Y'a une étoile

What to watch this weekend at Fantasia

Reviews of a Stephen Dorff sci-fi, a film about being queer in Acadia, a SXSW grand prix winner and echoes of Del Toro.

The Fantasia Film Festival began on Thursday and continues till Aug. 9, bringing three weeks of genre cinema to Montreal cinemas at Concordia University’s downtown campus.



Divinity by Eddie Alcazar presents a mind-bending exploration of immortality within a dystopian framework. As a fan of visceral DIY avant-garde cinema such as Eraserhead and Tetsuo the Iron Man, the film’s ingenious technical solutions resonated with me deeply, providing an engaging and refreshing cinematic experience.

Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity presents an ambitious and visually distinct dive into the murky waters of immortality. With music composed by DJ Muggs & Dean Hurley, the film’s visual black-and-white palette and retro-futuristic design merge into a unique aesthetic marriage, reminiscent of classic midnight movies. Its bold exploration of mortality, societal collapse and human greed demonstrates conceptual audacity and makes the film a challenging but rewarding watch.

Stephen Dorff delivers a compelling performance as Jaxxon Pierce, a man grappling with the burdensome reality of a life without the finality of death. Bella Thorne’s portrayal as a leader with her salvatory plan offers a sharp and intriguing counterpoint. While Divinity occasionally stumbles under the weight of its ambition, it never shies away from its bold vision, making it a noteworthy addition to the sci-fi arthouse genre.

On a tight budget, Divinity provides a thought-provoking journey that, despite its rough edges, evokes the spirit of classic dystopian narratives. Personally, I found Scott Bakula’s familiar presence to be a delightful element that adds depth to the film’s charm.

Although Divinity may not be to everyone’s taste, for viewers who appreciate offbeat and daring storytelling, it’s an intriguing exploration of humanity’s age-old obsession with immortality. The film holds up a stark mirror to our society’s vainglorious pursuits, offering an interesting cinematic experience. (Chico Peres Smith)

Divinity screens in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU Théâtre Hall (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) on Saturday, July 22, 9:40 p.m.

Y’a une étoile

Y’a une étoile

Y’a une étoile is a gorgeous film in which Samuel, a transgender musician and forthcoming high school graduate, takes us on a docu-musical journey of discovery through a confluence of LGBTQIA2+, Acadian, linguistic, and Indigenous identities in the Maritimes. This is set against beautiful backdrops of farmland, seashores, small towns and a vibrant palate with Wes-Andersonesque stylings. The songs of Angèle Arsenault are the anthems of the film, as its cast finds comfort in the inclusivity of her lyrics and French language.  

Identity and the ability/inability to express it are at the film’s heart. Samuel takes us on a tour of coming out stories in small Acadian communities; they share as many commonalities as they do differences, forming a truly diverse cast. What makes the film particularly interesting is the duality of their identity struggles as members of a minority within a minority (and, at times, within an additional minority or two). It’s as much about their queerness, as it is their Acadianness. Many find their own language limiting because the words they need simply do not exist, or because they are still being introduced and aren’t fully recognized yet — so they switch to English to properly express themselves. This causes discord with their other essential identity – being Acadian. The film celebrates as many parts of the LGBTQIA2+ community as it does dialects of Acadian French, with Chiac being proclaimed its perfect non-binary language. It also showcases many aspects of Acadian culture, from food (fricot & poutine râpée) to icons (la Sagouine & Evangeline). As such, it provides a rich portrait of a people who take pride in themselves and their culture, which is integral to their journeys of self-acceptance (Katie Farrar)

Y’a une étoile screens at the Cinéma Musée (1339 Sherbrooke W.) on Sunday, July 23, 6:30 p.m.

Raging Grace

Raging Grace

Raging Grace is a tense and hauntingly resonant story set against the backdrop of social inequalities, impressively crafted as a debut feature by director Paris Zarcilla.

The film centers on Joy (Max Eigenmann), an undocumented Filipino immigrant in London, who, alongside her vivacious daughter Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla), is drawn into a whirlwind of mystery within a wealthy estate. The narrative expertly oscillates between the quietude of their daily existence and the unsettling secrets lurking beneath it.

As an immigrant myself, Raging Grace resonated deeply. It’s not just a simple horror film; it’s a layered mirror reflecting the unsung stories of immigrants who, while serving as the backbone of affluent societies, are often relegated to the shadows. It’s an impactful exploration of the overlooked reality where helping hands are paradoxically portrayed as those being assisted.

The performances from Eigenmann and Boadilla are impressive, with Eigenmann’s Joy emerging as a vivid embodiment of perseverance in the face of adversity, while Boadilla’s Grace injects a sense of vibrancy and unpredictability into their dynamic.

Zarcilla’s brilliance lies in his ability to draw audiences into this profound narrative, guiding us through the veiled layers of societal constructs, while keeping us tethered to the edge of our seats. Raging Grace transcends the traditional thriller, expertly utilizing the language and techniques of the horror genre to serve as a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and it stands as a demand to spotlight the stories that are too often left untold.

Make sure to experience Raging Grace at the Fantasia Film Festival; it’s a narrative that dares to echo the silent whispers of our society. (CPS)

Raging Grace is screening on Sunday July 23, 7:35 p.m. and again on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 4:35 p.m., both at the Salle J.A. De Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W.)

In My Mother’s Skin

In My Mother’s Skin

Kenneth Dagatan’s In My Mother’s Skin weaves a haunting fairy tale against the backdrop of wartime Philippines. Felicity Kyle Napuli’s young character Tala navigates a landscape blurred between the harsh realities of life and the legends of old.

Produced by Amazon studios, this horror tale unfolds with a potent mix of terror, historical realism, and folkloric enchantment. Tala’s desperation leads her to a deceptive fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith),plunging the narrative into a vortex of grotesque moments that will stun you. 

Dagatan artfully orchestrates the slow-burning dread with gruesome details, the well crafted directing and editing are amplified by the evocative sound design and costumes. The narrative also critiques misplaced trust during desperate times, adding an extra layer to the terror.

While bearing a distant echo of Guillermo del Toro’s war-based dark fairy tales, In My Mother’s Skin distinguishes itself with its uniquely visceral horror and emotive performances. Concluding with an open-ended, chilling finale that makes its mark as a compelling entry within the scope of Amazon’s film offerings of late and yet another standout in this year’s Fantasia Film Festival lineup. (CPS)

In My Mother’s Skin screens on Friday, July 21, 9:45 and again on Tuesday, July 25, 2:15 p.m., both at the Salle J.A. De Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve W.)

For the complete Fantasia 2023 program, please visit the festival’s website.

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