AUSTIN -- It's only right that Fantastic Fest's signature event is the potent combination of intellectual discourse, visual culture and blood sport. The Fantastic Fest Debates have become more prominent with each passing year and according to Carrie Matherly, Assistant Director of Fantastic Fest, 2012's crop of showdowns will be no exception.

The premise remains the same: two combatants debate on a topic, and then fight -- or "fight" -- in a boxing ring. This year's crop of four debates includes a couple new twists, in that martial arts will replace boxing in some cases, and the opening fight will feature a woman-on-woman scuffle.

As for the latter, they're siblings -- twins, actually. And both are martial arts experts. And co-directors. And they'll be dressed as Kitana and Mileena from "Mortal Kombat."

Jen and Sylvia Soska, the directors of Fest U.S. premiering "American Mary," will literally kick things off on Saturday at the Debates, on the topic of remakes. "They had a hard time coming up with a topic, because they agree on almost everything," Matherly conceded.

Is Exploding Pants Syndrome a thing?

In the second or third slot of the night is filmmaker Joe Swanberg up against his critical foe, Badass Digest blogger Devin Faraci (or Devil, as my autocorrect seems to insinuate). Matherly this face-off has the most substantial "actual" beef, as Faraci's most considerable grenades toward the mumblecore master have included the terms "boring," "horsesh*t," "unwatchable," "villain" and worse.

Apparently Swanberg is pretty fit, but Faraci's been rockin' the WW*, and I will tell you something: that sh*t works. As for the meat, the subject of their dialogue will be "Mumblecore gives contemporary independent filmmaking a bad name." You can only guess who the defender of that topic will be.

Finally, Drafthouse founder Tim League will jump back in the ring for another fight with an professional fighter. Last year, the star of "Knuckle" had his day, but in 2012 Y.K. Kim will go up against the honcho over this theory: "Martial arts as a practice in film are decidedly inferior to pure, real-world martial arts."

Kim's real-world background is as a Grandmaster of Tae Kwon Do, and one-time director and actor of newly acquired Drafthouse title "Miami Connection" from 1987 (trailer cut by "Hobo with a Shotgun" helmer Jason Eisener). League has promised to "read a book" about martial arts in an aggressive preparation for the fight.

The fourth of four debates is as-yet-unannounced, as organizers are still in the middle of their own debate. Matherly said the dream would be pairing up buddies Russell Crowe and Texas governor Rick Perry. I personally would love to see HitFix's own Drew McWeeny against his thorn, Kevin Smith. I could also put a dent in Totoro.

Back to "Miami Connection," FF and Kim have successfully reunited five of the actors from the film, as well as the performing band, Dragon Sound, for the screening and the subsequent bash, Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party (presented by Well Go USA) on Friday night at the Highball. Curious film-goers will soon see it back up on the big screen on Nov. 2-3 in New York and Nov. 9 in L.A. with national later in the month. A DVD release will follow in time for holiday shopping, on Dec. 11. 

 

*sponsorship pending