Mark Stolaroff is an independent producer and the founder of No Budget Film School, a series of classes specifically designed for the no-budget filmmaker. His most recent project, the self-financed low-budget feature film Pig written and directed by Henry Barrial, recently played a string of festivals–13 in only six weeks. He personally attended eight of those festivals in four weeks. Mark graciously agreed to take some photos and write up articles about this series of film festivals for The Weird Review. For more about Mark check out the links at the end of his article. Here is his report on the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival.
After hitting four festivals in six days and spanning the U.S., I had one day at home before catching a flight to Belgium for one of Europe’s top Fantastic festivals. A member of an elite grouping of fantasy festivals known as the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation, (or EFFFF), BIFFF is perhaps the most unique and colorful film festival I’ve ever attended, (and in my 20 years of attending film festivals, I’ve enjoyed a few). Celebrating it’s 30th year and still run by it’s founders, the first thing that hits you is the incredible space it inhabits, a former train shed and customs house now called Tours and Taxis.
This building is enormous, and houses an entire collection of exhibits and spaces that is a wet dream for any genre fanatic. And that’s what BIFFF attracts, in huge numbers: fanatics. You won’t find an audience like this anywhere in the world. They scream, they shout at the screen, they howl at the moon (literally, every time a moon shows up in a film, they howl), they cheer for spectacular kills, they clap for everyone in the opening titles, but most of all, they love these kinds of films. And I did say huge, right?
The screening room, which is built on the premises, seats over 1,200 people! Just for reference, that’s about double what the DGA or the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater seats. The screen is enormous, and sits above a large stage, where master of ceremonies Stephane Everaert introduces each film and filmmaker before the screening.
And let’s not forget one other unique feature–the song. The audience insists that every filmmaker sing a song before they are allowed to leave the stage. This was especially troubling for me, as I saw filmmaker after filmmaker make a fool of themselves, to the audience’s delight, before it was my fateful turn. But it’s all in good fun, and that’s what this festival is all about.
Filmmaker treatment is A+ here. Every guest is treated like a VIP, with a personal assistant to take you anywhere you want to go and spectacular lunches and dinners at a host of fine restaurants around the city. There’s also free beer and wine in the VIP lounge and special VIP seats for the guests in the screening venue.
Among the dignitaries attending this year were Terry Gilliam, William Friedkin, Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman (and his wife Pat Swinney), and one of my favorite guests,1960’s scream queen idol Barbara Steele, (The Pit And The Pendulum, 8 ½) who was starring in a new horror film called The Butterfly Room. Among the indie horror, sci-fi and fantasy films, the festival included certain comedies, dramas, and studio fare, such as Lockout, The Lorax (in an Easter Day kids’ program), The Raven, and the thriller, The Whistleblower. One of the great aspects of the festival is that they only play one film at a time. No more Sophie’s Choice trying to figure out which film you’re going to see and which you’re going to have to miss. To keep things moving in the main theater room, Q&A’s are done outside in a separate space after the show.
The main complex also houses a macabre art exhibit called Nice To Be Dead, a poster exhibit, a movie memorabilia flea market, and a body painting station. One of the other highlights, in addition to the de rigueur all-nighter, was the zombie march, where thousands of zombies hit the streets of Brussels, marching around downtown. Unfortunately, I missed what I’ve been told is another highlight, the Vampire Ball. If you like blood splattering films and you’ve always wanted to visit Brussels, (which BTW is an incredibly beautiful city), you owe it to yourself to come in April so you can experience the BIFFF for yourself.
“PIG” – A FILM BY HENRY BARRIAL
“Highly recommended! Along the lines of Nolan’s Memento.” – The Horror Zine
“A brilliant sci-fi thriller…the most
provocative film I saw at the Palm Springs Film
Festival.” – Desert Star Weekly
OFFICIAL SELECTION AT OVER 30 FILM FESTIVALS
WINNER! BEST FEATURE FILM – SCI-FI-LONDON
WINNER! BEST FEATURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SCREENPLAY – ATHENS SCI-FI
WINNER! BEST SCI-FI FEATURE – SHRIEKFEST
WINNER! BEST SCI-FI FEATURE – PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL
WINNER! BEST FEATURE FILM – THRILLER! CHILLER!
WINNER! BEST SCI-FI FEATURE – SHOCKERFEST
WINNER! BEST EDITING – BOSTON SCI-FI
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