Fantastic Fest Spotlight: AMD/Dell Next Wave Award Winners

Each year Fantastic Fest crowns a new recipient of the AMD/Dell Next Wave Award, one of eight first time feature directors. This year's recipient has been nominated for an Oscar. Who are the other winners and what were their films?

Each year Fantastic Fest crowns a new recipient of the AMD/Dell Next Wave Award, one of eight first time feature directors. In 2011, the fifth year of the Next Wave Award, first-time Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam won the top prize with his film Bullhead, which has since been nominated for an Oscar. Who are the other winners and what were their films?

2007 Nacho Vigalondo, Timecrimes (Spain)

Nacho has become a permanent fixture at Fantastic Fest, saying in this 2011 interview with Devin that Festival director Tim League “is a genius in the not so common art of having fun.” His 2007 feature debut Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes) is a brilliant, high-concept science fiction caper with a mind-boggling time loop device. An English-language remake is in the works.

Vigalondo, who has directed a segment for the upcoming Drafthouse Films anthology The ABCs of Death, premiered his second feature Extraterrestre (Extraterrestrial) to great acclaim at the 2011 Fantastic Fest, and he is in pre-production on a third feature that is set to shoot in Austin this year. Extraterrestrial will be distributed in the U.S. by Focus Features later this year.

Vigalondo says,

At the time Timecrimes was screened at the Alamo, the movie was kind of doomed in my country. All the reactions we had gathered so far were so disappointed, and we hardly found the money to finish the sound and print one copy.  In 10 days at Fantastic Fest, the movie got the greatest praise I could ever imagine, the AMD award, and an offer for American distribution. That's the reason I say Fantastic Fest not only pushed or launched me. Actually it rescued me.

2008 Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tokyo Gore Police (Japan)

Nishimura began his career as a fantastic special effects make-up artist, perfecting the gore on more than fifty films before bringing his feature directorial debut to Fantastic Fest with the riotous Tokyo zankoku keisatsu (Tokyo Gore Police) in 2008. After a mad scientist creates a series of horrific human mutants, the Tokyo police recruit the monstrosities into a special squad of badass freak fighters. The film is an absolute blast, boasting phenomenal manual effects, prodigious gore and clever social satire.

Nishimura has now formed Pa’baan, his own full-service production company in Japan, and has produced two features that have sold in the U.S., and helped produce nearly a dozen more. Nishimura has since directed the great Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, which played at the 2009 Fantastic Fest, Helldriver and Mutant Girls Squad. Nishimura is one of the 26 directors in the ABCs of Death horror anthology produced by Drafthouse Films.

2009 Ben Wheatley, Down Terrace (England)

Down Terrace is a strikingly realistic, blackly comic drama about a crime family plagued with infighting and the ever-present threat of prison. The film blew away critics and Wheatley has already followed it up with his second feature, Kill List, a SXFantastic selection that was the first movie bought at the 2011 South By Southwest film festival. You can read Devin’s interview with Wheatley here.

Kill List also garnered worldwide acclaim and is being released in the U.S. this month. You can watch the chilling trailer for that film here. Wheatley is another segment director of The ABCs of Death.

2010 Jorge Michel Grau, We Are What We Are (Mexico)

Grau’s Somos lo que hay (We Are What We Are) is a bleak, visceral reinvention of the horror genre, telling the story of a family of cannibals left at odds after the death of their patriarch. The film is narrated by Grau himself and was in competition at Cannes Film Festival. We Are What We Are will be released video-on-demand by IFC.

Jorge Michel Graus is hard at work on the production of his as-yet untitled second feature, and he is yet another one of the 26 directors in The ABCs of Death. As you can imagine, Fantastic Fest is a ripe field for Drafthouse Films!

2011 Michaël R. Roskam, Bullhead (Belgium)

Bullhead stunned audiences at Fantastic Fest with its unblinking, tremendously original presentation of the Belgian cattle trade. Star Matthias Schoenaerts, winner of “Best Actor” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, gives a stunningly powerful performance as the testosterone-laden cattle farmer embroiled in a crooked mafia meat-trading scheme.

Bullhead has since been acquired by Drafthouse Films for U.S. distribution, and was nominated last week for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is opening in limited release on February 17 and will open to a wider audience after the initial market. The trailer's coming soon!

Charlie Boswell, Director of Digital Media and Entertainment at AMD, founded the AMD/Dell Next Wave Award back in 2007. Boswell says,

AMD’s focused commitment to the major studios in Hollywood and the global moviemakers of all levels has existed now for over a decade where our processors and graphics play a major role. Five years ago we established the AMD/Dell Next Wave to recognize excellence in the craft for new directors and we’re thrilled last year’s winner has been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Academy Award.

All five Next Wave award winners have become uniformly successful in their post-Fantastic Fest careers, reaching audiences worldwide and creating remarkable follow-up features. I’m already dying to see the 2012 recipient’s film, as the one thing these widely varying films have in common is that they’re all sensational achievements. And I don’t know about you, but I am stoked about The ABCs of Death. Talk about an all-star team!