Fantastika examines the many innovative ways filmmakers have utilised fairytales, folktales and fables in their work over the past sixty years. Curated by BFMAF Associate Programmer Herb Shellenberger, the series is international in scope, with films ranging between a number of genres and forms. Focusing on works that innovate in the sensual, visual and aural elements of cinema, Fantastika is a surprising collec- tion of strange, sensual and stirring films.
The Meadow Mari are a Finno-Urgic ethnic group living on the left bank of the Volga River in central Russia, sometimes called ‘the last authentic pagans in Europe’. Their religion—Mari Paganism—is based on the worship of the forces of nature, and mass prayers are held in sacred groves at specific times according to the positioning of the Moon and the Sun. Mari were persecuted during the Soviet Union, but their faith has been given official status by the Russian government since the 1990s. However, some native religion believers contend that there is still a trend to Russify Mari culture and religion.
Fairytales and fables form the fulcrum of these short films. Zlatko Bourek’s psychedelic-era animation The Cat is a day-glo adaptation of Aesop’s ‘Venus and the Cat’, in which a man falls in love with a cat-turned-woman.
This shorts programme looks at filmmakers cinematically adapting folkloric legends from their own cultures. Busójáráskor is an ethnographic documentary on the Hungarian celebration of Busójárás, in which people dress as horned monsters with carved wooden masks. Nigerien filmmaker Moustapha Alassane’s The Ring of King Koda adapts a Zarma legend in which a king tests the loyalty of a fisherman. Nana Tchitchoua’s Impressions from Rustaveli melds the Georgian medieval poet’s writings with the cinematic language of Sergei Parajanov and Jack Smith.
This adults-only screening pairs two erotic fairytales by women artists. Niki de Saint Phalle’s rarely-screened 1976 feature Un rêve plus long que la nuit is a fairytale trip through the female erotic psyche. Young Camelia, searching for the meaning of life, death and love, finds herself transported to such unpredictable settings as a dreamlike orgy or a raging battlefield. Mari Terashima’s 1989 short Hatsukoi is a silent, gestural film of gothic symbolism, a story of first love that never comes true.
When the Cat Comes
When the Cat Comes is one of the more quietly subversive films of the Czechoslovak New Wave, and its visual flair, storybook fantasy and absurd humour make it fun for viewers of all ages. The film won the Cannes Special Jury Prize in 1963 thanks to the winning combination of director Vojtěch Jasný, writer Jirí Brdecka—known for his collaborations with animator Jirí Trnka—and lead actor Jan Werich, writing his own dialogue in the dual role of Comrade Oliva and the Magician.