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Fantasporto, the Oporto Intl. Film Festival, kicked off Friday in Portugal’s Porto — city famed for its elegant Romanesque cathedral, a bookstore that inspired “Harry Potter,” and the heady alcoholic drink — with an eclectic mix of titles but an emphasis on fantasy films.

Typifying the broad tastes of the festival chiefs, film critics Beatriz Pacheco Pereira and Mário Dorminsky, Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand’s satire “Testament” opened the event’s 44th edition at Batalha Centro de Cinema, and Chinese fantasy epic “Creation of Gods I: Kingdom of Storms,” directed by Wuershan, closes it.

Although Pacheco Pereira and Dorminsky, who compete with the Brussels Intl. Fantastic Film Festival and Sitges for fantasy films in Europe, know they can’t please everyone in Porto with their selection “what is really important to us is whether the audiences applaud the films,” Dorminsky says. “This is not a job for us. It is a pleasure.”

Pacheco Pereira says that one of their achievements is they have “a good eye for spotting talent,” selecting the first films by David Lynch, James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar, Denis Villeneuve and Danny Boyle, among many others. She adds that the directors of seven best picture Oscar winners screened their first films at Fantasporto.

Among the titles to watch out for, Pacheco Pereira tells Variety, is “The Complex Forms,” with Italian director Fabio D’Orta presenting the film in Porto. The debut feature, a fantasy horror about a man who has sold his body so a mysterious entity can possess it, earned a special mention at Torino Film Festival. “It is very strange but very good,” Pacheco Pereira says.

Pacheco Pereira also recommends “The Last Ashes,” the first fiction feature by Loïc Tanson, which she likens to “Game of Thrones.” It was Luxembourg’s Oscar entry.

Another of Pacheco Pereira’s recommendations is revenge tale “Goliath,” by Kazakh director Adilkhan Yerzhanov, which first screened at Venice and plays in Porto as part of a retrospective of Kazakh films.

Among the world premieres at Fantasporto are “La Sombra del Tiburon,” with Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego and lead actor Catalina Cabrera attending the festival. The film follows Alma, who discovers that her house has become her enemy.

Another world premiere is horror film “The Floor Plan,” about a YouTuber who is specialized in the occult. Director Junichi Ishikawa is at the festival. It is one of 11 Japanese films at Fantasporto, including supernatural thriller-horror “The Forbidden Play,” directed by Hideo Nakata, best known for horror film “Ring.” Dorminsky says that Asian filmmakers “have the idea that Fantasporto is the festival that opens doors for the films entering Europe.”

Another world premiere is Ate de Jong’s love story “Heart Strings,” in which the worlds of reality TV and country music intersect. The Dutch director-writer is joined in Porto by actors Sam Varga, Maggie Koerner and Carly Johnson, and producer and co-writer Steven Gaydos, Variety‘s executive vice president, global content.

Among the other filmmakers, Pacheco Pereira marks out Canadian director Jesse Thomas Cook as having “potential.” His horror sci-fi “The Hyperborean,” which is accompanied by actor Marcia Alderson at the festival, is described by Pacheco Pereira as having “a very strange and interesting story.” It is the third film by the director selected for Fantasporto.

Among the shorts of note are “Alicia” by Spain’s Tony Morales, a previous award winner at the festival, French animation “Stabat Mater” by Hadrien Maton and Coline Thelliez, and “Elegy” by Belgian Jeremy Adonis.

Another festival highlight is the Hungarian retrospective, and in particular love story “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” by Lili Horvat, which won the festival’s Directors’ Week Award in 2021.



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