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Fantasia Festival: The Block Island Sound

Birds are falling from the sky. Fish are floating dead in the water. Electronic devices suddenly stop working. And local fisherman Tom (Neville Archambault)  is having regular blackouts. What is this mysterious force that is causing chaos on Block Island?

Tom’s son Harry (Chris Sheffield) and daughter Audry (Michaela McManus) try to help their dad whose drinking and hallucinations are getting increasingly out of control. Harry’s friend Dale (Jim Cummings) thinks it’s all a government conspiracy and everyone else just thinks Tom has a drinking problem. As Audry begins to investigate, Harry is slowly being taken over by this force and the ghost of his dad guides him further into danger.

Written, co-produced and directed by Kevin and Matthew McManus , The Block Island Sound is a seaside thriller that offers viewers plenty of mystery and a satisfyingly slow build. I wasn’t sure where the story was taking me but I was definitely along for the ride. This film reminded me a little of the seaside horror genre film The Beach House which I reviewed recently but I found The Block Island Sound even more riveting. I appreciate that the film doesn’t offer any answers but does question the role of electronic devices in our lives and how they affect not only our minds but our bodies.

The Block Island Sound premiered at the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Diabla

When 17-year-old Nayeli (Ruth Ramos) is raped by the neighborhood gringo Rayan (Cesar Mijangos), she seeks help from her brother Uri (Daniel Fuentes Lobo). Uri sides with his friend rather than his sister calling her a whore. Spurned by her brother, she visits the local coven of witches to enact her revenge. Not only is Rayan about to pay the price for his violent act against Nayeli but Uri will have to watch it all go down.

Directed by  Ashley George and set in present day Mexico, Diabla packs a punch in a mere 17 minutes and will linger in your mind long after the film is over.  For female viewers especially, Diabla will serve as a visual representation of all of the revenge fantasies that we have for the men in our lives who have hurt us in one form or another. In this way, Diabla is highly gratifying even when it shocks and disturbs.

Ashley George’s impressive short horror film speaks directly to women who have been hurt physically and emotionally by men.

Diabla is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Don’t Text Back!

Directed by Mariel Sharp and Kaye Adelaide, Don’t Text Back! is a highly satisfying queer horror-comedy short film about toxic masculinity and the literal horrors of dating.

Kelly (Danielle LaPointe) is a 30-something woman who is seeking the help of an energy healer Jaren (Nancy Webb). She’s in dire straits as the necklace she wears is strangling her and cannot be removed. It tightens every time the guy she’s seeing texts her and only lets up when she texts him back. Jaren helps Kelly uncover that her heteronormative relationship with a men’s right group activist is toxic on many levels. But Kelly needs to discover something about herself first before she can be free.

Gratifying and funny, Don’t Text Back! is a must see for any woman who has felt the effects of toxic masculinity… so pretty much everyone. And I definitely want to see much much more from this filmmaking duo!

Don’t Text Back! had its Canadian premiere at the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Feels Good, Man

When cartoonist Matt Furie created Pepe the Frog, he had no clue that his seemingly benign humanoid frog character would take over the internet and evolve into a symbol of hate speech. Directed by Arthur Jones, the documentary Feels Good, Man chronicles the long journey that Furie’s creation took over the years and it offers revelations about fringe internet culture that are eye-opening and alarming.

Furie’s story is an extraordinary one. This mild-mannered artist is the opposite of who you might think would be behind an internet hate meme. He draws images of toys, creates children’s books which he reads to his daughter and drew Pepe the Frog as a vessel through which to make jokes about bodily functions. The problem with the image of Pepe is that it could easily be co-opted; anyone could draw him, his identity could easily be adapted to trending memes and Furie did not and could not take ownership of Pepe in a significant way in order to control how his creation was used online.

I won’t go into  all the specifics of how Pepe morphed from hand drawn comic book character to a symbol of radicalization. The documentary does such a good job revealing each and every stage of Pepe’s evolution that it’s what makes this film so engrossing. Pepe went from a “Feels Good, Man” meme, to a mascot for outsiders, to a trolling personality then is now a symbol for dangerous radicals, white supremacists and the alt-right. Jones’s film does an exemplary job demonstrating how Pepe became a key element in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. We also see Furie fighting back and disconnecting from the creation that became bigger than himself. The documentary features interviews with Furie, his family and friends, fellow cartoonists, psychologists and other experts.

Feels Good, Man is a riveting documentary that offers many insights into the dangers of internet culture. 

Feels Good, Man is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Festival.

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