Here’s Hoping that this Fantastic Fest Will Be Less Bro-tastic Than Last Year
Ever since Fantastic Fest started in 2005, I’ve told everyone how amazing this sci-fi and horror film festival is. I’ve shared how much fun I’ve had, and how many friends I’ve made there. I’ve got a framed poster for the first year of the festival hanging in my hallway at home.
So it took me a long time to admit to myself how this had turned from a sweet little film festival with a bunch of film nerd folks, to what seemed like a gathering of the nerd juggalos at Fantastic Fest 2012.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so bitter about this if I hadn’t gotten hit on the head with a broken beer bottle that someone had thrown at the end of the Fantastic Feud event at the Fantastic Fest last year. (Fantastic Feud is modeled on the game show Family Feud, but all the questions are about genre films.)
To be clear, the bottle wasn’t thrown at me. My best guess what happened: I’m pretty certain that while some people were celebrating the International team winning the Feud, someone had smashed a beer bottle on the ground in excitement at their win.
This is what happened: At the end of the Fantastic Feud in 2012, I had been near the front of the theater taking pictures, when a piece of the broken glass bottle glanced off the side of my metal camera and my right hand.
When the Alamo staff member standing next to me asked if I was okay, I told him I was physicially fine. He picked up the pieces of the broken bottle off the floor of the theater. As I washed stale beer and tiny glass fragments out of my hair later that night, I was thinking that things could have easily have been so much worse.
I was however very upset at the time of the incident. I was even more upset that as much as I tweeted about being hit with a beer bottle with the festival’s hashtag, no one officially connected with the event responded to my tweets. Only one female friend attending the festival responded on Twitter.
When I told this story in person, someone else told me that another woman had been hit with an apple during the 2012 Fantastic Karakoke.
Having a thrown beer bottle end up near my head was not the only evidence that some of the festival has become more of an event about the worst sort of male bonding than it is about the movies being screened.
One of the annual events at Fantastic Fest has become the “Fantastic Debates” which was held at an actual boxing gym just a few doors down from the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. (Due to construction, the 2013 Fantastic Fest will take place at a different Drafthouse theatre than in years past.)
The 2012 edition of Fantastic Fest also featured something called “Tittie Bingo” an event that I was too horrified to even poke my head into to check out. (Not everyone was, as pictures show women attending the event.)
If you know me in real life, you know I’m not a girly girl. I’ve slept backstage at a music festival in Latvia. I can hold my own when security guards in a photo pit try to run over me. My tastes in film and television have made many men sigh and tell me that my husband is a lucky, lucky man. (On my most recent camping trip, I shared a group yurt with several people, including the owner of an Austin comic book shop.)
But when you have a film festival where this tomboy in a hoodie starts to feel uncomfortable, you have a real problem.
If you aren’t a woman or a horror film fan, you might ask you should care that they atmosphere of the festival had changed last year to that of a dysfunctional fraternity. It’s because films are one of the main ways we share our stories with each other, and with a larger audience.
Of the 72 feature films that screened at the 8thannual Fantastic Fest in 2012, five were directed or co-directed by women. These were:
American Mary, about a young surgeon who becomes involved in the body modification scene was directed by sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska who go by the moniker “The Twisted Twins.”
Cloud Atlas (secret screening film) was co directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski. This was Lana’s first film directed as a woman after her transition, as she previously directed as a man under the name Larry Wachowski.
The Mafu Cage (1979) was directed by Karen Arthur. It was a repertory screening as part of the House of Psychotic Women series
The fact that in 2012 only a handful of 72 films at America’s largest genre film festival were directed by women is problematic for two key reasons.
American films are often exported all over the globe. Films are currently one of the biggest cultural exports from our culture to the rest of the globe. It’s how people from around the globe know who Americans are and what America is.
Often horror films–with their low budgets and embracing of low production values–are a good place for first time directors to get their first shots at directing films.
When you have a film festival where it’s difficult for women to network— when you host events like Tittie Bingo, have events in a boxing gym, and no one even officially tweets an apology for a thrown beer bottle–then you have a problem. You are helping sideline an entire gender of possible filmmakers.
As for the upcoming Fantastic Fest: I really hope that moving the festival to the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline will allow a bit of a reboot for the festival. I hope it will move the festival closer to being about movies, not just having it be the sort of beer drinking male bonding ritual so much of the festival has become.
The 2013 edition of Fantastic Fest currently has a smattering of films from female directors announced. These include feature film The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, co directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, and Nothing Bad Can Happen, a feature film directed by Katrin Gebbe. That’s not many films by women out of the dozens and dozens of films already announced and scheduled for this year’s festival.
Below are the pictures I took at the Fantastic Feud in 2012, just before the bits of broken bottle ended up in my hair. While it’s impossible for me to know what happened that night, I believe that you can see the gentleman in the right side of the frame picking up a second beer, then releasing it.
If I end up at the festival again this year, I really hope that everyone behaves like civilized adults, and that I don’t end up washing stale beer and bottle shards out of my hair again. Broken glass near my head isn’t my idea of a good time.