21st Oporto International Film Festival
Fantasporto- One of a Kind
Situated in the west corner of Europe, the World Heritage City of Porto hosts a one of a kind film festival. Founded 20 years ago by a group of film fans and critics, Fantasporto, as it is known, started as a haven for sci-fi and fantasy films , a then not too well seen genre. After a huge sucesss in the first two years, the festival has broaden its horizons with thrillers and seven years later with a New Directors competition. Although fantasy is still its trade mark, especially for the Portuguese press, it recognized as the biggest in Portugal and one of the most important in Europe.
Going now to its 21st edition, Fantasporto brought to Portugal for the first time the films of such names as David Cronenberg, André Tarkovsky, Brian de Palma, John Carpenter, Alain Resnais, David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar, Andrzej Zulawski, Ridley Scott, Luc Besson, Peter Greenaway, Neil Jordan, Jean-Jacques Beneix, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Sam Raimi, Brian Yuzna, Peter Jackson, Hal Hartley, Anthony Minghella, Quentin Tarantino, Roberto Rodriguez, Danny Boyle, Paul Anderson, David Fincher, James Mangold, the Wachowski Brothers, Scott Hicks, Scott Reynolds and the Dutch director and Oscar winner Mike Van Diem, among many others.
Giving space to big screen productions, to autheur films and to experimental projects from all over the world, Fantasporto has created enthusiastic audiences, ranging from cinephiles to more popular spectators, with an annual average of 100,000 film goers. In its 20th edition in February this year the festival reached 102,000 people and 4,500 media references ( both national and international) with a record of 36 hours of TV time. Present in Oporto were circa 100 members of the foreign press and about 200 Portuguese journalists and media representatives.
In spite of being organized by a private entity, the event is mostly State funded, with the Ministry of Culture leading and the President of the Republic as head of the Honour Committee, and with private sponsors backing strongly, responding to the festival’s crowd appeal.
The guests are mostly representative of the films in competition (157 this year), having increased in number over the years due mostly to word of mouth. They are lodged in 5 star hotels and enjoy a full programme of tours in a city that will be the European Capital of Culture in the year 2001.
The films arrive from both from major companies such as Warner, Columbia, UIP or Fox, producers as miramax, New Line or Summit and from top companies all over the world. The festival is fertile ground for the discovery of new cinematographies, for “sneak previews” or for launching “difficult” films like “Bullworth” or “Scream 3” (European premières). Distributors also frequently test the possible theatrical impact of their new films in Fantasporto as it was the case with “South Park” (Warner), Heaven” and “Dogma ( both Miramax) or “Bats” (Columbia). The Fantas awards are usually used in the promotion in the national market.
The success of Fantasporto is also measurable by the increasing number of offers coming directly from the producers, with United Artists and Columbia sending directly their films in the latest edition which opened with Hilary Swank’s Oscar winner performance in “Boys Don’t Cry” , and closed 10 days later with “Three Kings” by David O. Russell.
Not really an organised market, still deals are made, or new productions (mostly European) are agreed upon in the festival restaurants or in the Rivoli Theatre lobbies, the heart of Fantasporto, a beautiful renewed cinema of the 40’s, right in the commercial centre of the city, with the Atlantic Ocean, the River Douro and the port wine cellars close by.
The organizers, the Cooperativa Cinema Novo, has been writing, programming and promoting films as well as publishing books since 1978. In recent years they have also become involved in the acquisition of theatrical and video rights for Portugal. The process started with Peter Jackson’s “Braindead”, Fantasporto Best Film Award in 83, and went on with Jane Campion’s”An Angel at My Table”, Tobe Hooper”Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or most recently Veit Helmer’s “Tuvalu” among others.
The Cinema Novo Collection is going on 30 titles, the great majority already with theatrical release, exploiting a niche which has remained untouched by national distributors, and thus increasing the diversity in Portuguese screens as the multiplex AMC Cinemas have understood and given support.
Oporto is European Capital of Culture in the year 2001 and Fantasporto festival is the opening event. Also in a near future is the creation by Cinema Novo of a 4 screen multiplex which will be complemented with the rental of other cinemas in the Lisbon area, providing more space for the release of their films.
The programme of Fantasporto 2001 is already lined up with Korean films, a retro of Jesus Franco and Armando de Ossorio and a retrospective of Warner Brothers, with an exhibition of lobby cards and posters coming from a top Brazilian collector.
Fantasporto is taken place in Oporto, 23rd February till 3rd March, closing with a Vampyre’s Ball which in 1999 gathered circa 10,000 people dancing till dawn.