- By Joe Gross American-Statesman Staff
It is time once again for yet another round of Fantastic Fest, the Alamo Drafthouse’s signature film festival. Here are some things to know about the fest.
1. The festival takes place almost entirely at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, making it one of Austin’s more convenient film festivals. However, it is sold out. Anyone thinking about driving to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar from Sept. 21-28 (or going to any of the other businesses in that complex) might want to consider other transportation plans — parking is going to be rather intense.
2. Fantastic Fest attracts hundreds of fans of horror, crime, sci-fi and exploitation film from around the world. It has generated a strong, vibrant community of extremely devout fans.
3. Complicating all of this is the recent revelation that Devin Faraci, the former editor of the Drafthouse-owned magazine Birth.Movies.Death — who stepped down from the mag in October following allegations of sexual misconduct made by a fellow film critic — had been employed again by the Drafthouse as an in-house writer.
In October 2016, after Faraci criticized then-candidate Donald Trump for comments he made on a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape from 2005, a fellow film critic who goes by the Twitter handle @spacecrone accused Faraci of doing the same thing Trump had discussed — grabbing and sexually assaulting her with his hand. Faraci replied: “@spacecrone I do not remember this. I can only believe you and beg forgiveness for having been so vile.” Faraci stepped down soon after.
In mid-September, however, folks noticed Faraci’s byline on some film blurbs on the festival website. Fans and members of the industry began criticizing the Drafthouse online.
Drafthouse owner Tim League posted on social media an explanation of Faraci’s return to public life. But, noting that he was never consulted about this rehiring and that he objected to it, Fantastic Fest programmer Todd Brown quickly resigned in protest from the festival.
Faraci severed his ties with the Drafthouse. He published a statement on Medium on Sept. 14, then deleted it. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Faraci was seen at Drafthouse events as early as February of this year and that the Drafthouse has hired “a crisis-management firm to deal with the backlash.”
Then, on Sept. 15, producers of the sexual assault drama “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” starring Frances McDormand, decided to pull the film from screening at Fantastic Fest on opening night.
League has issued an apology, saying that he plans to meet with Drafthouse employees to discuss the situation, but it has all cast a grimy shadow over this year’s festivities.
4. Every year the festival, now in its 13th year, celebrates a different culture or region’s genre films. This year, the Middle East is a focus; festival organizers are calling this “a bizarre ride to the Arabic side,” with movies from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, including Egypt’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” vampire adaptation “Anyab.”
5. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the very few directors to ever figure out what to do with Colin Farrell, who was terrific in Yorgos’ “The Lobster.” Farrell stars, with Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan, in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which picked up a best screenplay award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
6. In 2012, noted underground cartoonist John “Derf” Backderf blew minds with his graphic novel memoir “My Friend Dahmer,” about his childhood friendship with a young man who became one of the most notorious serial killers of his age. Now, “My Friend Dahmer” is a motion picture at Fantastic Fest starring Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer and Anne Heche as his just-as-weird mother.
7. Fantastic Fest does documentaries about as well as any other Austin film festival. This year’s crop includes “Gilbert,” an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at comedian Gilbert Gottfried; “Love and Saucers,” about David Huggins, a 72-year-old man who claims to have lost his virginity as a young man to an extraterrestrial being; “Haunters: The Art of the Scare,” about the world of people who make the scariest haunted houses they can; “King Cohen,” about junk-savant filmmaker Larry Cohen, whom Joe Dante called “the John Cassavetes of exploitation” (Cohen will be in attendance at the Sept. 22 screening); and “78/52,” a 91-minute documentary that focuses on a single aspect of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”: the shower scene.
8. It’s this sort of hardcore nerding out on the minutiae of the world of genre films that has made Fantastic Fest so beloved among its fans and has made recent developments so hard to process for those same folks.