Fantastic Fest spotlights obscure filmmakers, genre films

The idea for the largest genre film festival in the United States, Fantastic Fest, arose when Tim League, founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, became fed up with the current state of film festivals.

“We founded Fantastic Fest because there was nothing like it in the United States at the time,” League said. “The movies we loved were always relegated to sidebars or midnight sections of normal film festivals.”


Traditionally, a genre film festival includes horror, science fiction, fantasy and action. But for League, Fantastic Fest is more than that.

“Sometimes it also extends to cover just plain-old weird movies from across the globe or other genres that have a little bit of a dark edge to them,” League said.

In 2005, League partnered with Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News, a website that provides movie, television and comic news, to create Fantastic Fest.

The annual festival is held at Alamo Drafthouse’s South Lamar location.

Named “Best Theater Ever” by Time Magazine, Alamo Drafthouse is known for its cinema-eatery structure and unique themed events such as Girlie Night and Quote-Along movies.

In its first year, Fantastic Fest screened 28 films in just four days.

“I spent a good deal of the following year gearing up and creating what the festival has now become, an eight-day event with about 75 features and 50 shorts,” League said.

League, who founded Alamo Drafthouse after working as an engineer for Shell Oil, aimed to showcase particular filmmakers who do not usually receive a lot of attention.

“We wanted to shine a light on young, international, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and just downright weird filmmakers and attempt to give them the respect and spotlight they deserved,” League said.

League’s favorite genres include “smart, fun science fiction” and “well-executed white-knuckle thrillers.”

The man who created Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest is bound to have passionate opinions about film.


“I love great storytelling. I love the feeling of excitement you get when an amazing movie is washing over you for the first time in a darkened theater,” League said.

League particularly enjoys Fantastic Fest because he loves the feeling of sharing films that he has discovered with friends.

“I really enjoy hearing an audience react, laugh, gasp or scream in response to a movie I have programmed,” League said.