Fant-Asia Report 1
I’m writing this nine days into Fant-Asia , Saturday the 19th, and one thing is clear, any doubts the organisers may have had concerning year two can rest in peace: the fest is a success far beyond their wildest dreams. The square block from Bleury to Saint-Alexandre is so abuzz with Fant-Asia energy it should be christened “Chanville.” It surely felt that way when about 200 perturbed fans were turned away from a sold out screening of Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master 2 .The merchants along St.Catherine have a perennial cordon in front of their storefronts. Rain or shine, sold-out and near sold-out performances are the norm. Which leads to my single complaint. The fest organizers and Imperial staff have to come up with a better ticket/queue system for next year. It doesn’t make sense that people who paid $70.00 for a VIP pass have to continually line-up an hour before the program to ensure a seat (if they aren’t already in the theatre). The best method would be to have numbered tickets for each performance so they know how many have been sold. They could then sell the theatre capacity minus the number of passes sold, say 970 seats – 400 passes = 570 tickets, and then sell the remaining tickets to people as they come. This way there would be far less waiting for everyone concerned.
There is an amazing, symbiotic, concentric buzz around the festival that is channeled from the programmers to fans, film to audience, theatre to lobby, lobby to exterior, exterior to nearby bars. The introductions by International Programmer’s Mitch Davis and Karim Hussain are a worthwhile spectacle in themselves (especially Mitch’s bleedingly sarcastic program announcement concerning the replacement of The Love God with Drunken Master 2 . There is little doubt that much of the fest’s energy emanates from them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a director/actor mobbed for autographs the way Deborah Twiss and Tod Morris were after the mega-enthusiastically received screening of A Gun for Jennifer (of course I’ve also never been to Cannes). Mitch’s introduction to them before the film helped set the tone and raise the audience’s already surcharged anticipation. Even average films, such as The Assassin have loyal fans erupting in unison at peak moments. The same audience that cheers when a concubine is split in half like a wishbone in The Assassin , or when a vigilante woman castrates a rapist in A Gun For Jennifer , cheers when Gamera saves the universe once again in Gamera 2 . Fant-Asia proves that film is best served as a collective social experience in a larger than life setting.
On the guest front, Fant-Asia was disappointed when Hong Kong star Donnie Yen canceled his trip on the day of his scheduled flight for “personal” reasons. Alas, the much abated arrival of David Warbeck will not transpire either due to chemotherapy treatments that have left him too weak to travel. But fans can take solace that the chemotherapy seems to have been a complete success. The affable Tony Timpone, editor of Fangoria , seemed to genuinely enjoy his stay at the fest before returning home on Friday. Richard Stanley, black hat in tow, arrived yesterday, along with the British media brigade, while the Italian entourage is just around the corner. Stay tuned for a follow-up report as Fant-Asia kicks into high gear.