For all things horror, fantasy and science fiction, Fantafestival has been bringing the best to Italy’s capital city of Rome for more than thirty years.
From its inception in 1981, the fest – to give its full title, the Mostra Internazionale del Film di Fantascienza e del Fantastico, or International Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Show – has grown to become one of the country’s foremost occasions for gorehounds, sword and sorcery fans and lovers of everything futuristic, and is deemed to be one of the most significant festivals of its kind. Its mission is straightforward: to showcase the very best sci-fi, fantasy and horror films available – either mainstream or independent, feature-length or shorts – to an eager and ever-supportive audience.
Now heading into its 35th edition for 2015, Fantafestival has a packed program of screenings and ancillary events with the most recent fest boasting over eighty features and shorts from around the globe. Many of these are world or Italian premieres, and the festival is often praised for providing a launchpad for new filmmakers, many of whom have gone on to have long, successful careers in genre cinema, including Jaume Balagueró – director of horror hits REC and REC 2 – and Denmark’s Ole Bornedal, who wrote and directed Nightwatch and its US remake starring Ewan McGregor, Patricia Arquette and Nick Nolte.
There have been many notable films shown during the years: Fantafestival 2014 saw _Dawn of the Planet of the Apes _receive a special preview, with Franklin J. Schaffner’s original 1968 classic starring Charlton Heston getting a re-run; and the very first festival in 1981 saw a young Joel ‘Batman Forever’ Schumacher’s cinematic debut The Incredible Shrinking Woman receive a screening. The fest continues to attract huge genre names to its annual event, with the likes of George A. Romero, Peter Jackson, Dario Argento and Robert Englund all walking the red carpet as guests of honour.
Fantafestival is a competitive festival and bestows awards each year, with its Golden and Silver Bats handed to the best features or shorts from Italian and international directors. Meanwhile the recently-introduced Mario Bava Award – named after the directing/special effects virtuoso – is awarded for Best First Italian Film, and the Mary Shelley Award celebrates women in a largely male-dominated genre within the filmmaking industry. Previous winners at the festival include Guillermo del Toro for Cronos in 1995; Jennifer Tilly (Best Actress) for Bride of Chucky in 2000, and renowned composer Ennio Morricone who received a Career Award in 1995.
As well as a crammed screening program, Fantafestival has a huge list of supporting events each day, including writers’ talks, such as from James Moran who writes for the BBC UK’s Doctor Who programme and scripted the horror flick Severance, numerous director/cast and crew post-screening Q&As, web series presentations, the Fantaspagna section (focusing on the best short films from Spain or in Spanish), a Tim Burton tribute, ‘The Exorcist 40 Years Later’ retrospective, themed debates and panels, and finally a zombie day, or Z-Day, with the fest’s first ever zombie-walk through the streets of Rome.
Fantafestival 2015 runs from June 18th to July 1st at various locations in the Italian capital, including the Multiplex Barberini and the iconic Cinema Trevi.