Film guru's 'diabolical' new death anthology

Local movie maverick Ant Timpson tells TimeOut about five of the shorts in his outlandish international alphabetical anthology hitting screens this weekend

When 26 directors from around the world were invited to make a short film about dying, they came up with everything from death by dogfight to death by fart.

And the result, The ABCs of Death, a feature length film made up of these 26 shorts, is intense, extreme, and often hard to watch, but there are also hilarious and utterly ridiculous moments that will have you laughing out loud - or at the very least, left wondering 'what was that?'.

See shots of some of the scenes in The ABCs of Death.

Dreamed up and co-produced by Auckland film guru Ant Timpson, and his Austin-based friend Tim League, producer and founder of America's biggest "genre" film festival Fantastic Fest, the anthology of death was inspired by the alphabet books Timpson read as a child and to his two young children.

"The books are viewed as a way to introduce this very naive and wonderful world to young minds and the way my brain works is how to subvert that and turn it in to something kind of strange," he says.

"And that's the way I approached it, to take something innocent and use it for diabolical purposes and use this structure that we've all grown up with, and learn about death through that same means. That tickled me on a really comedic level."

Despite the confronting nature of the material, it's been a success, doing the rounds of the international film festivals and becoming a hit on the lucrative Video On Demand (VOD) market in the US. It gets its first showing here on Saturday at the New Zealand International Film Festival's Autumn Events season.

So brace yourself, because here is Timpson's take on five of the films ...

D is for dogfight
By Marcel Sarmiento

Marcel, whose first film Dead Girl screened at Tim's festival years ago, had the idea for a fight between a man and dog but he knew how difficult it would be to make it realistic. He was talking to a Hollywood dog trainer, and thought it would be cool to use this guy, who had a really good face as well, as the lead as a way of getting around an actor trying to work with a dog.

The film managed to capture the soulfulness of how dogs can have human qualities. Because if it was just a man fighting a dog people would tune out. But you forget about it being between a man and dog, it's between two entities with some connection - and as things start unravelling more of the relationship is exposed.

E is for exterminate
By Angela Bettis

I have to say, at one stage there were a lot of dudes involved in this anthology. And I knew it would happen so we had to get some representation from female genre directors. Angela Bettis was the lead [actress] in this cult horror hit called May, a beautifully subversive, cryptic love story. And she made a feature film, Roman, with the director of May [Lucky McKee] as the star, so they flipped their roles.

Exterminate is a comedy about this semi-annoying, neurotic-type guy and a crafty spider. Man versus bug is a well-worn horror type [theme], and we wanted one of those stories to hark back to the ones we grew up loving as kids.

A is for apocalypse
By Nacho Vigalondo

He's from Spain, and, apart from being a phenomenal, Oscar-nominated director, he is just a wild, crazy man. If you're on the film festival circuit he's the guy who's naked doing karaoke. And he's also one of the loveliest guys around. He thought it would be really funny starting with something called Apocalypse for an anthology, and it ties in really well with the last segment, Zetsumetsu [the Japanese word for extinction]. So it's the story of a marriage break-up but he wanted to tell it in a really startling and overly bloody way because normally he's not a fan of gore. This was a chance for him to be a teenager again, which is what he described it as, because when you're starting in film-making you always make splatter films.

T is for toilet
By Lee Hardcastle

He's a guy from Great Britain who won the inaugural competition we had for the letter T where a member of the public could win the slot and direct a film alongside all these genre directors. He really pulled out all the stops with an extremely gory claymation tale about childhood fears. And I think if you're a frustrated parent going through potty training you can definitely relate to this. It really manages to capture the absolute joy that you have when your kid finally pulls it off. We also wanted the anthology to have a really wide variety of film-making techniques, and this one didn't look like anything else.

H is for hydro-electric diffusion
By Thomas Cappelen Malling

It's a live-action cartoon-style film with a Winston Churchill-era British Bulldog, stiff-upper-lip-type guy at a burlesque club ogling a seductive fox doing a dance who turns out to be a psychopathic she-wolf of the SS. It's a brutal war between Britain and Germany, and it's kind of like nothing else in the anthology, and like nothing else out there at all. What's weird is that there is a "furry" subculture - people who love dressing up in animal suits - who have taken it as a film for them.

Thomas [Malling, director] reminds me of Don Draper [from Mad Men]. He's a very suave Norwegian man, but has the most goofiest, craziest ideas for films and we found out about him from his film Norwegian Ninja. Truly unique one-off ideas.

What: The ABCs of Death, 26 films, 26 of the world's most subversive film directors, 26 ways to die

Who: Co-producer and creator, Ant Timpson

Screens: April 20, The Civic, as part of the NZ International Film Festival Autumn Events season

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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