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‘Maggie,’ ‘Gift,’ ‘Victoria,’ ‘Life’ Set For Sitges

Lineup underscores vitality and mainstream acceptance of fantastic cinema, a plus and challenge for Sitges’

MADRID – “Maggie,” “The Gift,” “Victoria” and “Life” will screen at the 48th Sitges Intl. Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, one of the world’s most important genre events.

Also confirmed: Two of the most anticipated Spanish titles of the year: “Vulcania” and “Summer Camp.”

Unspooling in an idyllic resort just half an hour’s car-ride south of Barcelona, Sitges will take place Oct. 9-18.

Highlighted in Sitges’ first major line-up announcement, the four titles underscore the vast range of contempo fantastic cinema, at least how it is understood by the Catalan fest.

Well-reviewed at Tribeca – Variety’s Guy Lodge wrote of “Henry Hobson’s hugely promising debut feature” – “Maggie” has Arnold Schwarzenegger as a father caring for his ever more walking dead daughter (Abigail Breslin).

One of the first movies from Robert Simonds’ STX Ent, the Blumhouse-produced “The Gift” is a psychological thriller about an former school acquaintance who begins to give ever more threatening presents to a newly-wed couple.

Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” stunned at Berlin for its technical virtuosity, weighing in as a single-134-minute take heist movie. Anton Corbijn’s Berlinale Special title “Life,” turns on the relationship between shutterbug Dennis Stock’s (Robert Pattinson) and maybe his most famous subject, James Dean (Dane DeHaan).

SND-sold “Vulcania,” helmed by Jose Skaf, is a dystopia-set sci-fi thriller produced by Zentropa Spain, the Filmax/Safran/Pantelion co-produced “Summer Camp” a virus thriller from scribe-turned-helmer Alberto Marini (“Sleep Tight,” “REC”), which is godfathered by Jaume Balaguero, co-director of “REC,” and one of the doyen of Spanish genre directors.

Sporting further titles such as Michael Almereyda’s “Experimenter,” glowingly reviewed off Sundance – Variety’s Scott Foundas called it “a high-formal, always fascinating movie” – Sitges 2015 underscores the vitality of current fantastic cinema the world over in other ways too. Four of the above movies are feature debuts.

Of other announced Sitges titles, Australian’s Ariel Kleiman’s “Partisan,” with Vincent Cassel, Scot John McLean’s Western “Slow West,” a Sundance grand jury prize winner, “Coin Locker Girl,” from Korea’s Han Jun-hee, a stylish femme mobster hit and late Cannes Critics’ Week addition, and “Turbo Kid,” from Canada’s directorial trio RKSS, all confirm their directors as talents to track. Another Sitges screener, first seen at Park City at Midnight, “Cop Car” from Jon Watts, won him a gig as director of Marvel’s new “Spider-Man” franchise.

According to the Sitges Fest, about 40 titles featured at 2014’s fest, snagged theatrical bows. That acceptance is a boon, but also a challenge. For nearly 50 years, genre fanboys and helmers have trecked to Sitges as other journey to Mecca. Regulars include a young Guillermo del Toro, now Eli Roth and Elijah Wood. Over the last decades, genre filmmaking has also come out of the basement. No longer just made for die-hard gore junkies, it has also won acceptance at all the world’s major fests. At least nine of Sitges’ first announced titles played Sundance, three Berlin, one Tribeca, two South-by-South-West.

Meanwhile, ravaged though not nuked by Spain’s recession, which decimated subsidies for first-time directors, many members of a thriller/genre-centric new generation of Spanish helmers have been forced to look for work and major Catalan genre production houses have downscaled production plans.

Sitges will still screen new Catalan movies – further titles are Carles Porto’s post-Apocalypse “Second Origin,” based on the second best-selling Catalan novel ever; Carlos Cañeque’s “Sacramento,” billed as an irreverent story of insanity. Some world premieres no doubt still have to be announced. But there is pressure on producers and sales agents to world premiere movies in markets far healthier than Spain’s, such as the North America and the U.K.

Such is its huge line-up that Sitges has always welcomed emerging fantastic genre from around the planet. It is now uppjng the ante. Its current lineup features, for example, “Villa Nabila,” from Malysia Syafiq Yusof, which Sitges declares to be “oustanding,” Internet horror movie “La Entidad,” from Peru’s Eduardo Shuldt, and the urban legend-inspired “The Fostering,” from Brazil’s Rodrigo Gasaparini and Dante Vescio.

Sitges has also pacted for a second edition of Blood Window, a competitive section dedicated to Latin America’s fast building genre production, co-organized with Buenos Aires’ lynchpin Latin American film market, Ventana Sur. It is also leveraging its hallowed brand to create sections at other festivals, such as Sitges Reloaded at Italy’s Udine Far East Film Festival, and is teaming with Shoreline Entertainment and Theaters at Mall of America to launch the first Sitges U.S. Tour.

Running Oct. 16-17 – so coinciding with this year’s 48th Sitges Fest – the Sitges U.S. Tour has five movies screening at the Sitges Fest also playing locations owned by Theatres at Mall of America in several U.S. cities.

“The expansion of the Sitges brand is one of the central concepts of the Festival’s Strategic Plan for the next two years,” the festival announced just after May’s Cannes Festival.

The U.S. tour may be just a beginning.

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