FANTASIA20 REVIEW: 返校 [Fanxiao] [Detention] [2019]

I don’t remember anything. As a subversive poem (according to the Chinese Nationalist Party that ruled Taiwan under martial law during the period known as the White Terror from 1947 until 1987) read by Miss Yin (Cecilia Choi) to the members of her and Mr. Chang’s (Meng-Po Fu) underground high school book club relates: a tree’s roots never ask to be repaid by the fruit that blooms as a result of their effort. It’s a succinctly beautiful metaphor for the education system and its liberal teachers doing all they can…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Come True [2020]

I can’t tell you that. The darkened screen is almost pitch black before we can begin to discern shapes in the distance. First it’s wooden stakes in the ground at what looks to be a trailhead of sorts. Next it’s a mountain in the distance. Finally we come to a door that swings open as though we’ve been placed inside a videogame merging the puzzle mechanics of Myst with the brooding aesthetic of Hellraiser only to continue moving forward towards a bald figure with back turned—unmoving and foreboding with a…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Feels Good Man [2020]

The violence becomes the meme. Every artist’s worst nightmare is watching his/her work become appropriated for a cause antithetical to its origins. It happens all the time. Just this week the Republican National Convention played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” despite being told they didn’t have the permission of the late songwriter’s estate. Whereas the latter now has legal grounds and copyright law on its side to discuss filing suit in response to the infraction, things get murky when fair use rears its head and even murkier after falling further into the…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: The Paper Tigers [2020]

Kung Fu without honor is just fighting. Like the warring Japanese dojos depicted throughout the Karate Kid franchise, a growing disconnect exists between those who wish to learn a fighting style as a means of physical and emotional growth and those who simply seek the ability to punish their adversaries without mercy. It’s respect and honor versus strength and superiority—something even the most devout and sacred of Chinese Kung Fu masters like Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan) can’t always instill in their pupils. No matter how much they strive to trust…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Chihuo Quan Wang [Chasing Dream] [2019]

Don’t drown yourself in mistakes from the past. We live in an era where celebrity has become more about fame than talent as those wishing for adulation do what they can to mimic the greats that came before them without ever worrying about proving whether they possess an ounce of originality. You want to impress the judges on “American Idol”? Show them you can be Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna all at once. You want to be the talk of the fighting world by unleashing your strength in the Ultimate…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Fugitive Dreams [2020]

Go sleep, John. Every single one of us knows the terror of the unknown. Maybe it’s as universal as our collective uncertainty about the future or as specific as your inability to guess whether an abusive family member is going to fall asleep before taking off their belt. Some wonder if the randomness of the world will strike them down without warning or if a broken system of prejudice will collect them for no other reason than the color of their skin. We battle mental illness, post traumatic stress, bigotry,…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Fellwechselzeit [Time of Moulting] [2020]

What about final wishes? Young Stephanie (Zelda Espenschied) is utterly alone. It doesn’t matter that she lives with her parents (Freya Kreutzkam‘s Mom and Bernd Wolf‘s Reinhardt) because their physical presence pales in comparison to their emotional absence. And nothing will ever change. It can’t. Stephanie’s mother is too far lost in the past to think about the girl’s childhood when memories of her parents keep her forever longing for the childhood she herself wasn’t afforded. Stephanie’s father is conversely too busy living in the present to worry about anyone…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Undergods [2020]

All will be fog. We all like to think we have control—kings of our proverbial castles. It’s all a ruse, though. We’re actually slaves to a system that seems more and more likely to fail with each new day and each new declaration that its imminent demise is a call to arms to save it rather than move on and evolve. That false sense of control is thus a mechanism we use to combat the fear of knowing how little we truly possess. We dream of other men failing so…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: The Dark and the Wicked [2020]

What’s going to be okay? No matter how staunch your atheism, there still exists a surefire way to get you believing in God. It’s not hearing His voice or seeing His work, though. Those can easily be laughed away or chalked up to coincidence. God is an abstract catchall in which His faithful are conditioned to place their faith. They rely on Him as their savior while atheists rely on themselves. His deeds are inconsequential to those recognizing how “good” can always be explained by their own actions first. It’s…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Freies Land [Free Country] [2020]

My dream killed them. From post-Francoist State Spain to post-reunified Germany, director Christian Alvart moves Alberto Rodríguez and Rafael Cobos‘ Goya Award-winning thriller Marshland to a newly democratized remote village outside of Berlin via Freies Land [Free Country]. Considering detectives Patrick Stein (Trystan Pütter) and Markus Bach (Felix Kramer) are thrust together despite building their careers in the West and East respectively, Alvart and co-writer Siegfried Kamml have ample room with which to retool things through a prism of their own nation’s potential for dark political secrets and guilt-ridden pasts.…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Survival Skills [2020]

I sure don’t! The world isn’t what it used to be no matter how vehemently a republican believes the opposite when explaining that the 1791 ratification of an American’s “right to bear arms” includes the civilian purchase of military-grade automatic weaponry. Technology exploded exponentially over the past two decades and our laws, infrastructure, and politics have been very slow to adapt. The reason is simple of course: the patriarchy. It’s why our country still believes it holds jurisdiction over a woman’s body. It’s why we funnel finances from education and…

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