Simon Rieth’s ‘Summer Scars’, a seaside tale of brotherly love cast in a dizzying glow and cut with shocking spikes of violence, took top honors at this year’s Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, scooping the Narcisse Prize for Best feature film, and with it $10,200 in prize money and a trophy designed by Swiss HR Giger.
Del Kathryn Barton’s ‘Blaze’, a mind-bending Australian drama that transports a young witness to murder into a kaleidoscopic fantasy world, received an honorable mention and won the Imaging the Future award for Best Production Design, which comes with a a grant of $5,100.
Other prizes went to “Ashkal” by Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi, which won the international critics award; to the Italian Gabriele Mainetti, whose circus-superhero mashup “Freaks Out” won the audience prize from the RTS; and Chris Huang Wen-chang’s “Demigod: The Legend Begins,” a martial arts epic told entirely with puppets, which won the Audience Award for Best Asian Film.
“These awards reflect the diversity of this year’s edition,” says Pierre-Yves Walder, artistic director of the NIFFF. Variety. “Our festival presents the fantastic in all its forms, promoting diverse styles, viewpoints, themes and aesthetics – and I think these winners truly show just as much.”
Concluding its 21st edition, Neuchâtel staged 160 screenings while breaking in-person records with over 30,000 admissions and 50,000 spectators – a number that dwarfs the population of even the Swiss lakeside city.
“Our audience continues to diversify and grow,” says Walder. “From our Scream Queer retrospective to our discussions with Joyce Carol Oates, we came to this edition from a slightly different angle than previous years, and it paid off. We kept our traditional audience interested and engaged while welcoming many new attendees.
“During the presentation of the projections, I saw faces that I recognized,” continues Walder. “That is, the faces of people I knew don’t usually come to the NIFFF, and that was hugely encouraging. We were able to mount the festival that our audience expects, while exploring new directions. We were very proud to bring in a different audience and introduce them to our festival.
Winner of this year’s Denis-De-Rougemont Youth Award, “Hypochondriac” director Addison Heimann was a relative newcomer — and you can bet he’ll be back.
“It’s the best festival I’ve been to so far,” says Heimann with a smile. “Our films are shown to full houses. The fans are really there, shouting over the on-screen ads before the movie starts and coming to see you after the screening.
“My film is about my own nervous breakdown,” he continues. “It’s very personal. And people come to me afterwards and share their own stories and journeys, I’m very grateful to them. “Hypochondriac” is a truly American movie, so coming here and seeing people see themselves in it is really cool. Doing this festival before our US release, I couldn’t ask for better.