The 11th edition of the International Fantasy Film Festival – Dracula Film Festival ended and on Saturday, October 28, at the Astra Cinema in Brașov, the awards ceremony was held, hosted by the actor Ștefan Iancu. After awarding the prizes, the present audience could enjoy another special cinema concert – the unmissable masterpiece Faust, A German Folk Legend, one of the most picturesque and the last German film by the director F.W. Murnau which, beyond the very special atmosphere created by the play of lights and shadows, was complemented by an original musical creation belonging to the famous artist and performer of electronic music MURCOF.
The 2023 edition of the festival abounded in unique cinematic experiences that allowed moviegoers to explore a variety of forms of expression of fantasy, from art film and documentary to thriller, sci-fi or horror, some of them world premieres. Spectators were able to explore and consume other types of Pop culture events, from meetings with the authors of the films, book launches, spectacular cinema concerts, discussion panels and, for the first time this year, the Dracula Fantasy Con, which brought together various representations of fantasy, from genre books and graphic novels to video games and boardgames and the public conferences of the Dracula International Congress, Children of the Night.
This year brought more than 3000 new cinematographic productions from almost 140 countries entered in the competition sections intended for short and feature films of the Dracula Film Festival: Dracula Trophy – the award given for the best feature film, Little Dracula and Vladutz – the awards given international and Romanian short films and Dracula Digital, the section dedicated to young amateurs who make short films with their mobile phones and the competition juries did not have an easy task in choosing the winners.
In the Dracula Digital competition, short films sent by 8 teams were entered and the films were voted both by the public and by a jury of specialists, formed by the actors Eugen Neagu and Ștefan Iancu and the director Florian Zapra. The Dracula Digital trophy was won by the film SÉANCE, made in Brașov by a team from Brunei (Azhar Khir, Aqil Kamarudin and Shukri Sufri) and the jury motivated its decision as follows: “With its cinematic elements, it stands out from the other short films in competition The three key words are inserted veiledly, not directly, introducing the viewer into the atmosphere of the story through the characterisation of the characters. The short film has a fluid content using the technique in a fair way.” Both the Dracula Digital 2023 winning film and the other films in the competition can be seen for free on www.draculadigital.ro.
In the Short Film category, 15 films competed for the Little Dracula and Vlădutz trophies, the selector of the short film section, film critic Cristian Mărculescu, presenting to the public 10 international short films and 5 Romanian short films. The jury formed by Ana Ștefania Andronic (visual artist), Andrei Cotruţ (graphic designer, illustrator) and Sebastian M. Ceolca (film critic) awarded the following prizes:
Trofeul Vlăduț (Romanian Short Film Competition) – Calul alb [Romania, 2023], director Goran Mihailov, arguing: “A competent adaptation of a classic, capable of creating oppressive suspense and shock, which shows acting talent, fine direction and effective and turns a little psychosis into a memorable cinematic moment.”
Little Dracula Trophy (International Short Film Competition) – Kiddo [UK, 2022], dir. Brett Chapman, with the motivation: “A film carefully crafted for every department of the production, from script to set design, with impeccable direction, current as subject and visual approach but well related to classic films of the genre.”
In the festival program, the 10 most anticipated premieres belonged to the feature film competition, whose selection was made by Ioan Big, the director of Dracula Film Festival and the jurors Aurélia Mengin (France, filmmaker, founder of the Meme Pas Peur festival), Chris Orgelt (Belgium , Head of Programming – Brussels IFFF) and Ottaviano Dell Acqua (Italy, actor and stuntman) designated the winner of the coveted Dracula Trophy 2023, but also two special mentions:
Special Mention for Performance – I’ll Crush Y’All [Spain, 2023], dir. Kike Narcea, for Mario Mayo’s performance as Nuthead and the justification is: “Mario Mayo carries the film on his impressive shoulders. He is the eye of the storm around him, an ex-convict who has given up violence but when violence knocks on his door, not once, not twice, but all the time, until he blows it off its hinges, he has no choice but to crush everything.”
Special Mention for Editing – The Founder Effect [Canada, 2023], dir. Justin MacGregor
Dracula Trophy – Halfway home [Hungary], directed by: Isti Madarász, and the circle transmitted about the winning production: “With great emotion and unanimous enthusiasm, the jury of the 11th edition of the Dracula Film Festival, awards the Dracula Trophy to a film which offers a wonderful and daring personal universe. The decor and staging abound in creativity and generosity. The art direction is particularly meticulous, with a superb harmony between costumes and sets. We were particularly impressed by the picture and framing of the film. Halfway Home manages to combine an innocent and benign world of a poetic romantic story with a dark and morbid universe, a risky exercise that the director has succeeded in brilliantly.”
And in 2023 continued the tradition of awarding an honorary title of ‘Count Dracula’ for the entire activity, whose recipients have been celebrated in past years for their memorable achievements in the space of the fantastic film, among which are the directors Lamberto Bava and Ruggero Deodato, actress Debbie Rochon, special effects master Sergio Stivaletti and actor Armand Assante.
This year, the “Count Dracula” trophies were awarded to some of the most popular filmmakers in contemporary Italian cinema, both of whom have reached the respectable age of 85, Enzo G. Castellari and Sergio Martino, guests of honor at the Brasov festival.
Enzo G. Castellari, who signed since 1971 a first notable Thriller, Cold Eyes of Fear, followed by a series of Poliziotteschi films, and then established himself in the Adventure-Fantasy/SF area, during the 80s, with his cycle film Bronx Warriors/ New Barbarians, is known even among the younger generations of moviegoers thanks to his 1978 war film, The Inglorious Bastards, which inspired Quentin Tarantino for his Inglorious Basterds, in which, by the way, the Italian director has a cameo.
And the second special guest honored with the title of Count Dracula was the renowned Italian filmmaker Sergio Martino (b. 1938), an expert of the Giallo and Horror genres, who continues to influence and inspire new generations of producers and directors attracted by the imaginative, playful, and entertaining side of the stories destined for the big screens.
The fantastic experience in Brașov was completed by the special events within the program, for the first time the Dracula Fantasy Con was held, a context that set out and succeeded in gathering under the same roof (physically and conceptually) artists, creators and promoters of fantasy in the most varied declinations, from comics, manga, books and collectible figures, to video games, boardgames, Fantasy Art with five visual artists, each with their own style, a live Dungeons & Dragons session, Mortal Kombat competitions 1 and League of Legends (LoL) and book releases: “The season of brides”, by Tony Mott, and the two books intended to mark the centenary of GOPO, “GOPO in 100 comic pages” – coordinators Anca Moscu and Lucian C. Oancea and “GOPO in 100 memories”, coordinator Anca Moscu.
On the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important Romanian filmmakers, Ion Popescu Gopo (1923–1989), Dracula Film Festival brought viewers Gopo Day on October 29, with three films with his signature, presented by the well-known critic film Irina Margareta Nistor: Steps to the Moon (1964), with Radu Beligan, Povestea Dragostei (1977), after Ion Creangă, with Mircea Bogdan and Eugenia Popovici – the film won the prize for male performance Sitges 1981 (Mircea Bogdan) and Fantastic Comedy ( 1975), with Dem Radulescu and Vasilica Tastaman.
The panel program within the Dracula Film Festival gained a wider scope in 2023 through the Dracula International Congress, Children of the Night, which proposed to the public a series of conferences held by the most important academic experts from around the world in the field of ” Gothic and Vampire Studies” on themes such as How the Sublime in Gothic Literature Influences Otherkin Identities or A Pathology of the Un-Dead: Maladies of the Modern Vampire.
Dracula Film Festival is a project of the Fanzin Cultural Association and is financed by Brașov City Hall.
Romania Journal supported the festival as media partner.