Regular everyday films may “not be my cup of tea,” Fantastic Fest founder Tim League tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview. By that League specifically means he champions the underdogs, foreign and genre movies. Just take a look at the titles listed for this year’s Fantastic Fest and you know what he’s talking about. It’s the difference in exotic white or green tea as compared to instant tea.

League also puts his money where his mouth is; take a gander at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. The theater on Austin’s Sixth Street is the only venue in the South playing The Master in 70mm. League installed the 70mm projector at great expense. “I talked to Paul Thomas Anderson and made a promise to project the film the way he intended it to be seen. It was important to him,” says League.

Another spinoff of the Alamo Drafthouse is Mondo, a gallery that creates new movie posters for classic titles. “At first it was difficult getting the license rights when we started it 8 years ago. Now the studios are quicker to give approval due to its steady revenue stream,” adds League.

In addition to running Fantastic Fest and constantly upgrading the Austin locations of Alamo Drafthouse, one of the most unique movie theaters in North America, League also started a distribution arm, Drafthouse Films that this year has already rolled out acclaimed foreign films like Bullhead and Klown.

A lot of the films that play Fantastic Fest “would be regulated to midnight slots at other festivals,” explains League. Some of the films playing FF that Drafthouse will subsequently distribute include Quentin Dupieux’s (follow-up to Rubber) Wrong, and the re-release of a classic 1971 Australian film Wake in Fright. “Wake in Fright was the film that kickstarted the Australian film renaissance and eventually led to films like Mad Max. It’s directed by Ted Kotcheff,” noted League.

The 2012 edition of Fantastic Fest, running September 20-27, will combine world premieres of anticipated films with great genre product from around the world. A short list of mainstream titles includes Frankenweenie (Tim Burton, Wynona Ryder and Martin Landau attending); Dredd 3D (Karl Urban attending); Looper (Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt attending); and the festival’s closing film the remake of Red Dawn. As you would expect though the real cinematic meal are the films from international directors: Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral; Kim Jee Wong and Yim Pil Sung’s Doomsday Book; and Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. League also highly recommends Berberian Sound Studio “where a British field and nature sound recorder is hired to create effects for an Italian horror film and we watch his descent into madness.” Add to the mix the documentary Room 237, which examines conspiracy theories in the film The Shining. As a compliment to that film League has also booked a version of The Shining that plays the film forwards and backwards at the same time. “The middle point is inside one of the hotel rooms,” promises League.

It would be impossible to go wrong with that kind of line-up.

— Michael Bergeron