David Slade’s castration shocker “Hard Candy” and Taiwanese Tsai Ming-liang’s tongue-in-cheek sex musical “The Wayward Cloud” added significantly to their kudo counts, splitting top honors Monday at the Sitges Film Festival of Catalonia.
Sitges is Europe’s biggest fantasy film meet. Barring Spanish world preems, its Official Fantastic competition cherrypicks major titles at major fests. So the film and screenplay prizes (Brian Nelson) for “Candy” and the special jury and actor (Lee Kang-sheng) kudos for “Cloud” were no slam dunks.
The Sitges jury also found an upright, serious purpose behind “Cloud’s” mix of irreverent camp musical routines and offbeat sex, praising its “bold aesthetic and moral discourse against sexual alienation.”
“Hard Candy” and “Cloud” bested the pics that towered above all others in terms of aud expectations: “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” which played to critical and audience acclaim, copping the actress prize for Lee Yeong-ae; and Tsui Hark’s fest opener “Seven Swords,” which scooped the cinematography nod for Keung Kwok Man and received the ultimate film-buff sanctification when Quentin Tarantino sailed into Sitges requesting a screening.
Johnnie To took the director prize for the second year running, this time for “Election.”
With all these films known quantities, industry interest turned on preeming local fare. Spain’s biggest bow, Antonio Hernandez’s contempo relationship vendetta “Oculto,” sparked acclaim while also disconcerting genre brats by jumping from thriller to drama.
Widely sold already by Filmax, Luis de la Madrid’s nun-from-the-dead “La monja” (The Nun) delivers an able Catholic boarding-school skew on the “I Know What You Did…” slasher format.
Standouts among local Catalan pics included Carlos Martin Ferrera’s resonant kidnap thriller “Zulo,” in the Catalan Focus; David Mauas’ docu “Who Killed Walter Benjamin?,” which floats a conspiracy theory for the German writer’s death; and, among titles available for DVD screening at the Sitges Sales Office, Jaume Domenech’s diving drama “Marina.”
In its second year, located on the bay of Sitges with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean, the Sales Office consolidated as a mini-market, doubling accredited companies. It ran Wednesday-Friday.
Acquisitions execs included a dozen buyers from Asia, repping, among others, Pony Canyon, Comstock, Phantom, Nikkatsu and Tube Entertainment.
“It’s a great way to check out Catalan product, and it raised the bar in terms of organization and screening facilities,” said Venevision Intl. Films head of acquisitions Jose Ramon Ganchegui.
By Monday, Latido was closing “Oculto” for Brazil and Venevision was advancing on several pickups of Sitges titles for the U.S. There was buyer interest on the KWA-sold “H6,” a remorseless serial killer-cum-horror thriller from first-timer Martin Garrido Baron. Most frequently screened Sales Office titles included Jo Sol’s “The Taxi Thief,” which is being chased by several sales companies, and Elisabet Cabeza and Esteve Riambau’s Civil War docu “The Magicians.”
Providing star power were Tarantino, who presented Eli Roth’s “Hostel,” which he produced; Jodie Foster, who promoted “Flightplan”; and Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg, in the resort for fest closer “A History of Violence.”
OFFICIAL FANTASY COMPETITION AWARDS
“Hard Candy,” David Slade, U.S.
“The Wayward Cloud,” Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan
Johnnie To, “Election,” Hong-Kong
Lee Kang-sheng, “The Wayward Cloud”
Lee Yeong-ae, “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” South Korea
“Hard Candy,” Brian Nelson
“Seven Swords,” Keung Kwok Man, Hong-Kong-China-South Korea
“MirrorMask,” Dave McKean, U.K.-U.S.
“MirrorMask,” Jamie Niman
“The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes,” Thomas Mulack, U.K.-Germany
“A Bittersweet Life,” Dalpalan and Jang Yeong-gyu, South Korea
ORIENT EXPRESS-CASA ASIA AWARD
“Antarctic Journal,” Yim Phil-sung, South Korea
ANIMAT GERTIE FILM AWARD
“The District,” Aron Gauder, Hungary
SILVER MELIES FOR EUROPEAN MOTION PICTURE
“Trouble,” Harry Cleven, France-Belgium
“Hard Candy,” David Slade, U.S.
JOSE LUIS GUARNER CRITICS AWARD
“The Wayward Cloud”
CITIZEN KANE AWARD TO AN UP-AND-COMING DIRECTOR Emmanuel Carrere, “La Moustache,” France