close.
Other winners included Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow and Miguel Llansó’s Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway, as the picturesque Swiss city played host once again to one of Europe’s foremost celebrations of genre cinema. The star-studded nine-day affair ran from 5-13 July and screened 90 feature films and 69 shorts to record-breaking attendance figures that exceeded 48,000.
Given to the Best Film in the festival’s International Competition section, the H.R. Giger “Narcisse” Award was designed by the celebrated artist himself, and is presented together with a cash prize of CHF 10,000 (roughly US$10,000), provided by the city of Neuchâtel.
This year’s winner, from writer-director pair Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, was selected by an International jury comprised of directors Alexandre O. Philippe (Memory: the Origins of Alien) and Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen), producers Piodor Gustafsson (Border) and Anaïs Bertrand (One Night), and screenwriter Fernando Navarro (Veronica).
A delightfully offbeat comedy, Extra Ordinary stars Maeve Higgins as a driving instructor in small-town Ireland, who must reluctantly employ her supernatural ghost-busting abilities, when a former pop star-turned-local recluse (Will Forte) sells his soul to the devil, ushering in the End of Days.
The International Jury also anointed Miguel Llansó’s deranged lo-fi spectacle Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway, which had its world premiere at NIFFF, with the Imaging the Future Award for Best Production Design - which also includes a cash sweetener of CHF5,000 from the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM). An offbeat one-of-a-kind spy thriller that no human vocabulary could hope to adequately describe, the film sees a pair of unlikely secret agents join forces to save the world from a malevolent computer system.
The International Critics Jury (of which your humble narrator was invited to be a member) presented its award to Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ incredible debut feature, Swallow, in which Haley Bennett’s young trophy wife is driven to swallowing inanimate objects when her seemingly perfect life starts to close in on her. What could so easily have been treated as lurid exploitation is in fact a startling pro-choice masterpiece, empowering its victimised heroine to take control of her ghastly situation, her violated body and, ultimately, her freedom.
Also awarded on the night, the Silver Méliès for Best European Fantastic Film went to Amin Sidi-Boumédiène’s Algerian thriller Abou Leila, the Denis-De-Rougemont youth award singled out Ant Timpson’s raucous reunion comedy Come to Daddy, while Kan Eguchi’s screwball Japanese actioner The Fable was named Best Asian feature film by the festival audience.
In the short film section, the H.R. Giger “Narcisse” award for best Swiss short film went to Dispersion, by Basile Vuillemin, which also won the Silver Méliès for best fantastic European short film. Ennio Ruschetti’s Hand in Hand, meanwhile, took home the Taurus Studio award for innovation, which included CHF2,000 worth of sound post-production services.
And so ends another incredible year at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival. Next year sees the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary, so expect an epic edition from 3-11 July 2020.