Sitges’ flight of fancy

Fest adapts as genre films flourish globally

Go big or go home | Miniseries move Catalan producers | Digital game delivery boosts small shops
Fest Traveler: Sitges

Fantasy fest Sitges, flooded by submissions, has split its main section into two: Sitges 43 and Panorama, which are both competitive.

Nestled along the Mediterranean, 30 minutes south of Barcelona, Europe’s largest geekathon has seen no growth in budget: It’s still at $3.3 million, after two sponsors dropped the fest and were replaced by utility Gas Natural Fenosa and Sony Spain.

But fantasy and genre pic production is booming, says fest director Angel Sala.

Filmmakers from emerging cinema cultures are exploring genre films: “The Silent House,” from Uruguay’s Gustavo Hernandez, plays Sitges 43. Elsewhere in Latin America, such as Mexico and Argentina, genre production is getting stronger. Jorge Michel Grau’s “We Are What We Are” also screens in Sitges 43.

Compared to the 1990s, when Sitges served as a launchpad for big studio releases, the majors’ presence is relatively low.

That’s not just a reflection on Sitges, says Sala.

“The studios are increasingly reluctant to bow at fests. I’m not criticizing it. But it’s a fact,” says Sala, attributing that reluctance to a fear of piracy.

Also, at Sitges, as at other festivals, local critics’ opinions carry much more weight than during the rest of the year.

Spanish movies, often from Catalonia, have taken up much of the space vacated by the studios.

Along with two big-league thrillers, “Julia’s Eyes” and “Agnosia,” the Spanish armada includes Roman Parrado’s arty chiller “14 Days With Victor”; Miguel Angel Vivas’ horror thriller “Kidnapped,” by the producers of hit “Cell 211,” Vaca Films; and Danny Glover-Robert Englund starrer “I Want to Be a Soldier,” helmed by Christian Molina.

Another Spanish helmer, Luis Berdejo, made his feature film debut with supernatural thriller “The New Daughter,” which also plays Sitges. Kevin Costner stars.

Supported by a strong Catalan following and worldwide by fanboys, the idyllic Mediterranean event is opening up as a place of discovery for little-known gems.

Other local indie-style productions include Sergio Caballero’s “Finisterrae,” Juan Cavestany’s “Dispongo de barcos” and “Lo mejor de la vida es no estar muerto,” made by a film collective.

According to its organization, Sitges was Spain’s most Googled fest last year.

By JOHN HOPEWELL

Brazil is looking to spark international co-productions.

“When we started, only a handful of Brazilian companies or producers (put together) international co-productions,” says Cinema do Brasil director general Andre Sturm. “Now the number’s climbing fast.”

Italy is also looking to increase co-productions, in part to lessen exposure to volatile local financing, but also to reclaim its place on the European stage.

Both countries feature prominently at the Brazil-Catalonia-Italy Co-Production Meeting on Oct. 14 at Sitges.

“100% Catalan films have sometimes been highly successful. But many Catalan co-productions have played at Toronto, Venice, Cannes. They slot us into a global market,” says Angela Bosch, director of regional agency Catalan Films & TV.

Some 23 Catalan production houses, including Zentropa, Imira, Zip, Benece and Cromosoma, are expected to attend the meet. Italian participants include Dania Film, Classic and Sintra.

Co-organized with Brazil’s Cinema do Brasil and Italy’s Cinecitta Luce-Filmitalia, the meeting sees growth on multiple fronts.

Italian and Brazilian delegations will field some 15-20 execs. Three or four distributors will be invited from both countries, says Bosch. As of mid-September, Brazil’s California Filmes and Italy’s Bolero and Moviemax had signed up.

Italy and Brazil will each have a festival presence: Joao Daniel Tikhomiroff’s “Besouro” and Giuseppe Capotondi’s “La doppia ora” both play out of competition.

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