Nightstream 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic numerous festivals and other events have had to make difficult decisions, often cancelling their in-person events and screenings. Nightstream is the result of numerous festivals coming together in a fundraising event featuring the Boston Underground Film Festival, Brooklyn Horror Festival, North Bend Film Festival, Overlook Film Festival and Popcorn Frights. Event proceeds are shared with filmmakers, artists and businesses within the local areas, offering support to those who need assistance in recovering from the effects of loss of business. In return, attendees received an incredible lineup of films, panels and even a Gather social space. I managed to take a look at a few of the panels on offer over the weekend 8th-11th October.

Horror Camp!
This panel is available until October 15th. Please see the Nightstream festival site for more information.
Hosted by Peaches Christ and featuring discussion from Renée “Nay” Bever (Attack of the Queerwolf), Stacie Ponder (writer, Final Girl) and William O. Tyler (Theater of Terror: Revenge of the Queers), the Horror Camp panel offered an exploration of what ‘camp’ is in terms of horror. All the contributors were open about their own experiences within horror and the kind of content they consumed and created. Crucially, the concept of being ‘extra’ was taken as a signifier for camp in horror – drawing upon dramatic performances like those in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and others where strong, female characters were the focus. Discussion around Sleepaway Camp focused upon how a film that is so openly problematic with damaging stereotypes has actually been embraced by many in the LGBT community. For all the issues within Sleepaway Camp, it does feature an explicitly queer character, rather than the coded characters found and often denied an outed space in other works. Peaches Christ’s own work, the meta-tinged All About Evil (which looks fantastic, by the way) was raised with hopes for a release at some stage. As ever, the bold work of Don Mancini with overtly queer themes, characters and aesthetics was celebrated, especially with Seed of Chucky. Hearing the experience of contributors and how they found themselves within horror’s opportunity for pushing boundaries and providing representation felt hugely inspiring and comforting.

The Future of Horror is Female – Presented by Arrow
This panel is available until October 15th. Please see the Nightstream festival site for more information.
Introduced by Caryn Coleman of The Future of Film is Female, this panel was an incredible look at the work of female and non-binary filmmakers within horror. Earlier in the day, the BFI London Film Festival presented a similar panel about the Female Horror Renaissance, which, while insightful, was lacking in diversity. Hearing how filmmakers like Laura Casabé (cannot wait to see The Returned at Abertoir later this month), Mariama Diallo, Nikyatu Jusu and Laura Moss navigate bringing their stories to the screen was fascinating to hear. Nikyatu Jusu in particular discussed her desire to bring more West African mythology to the screen, hinting at a future of fascinating stories (non-binary mermaids, anyone?) and enhanced representations, especially within the context of colonialised places and people. All the filmmakers were keen to stress that horror is a language that can be used to address social issues – something that certainly rings true. Also highlighted was the term genre-fluid, coined by @ValerieComplex on Twitter that has swiftly become an easy, understandable but insightful way to talk about films that cross or blur genre boundaries. Honestly, throughout this panel, there are moments I had to suspend note-taking as everything was so engaging. The panel was later joined by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas whose research for her book 1000 Women in Horror, revealed not only that women have always occupied space in horror both behind and in front of the camera, but also mentioned the loss of women’s work and the importance of archiving material so further work is not cast aside. Furthermore, writer Jordan Crucchiola in her ongoing reappraisal and celebration of Jennifer’s Body urged for viewers to question the existing canon of films considered to be classics and indeed, who sets the canon in the first place. Overall, this was a beautifully articulated and intelligent panel but the keen sense of humour and joy taken from the medium felt uplifting and certainly gave food for thought in terms of my own horror consumption.

Benson & Moorhead & Lopez Home Movies
This panel was only shown at its listed showtime and is not currently available on demand.
Shamefully, I’ve yet to see Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid, but from the incredible reception it has received I really need to make that happen. Still, even without seeing her work it was interesting to get an insight into her creative background as a writer for telenovelas, leading her to write more than 250 episodes per day. Featuring a montage of incredible slaps, López provided a huge amount of context for the way she had to work, often writing more than 21 pages per day. Incredibly, she also detailed that some of her work only gave her the credit of dialogue supervisor, despite the body of work she had provided. Being unfamiliar with telenovelas it was wonderful to receive an insight from someone who had worked so heavily within the format.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead also presented some of their early work, including some pretty spectacular, effects-laden films Moorhead made in high school, creating crane shots using boat masts and other feats of DIY ingenuity. For long-term fans of Benson and Moorhead, seeing their early spec adverts for Fat Cat lager and a spoof for starring Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran, who later became the stars of Resolution is a great insight into the development of their style, bolstered by the pair’s undeniable chemistry. Featuring discussions of changing technology, abandoned projects and also more emotional beats like maintaining older footage and how important that is this was a frequently funny, emotive and utterly charming way to spend some time. I would love to see this format repeated with other filmmakers in the future.

Indonesian Horror Panel presented by Shudder
This panel is available until October 15th. Please see the Nightstream festival site for more information.
Moderated by Sam Zimmerman of Shudder, this discussion of Indonesian horror was an interesting insight into the way that the film business operates in Indonesia and how that influences the kind of films emerging from the area. Both Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (collectively known as The Mo Brothers) were on hand for the discussion. The trajectory of Indonesian genre cinema is an interesting one, especially concerning these directors as they strayed away from the conventional supernatural films within Indonesian horror to create gorier pieces based on American-style horrors, an influence clearly felt in Macabre. The pair also discussed the nature of filmmaking under ever-changing censors where each change represents a different emphasis on dealing with sex and violence within film and the desire to receive 17+ certification instead of 21+. The pair also discussed returning to the supernatural content of previous films, including a remake of The Queen of Black Magic from Stamboel, teaming up with Joko Anwar and Tjahjanto exploring the demonic with May The Devil Take You Too. Interestingly, the pair stressed how important the festival circuit has been for some films, with interest in Indonesian films like The Raid, gaining more of an audience in Indonesia after picking up festival plaudits and attention. Of note to many Giallo-lovers, it seems Tjahjanto is teasing a potential Indonesian Giallo which would certainly be something to see!

Virtual Fireside with Nia DaCosta
This panel is available until October 15th. Please see the Nightstream festival site for more information.
One of my most anticipated films of 2020 (now delayed) was Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. The trailer and a fantastic short film featuring Candyman in the context of wider racial violence promised a daring reimagining of the original film. Hunter Harris’ interview with Nia DaCosta was an excellent, probing but warm interview about the film that was light on specific details (no spoilers here) but with plenty to whet appetites for the final product. Coming at a time when racial violence and the effects of systemic inequality in medicine, housing and other areas now in sharp focus, DaCosta’s Candyman seeks to shift the perspective from the original film in which Tony Todd’s character arrives as a fully-fledged villain into something where viewers will see the development of that on both an emotional and physical level. DaCosta promises body horror and style, using reference points of Cronenberg’s The Fly and Rosemary’s Baby as works she drew from and advised the cast to watch. Furthermore, the new version is set in the art world, both paying homage to Daniel Robitaille’s backstory involving art and the potential to explore critiques of gentrification and the need for self-expression. If anyone had any doubts about what the new film will be like this interview definitely offered a brilliant insight into what DaCosta is bringing to the table. I can’t wait to see it.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

2 thoughts on “Nightstream 2020”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s