Imagine Film Festival: Discover the best in international genre film

It is Friday afternoon and I have just watched a ritualistic virgin sacrifice to the soundtrack of art collective These Machines are Winning. It is just one of the four Virtual Reality film shorts available at this year’s 33rd Imagine Film Festival. I take off the Samsung headset and headphones a little bewildered. “Did you watch this one too?” I ask the volunteer managing the Virtual Reality film booth. “Yes, it’s totally random,” she replies. It is only right then that this progressive ten-day festival lives in the EYE film institute, a white, futuristic spaceship-like building in the north of Amsterdam. 


About Imagine

Since its first edition in 1984, Imagine has been exposing its audience to a diverse wealth of creative genre film. Whilst the festival’s roots were originally in horror, the international film programme shows 50 feature films and 40 shorts incorporating thriller, science fiction, fantasy and drama. The inclusivity of the festival extends further to a younger audience, with a special film award judged by a young jury.

The festival kicked off on April 12, with the premiere of American comedy-horror film Get Out

Art installations mirror the festival’s theme which is Fantastic Fashion this year. Alongside the film programme, there are several masterclasses in film fashion and design, held by some of the most talented and renowned artists in their fields. 

Speaking to Pascal von Mol, the festival’s Artistic Director Chris Oosterom explained the importance of fashion in film.

(translated from dutch)

Dressing and styling in drama often aim to create the greatest possible visibility. In the fantastic films there are also many challenges because we don’t know how to dress a character who comes from another planet nor how to dress or a superhero.


With too weak a stomach to handle the annual Night of Terror (now Fright Night), I added some tamer but no less gripping films to my schedule.


Black Tulip Award: Film Nomination

Otto Bloom
Xavier Samuel as Otto Bloom, (

Australian director Cris Jones’ feature film debut The Death and Life of Otto Bloom is one of the nominations for the festival’s Black Tulip Award: the best fantastic filmTitle character Otto Bloom experiences time in reverse. As his body ages, his mind regresses forgetting his future and encountering his past. He is essentially born with his entire life’s memories but will die with none. A beautifully shot faux-doco film inspired by Einstein’s idea that as humans, moving forward in time is just an illusion. This is something that Gawie Keyser, presenter of Brainwash on NPO Radio 1 commented on in the Q & A after the film:

Is that what curses us as human beings? The fact that we have memories of the past? Something that you can lose or the idea of what you have lost. If you don’t know what you’ve lost, if you’ve got no sense [of it] then there’s nothing to be sad about. Because that is what this movie teaches us. 


Méliès d’argent: Film Nomination

The Méliès d’argent is the award for the best European fantastic film. It is organised by the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation (EFFFF), a network of 22 film festivals over Europe which promotes the visibility of genre films and of which Imagine is a co-founder.

Rupert Jones’ Kaleidoscope is in the running for the Méliès d’argent as a disturbing, psychological thriller starring his brother and prominent British actor Toby Jones. In a sold-out screening, middle-aged ex-con Carl embarks on his first date in 15 years. However, the reemergence of his estranged mother brings with it the memories of a destructive and deadly past. We then watch him delve into a dark psychological vortex where reality and imagination blur.  Drab, dated furniture, silent shots of high-rise flats and a close up of his date’s chewing gum set the scene. There is a clear Hitchcock influence that keeps you gripped until the end.

Kaleidoscope film
Toby Jones in Kaleidoscope (Andrew Ogilvy Photography)




Wentel art installation
Kirsty Handels next to artist Sonja Volmer’s Wentel.

For a unique sensory experience beyond the screen, artist Sonja Volmer’s Wentel turns a participant’s environment upside down. A mirrored hand-held tool placed underneath your eyes tricks your mind into believing the environment above is in fact beneath you. A long ribbon attached to the ceiling of the EYE provides an exhilarating pathway. Take a friend and watch as they comically shuffle and jump over imaginary gaps in the floor.

Meet an Exorcist

On April 19, catch the screening of Federica Di Giacomo’s documentary Deliver Me. It follows the everyday routine of Father Cataldo, an exorcist, and three “sufferers” who believe themselves to be possessed. For most of us, this is a historic practice resigned to horror films.

Stay behind after the screening to hear a Dutch clergyman who performs exorcisms for the diocese of Amsterdam-Haarlem discuss the practice.

Lindy Hemming with her designs for Bond film Casino Royale (Credit: Bafta)

Masterclass with Lindy Hemming

On April 18, join Welsh costume designer Lindy Hemming as she discusses her working methods and career in an Imagine masterclass. Her break came designing costumes for several James Bond films, and she received an Oscar for Topsy-Turvy. Her latest work can be seen in Wonder Woman in cinemas this June.

Festival Atmosphere

There is a real sense of community between the volunteers. Many have been a part of the festival for years either as a volunteer or visitor. One volunteer had been involved for twenty years and there was a sense of reunion each year. It is easy for events like this to lose that sense of community as they grow and expand. Imagine has found many homes in Amsterdam, such as the Kriterion, only coming to the EYE four years ago. Today it attracts a larger crowd given its proximity to Amsterdam Centraal Station, yet it still retains that warmth and informality driven by both the organisers and volunteers alike, whose hard work makes it a success.


There is still a chance to catch many of the films this week for a second viewing and the winners of the festival’s film awards will be announced on Friday, April 21. The Imagine film festival runs until Saturday, April 22nd and you can find further information about the programme at


– Sarah Maclean

Feature image: Sarah Maclean


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