Monday, September 10, 2007

Wayback Machine, Part 3: ZEDER takes a trip

In the third (and final for now) part of this series, we go on the road to the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film... Original post date: April 6, 2004.

How me and ZEDER went to the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film

Sometimes life throws you a weird one. A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from BIFFF, the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Films, enquiring when I would send the 35mm print of ZEDER they would be showing in their retrospective this weekend. What print??? Turns out some wires had been crossed and I never got informed they wanted it. I regretfully informed them that there was no way for me to ship it now and thought that was the end of the story.

Two hours later they called and told me they had booked me plane tickets and a hotel room, and could I please bring the print in person? Having recently wreaked havoc on my personal and professional life by going to the Sitges festival, and considering I was just back from a business trip to Stockholm and would be in Amsterdam the next week, not to mention that the physical strain of lugging a 20 kilo film halfway across Europe would probably finally push my broken back over the edge and put me in hospital, this would be an extremely stupid thing to do.

Of course I said yes.

I got up early the next morning, and me and ZEDER checked in to the 6.40 flight to Brussels. It was somewhat surreal to see Pupi Avati's classic of under-stated Italian horror appear on the luggage belt in Brussels...

At the airport I was picked up by a guest host and received a royal treatment! A room was ready on the 19th floor of the festival hotel, I was taken to lunch, fed drink tickets, socialized with festival staff, and generally had a great time. Special thanks goes to Dirk van Extergem, the retrospective programmer who has put together some truly excellent series over the years and was my main contact (he wasn't responsible for the booking mistake though!)

The BIFFF festival is really the most friendly and laid-back festival I have been to, very different in style from e.g. Sitges. It is much smaller in that there are only 2 cinemas, and all premieres are at the main auditorium. Basically you can sit back and watch the whole festival from the same chair! Yet there are about 80 films shown, including many European and international premieres.

BIFFF is well-known for its additional acitvities - it's more than a film festival. The Vampire's Ball closing party is legendary and there are also art shows, costume contests, etc. But the most bizarre and amazing event is the Body Painting contest!

Here, artists spend some 4 hours painting models in the most imaginative styles, and then there is a parade on the main stage. The jury this year was presided over by film director Stuart Gordon - for lots of more bodypainting pics go to my BIFFF 2004 photo gallery!

I only stayed over night, but I did manage to see three movies. The festival is well-known for its noisy and ironic audience, and during the all-night horror events there's even crowd-rafting - people floating over the crowd in rubber rafts! Fortunately, the audience can also concentrate and show respect to films that deserve it. First up was THE TESSERACT, the most recent gangster drama from the brothers Pang, and it is a good and stylish film, though a bit heavy on the digital effects. THE IMMORTAL was truly unique: directed by comic book artist Enki Bilal, it is a strange mix of 3D-animated characters and real actors. It really looks exactly like one of Bilal's comics come to life! The story and acting had troubles, but the films was still a very interesting experience. Finally, ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT is a low-key domestic drama between a man and his wife, who has just left him but leaves behind a video tape of herself. Some very funny and surprising moment makes it worth seeking out.

Exhausted, I crashed at 2 in the morning (Dirk wanted to take me to the Cotton Club, the festival bar, but I just couldn't do it). The following day, I watched some of the Costume Contest, had lunch with Dirk, shopped a little, and went to the airport. The driver was yet another of those characters that make BIFFF so unique: a die-hard collector of Batman memorabilia, who always carried with him a sketch book signed by lots of famous comic artists (Bilal had just done a drawing in it)!

All in all, despite being a wreck the week after, I'm happy I did it, and I found my ultra-short visit to the BIFFF festival (despite the rowdy audience) a very good experience.

PS: The screening of ZEDER went without a hitch!

September 2007 postscript: I haven't been to BIFFF again, but I'd love to return, and even though Sitges has the edge size-wise, BIFFF has more parties and bodypainting! Speaking of which, here are a few more pics:

For even more pictures from BIFFF 2004, visit my photo gallery!

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