The time has come to sit down to wrap-up our Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2020 coverage, and I must admit, it’s a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand, I’m sad to be writing the last words about one of my favorite events of the year. On the other, though, I’m glad to have found a template for what to look for in future events. The pandemic means we’ll likely have more digital events in the coming months, but I’m honestly hoping some of what HIFF2020 was able to achieve through a digital platform will endure far beyond our return to the norm. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from this year’s edition, as well as some closing thoughts on HIFF2020 and digital festivals. Enjoy!
HIFF2020 FEATURE REVIEWS
The Brain that Wouldn’t Die: A fantastic, fun remake of an midcentury classic, which updates the film’s theme and adds just the right amount of jokes. We gave it 4.5 stars.
Darkness in Tenement 45: One of my favorite films of the year, DT45 tackles humanity and living under confinement against a backdrop inspired by Fallout and Bioshock. We gave it 5 stars.
Repossession: Directors Goh Ming Siu and Scott Hillyard’s incredibly strong debut is a masterfully told story of societal pressures in Singapore, with a delicious side-order of demonic possessions. We gave it 4.5 stars.
Luz: The Flower of Evil: A must for any fan of Ari Aster or Alejandro Jodorowsky, this Colombian tale of human duality and the perils of flock mentality is as raw as it is beautiful. We gave it 5 stars.
FAVORITE HIFF2020 SHORTS
Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2020 (or any edition, reallu) pride themselves on their short film support and selection, and it’s easy to see why. There was so much to see, and of such high quality, that I would have been happy to cover the event based on the shorts alone. Here are some of my favorites.
Pogo: What if I told you that the best film about John Wayne Gacy was directed by a middle-school girl? I was blown away by the maturity of the story, and the near-perfection of its execution.
Progeny: The Runner-Up in the Best Student Film: Adult category, this genre-bending, much-longer-than-usual short is one hell of a ride, and a strong comment on issues of parenthood and choice.
Snake Eyes: An ASMR Nightmare Experience: Visually mesmerizing and conceptually terrifying, Snake Eyes is one of the short films with the most nominations for awards. There’s a reason for that.
FAVORITE HIFF2020 MOMENTS
As the organizers put on one hell of a show for most of each festival day, I have a ton of great memories that I will look back on fondly. Here are some gold nuggets.
The Revenge of the Jar-Jar Fans: During one of the virtual Frida Lobby sessions (where filmmakers and attendees could hang out on a massive, joint Zoom call), somebody brought up Jar-Jar (and by somebody, I mean perhaps it was me). What ensued was a heart-warming defense of a flawed, but perhaps unjustly maligned, character in the biggest franchise in the world. And despite the reputation that accompanies us Star Wars fans, nobody threated to kill another human being. All was well, and we all had a great laugh making jokes.
Discussions for Repossession and DT45: Two of my favorite films of the event, also had some of the best discussions around them after their screening. Repossession ignited strong passions within an audience member, to the point where current events where discussed in-depth and the audience felt a personal connection to the material that is a treat to watch. And speaking of personal connections, DT45‘s display of Hispanic upbringing in some of its characters made me choke up during the discussion, so emotionally connected I felt to their plight. It just goes to show that representation in film matters (as if that argument needed defending!).
The Afterglow: Perhaps the most enduring gift from HIFF2020, though, is the new friends I’ve made. And I call them friends because we’ve been in touch since, with a few of the attendees and filmmakers. We don’t usually talk shop, either. Be it sharing pictures of Halloween costumes, or lamenting the lack of government support for creative initiatives in our respective regions, HIFF2020 really showed me that film festivals are about more than just watching films, and that they can be so even within our current situation.
As you can see, I’m smitten with Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2020, so yes, my “review” of the event is positive. But it’s very difficult to put into words just how much of an impact it had on me. The day before the festival started, I felt it a pain in the butt to have to adhere to certain schedules, despite this being a virtual event. I thought: “let me just watch it whenever, like any other digital fest”.
But there was a method in their madness: making everyone follow (loosely, I must say) the same schedule allowed Miguel Rodriguez and his team to come as close to recreating the real-world experience of a festival within the constraints of a virtual environment.
There were technical hiccups (not many), there were things I wanted to watch but couldn’t due to lack of time, the time difference was atrocious and, as a journalist based in South America, georestriction is still not something I’ve come to terms with.
But these minor annoyances couldn’t possibly overpower the incredible sense of community I felt throughout the event. And to me, that is the highest possible compliment for an excellent shindig such as this one.
See you next year, HIFF!