Films to check out at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival

Mark Pacis

Fantasia Film Festival 2023

For several years, Fantasia Film Festival has become my favorite film festival to cover every year. At this festival, I discover some of the best genre films worldwide. Action, horror, drama, documentaries; all genres are represented here, and we’re here to tell you a few films to check out if you’re attending the festival this year.

The White Storm: Heaven or Hell (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong cinema has built a reputation for creating some of the best crime dramas in cinematic history. Herman Yau’s The White Storm: Heaven or Hell is the latest crime drama to come out of Hong Kong and stars some legendary actors from the country: Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo, and Ching Wan Lau. Fantasia Film Festival describes the film as having a “non-stop barrage of truly jaw-dropping gunfight action,” we won’t have it any other way.

Shin Kamen Rider (Japan)

Writer/director Hideaki Anno has made a name for himself recently with his Shin series of reimagined tokusatsu icons. It began with the excellent Shin Godzilla (2016) and continued with the not-as-good Shin Ultraman in 2022. This time, Hideaki Anno is adapting another popular tokusatsu television series, Kamen Rider. If that name sounds familiar, Kamen Rider is the older brother of Super Sentai. Super Sentai would later be adapted to American television as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. So, to see Hideaki adapt this series is a must-watch for any Japanese pop culture and cinema fan.

The Roundup: No Way Out (South Korea)

The Roundup was one of my favorite films from the Fantasia Film Festival last year. Don Lee (Train to BusanEternals) returns as Sergeant Ma Seok-do to wreak police justice and havoc in the most entertaining way possible. This time, Sergeant Ma has “a host of adversaries to contend with, including a Japanese assassin wielding a katana with surgical efficiency, our hero will be doing plenty of interior redecoration, using hapless gangsters!” I can’t wait to check out the next chapter!

A Disturbance in the Force (USA)

If you’re a Star Wars fan, chances are you’ve heard of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special that aired on CBS in 1978. It was criticized by critics, audiences, and Star Wars fans alike when it aired. Needless to say, since then, it has gained a kind of cult following. A Disturbance in the Force is a documentary that explains what went wrong with the Holiday Special. As a Star Wars fan, I can’t wait to see how this disaster happened.

The Abandoned (Taiwan)

One of my favorite discoveries from the festival was Detention, which came from Taiwan. Since then, I have tried to catch a film from there whenever I cover the festival. This year Tseng Ying-Ting’s The Abandoned caught my eye. Although the trailer is not the best, it was the description on Fantasia’s website that ultimately grabbed me.

Co-written and directed by decorated filmmaker Tseng Ying-Ting, this slow-burn mystery uncovers a pernicious truth about Taiwan’s considerable Southeast Asian migrant worker population. Historically marginalized and even demonized despite their crucial contributions to the country’s economy and social fabric, these men and women (an estimated 50,000 of which are undocumented) consequently became easy victims to predators and exploiters of all kinds. Through the eyes of its beautifully complex protagonist, THE ABANDONED provides insight on this tragic human issue, while also weaving a powerful ode to courage and empathy.

While those are my top films to check out, here are a few others that you may want to check out as well:

If you want to check out the rest of this year’s festival program, click here.

Fantasia Film Festival runs from July 20th to August 9th.