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Highland Film Group Takes ‘Kidnapped’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Sitges Coming Soon sidebar anticipates upcoming genre pics

SITGES– Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier’s L.A.-based Highland Film Group (HFG) has picked up international rights to “Kidnapped,” Spanish helmer-producer Mar Targarona’s new feature as helmer, which Sony Pictures Releasing will bow in Spain.

Kidnapped’s” trailer preems at Coming Soon, a sidebar at Catalonia’s 48th Sitges Film Festival which kicked off Friday Oct. 9.

Penned by helmer-scribe Oriol Paulo (“The Body”), “Kidnapped” turns on the mysterious disappearance of a prestigious lawyer’s son. Just a few hours later, the kid turns up with some bruises explaining that a man has tried to kidnap him but he managed to flee.  Police capture the thug but the evidence is not enough to arrest him. The lawyer decides to exercise justice of her own but cannot control the consequences

“We thought the story of a mother’s desperate quest for justice for her son was incredibly relatable and would emotionally resonate with parents all over the world,” Perrier told Variety.

She added: “We also were drawn to the well-crafted story that goes in unexpected directions and the sophisticated character dynamics,” she added.

Alongside Joaquin Padro, at Barcelona-based shingle Rodar y Rodar, producer-helmer Targarona has produced some of the most international and profitable Catalan genre pics of recent years: Juan Antonio’s Bayona’ “The Orphanage” and Guillem Morales’ “Julia’s Eyes,” also co-penned by Paulo.

“Kidnapped” has “the pedigree of one of the psychological thrillers best European producers and talent searchers,” Ivan Losada, director general, Sony Pictures Releasing de España said to Variety. Sony will release “Kidnapped” in Spain in the summer, he added.

“I think the emotions of the main role, a single mother by her own choice, are specially interesting, sophisticated,” Targarona said to Variety. “It’s a believable thriller. There’ s no good nor bad characters, in fact all of them are quite presentable,” Targarona laughed.

The contempo Mother Courage is interpreted by Blanca Portillo (Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces”), “a Rolls Royce of acting,” said Targarona. Casting also includes Jose Coronado (“Body”), Antonio Dechent (Xavi Puebla’s “Cold Call”), Jose Maria Pou (Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves”) and newcomer Marc Domenech.

Targarona has in development her next feature “Dos,” a completely different challenge set in just one location, the opposite to “Kidnapped,” a movie with around 40 settings and an eight-week shoot. “Dos” will be written by Cuca Canals (“Jamon, Jamon”), the late Bigas Luna regular co-scribe.

Curated by Sitges’ fest deputy director Mike Hostench, Coming Soon, now in its third edition, showcased extracts, most of them world premiering, of upcoming Catalan, Spanish and Latin America productions.

One eagerly awaited trailer was “Pet,” starring Dominic Monaghan and Ksenia Solo, a dark, insane love story, directed by Carles Torrens (“Emergo”) “in the vein of ‘Hard Candy’ and ‘Gone Girl’,” according to the helmer. “Pet” is penned by Jeremy Slater (“Fantastic Four”).

Other anticipated trailers were for fantastic drama “Salvation,” the debut feature of Denise Castro, turns on a teen who, facing death in an hospital.receives an offer of salvation by becoming a vampire, and Haritz Zubillaga’s “The Glass Coffin,” a mystery drama about an apparently exemplary woman who suffers dreadful harassment.

Also featured at Soon are contempo slasher “Framed,” directed by tanned-Sitges Marc Martinez, about a sinister webpage where everybody can freely broadcast any crime; and “The Devil on Wheels,” a docu on Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.”

Some genre luminaries getting Time Machine Awards at this year’s Sitges were prolific Sion Sono -presenting three movies at the fest: “Tag,” “Love & Peace” and “The Virgin Psychics” – and Nicolas Winding Refn. Oliver Stone took an honorary lifetime achievement award.

Aiming to develop industry links the new pitching forum Sitges Pitchbox kicks off at this 48th edition in collaboration with online platform Filmarket Hub. Seven projects out of 170 submissions will be unveiled Friday Oct. 15 to a largely produce audience. Some of the projects are “Hijos de Saturno,” “Not the End” and “Dear Moon.”

In line with its new industry heft and longtime fcus on new talent, fest is in talks with CAA to develop a regular collaboration.

Pics at the festival receiving buzzand upbeat audience reaction include Joel Edgerton’s “The Gift,” Guy Sulsby’s “Devil Makes Work,” Jaco van Dormael’s “The Brand New Testament,” Jose Skaf’s “Vulcania” and S, Craig Zahler’s “Bone Tomahawk,” among others.

Out of competition, Paco Cabezas boisterous romcom “Mr. Right” and infection horror pic “Summer Camp” from scribe-helmer producer Alberto Marini, played to large applause.

In the shorts arena, some works sparking good word-of-mouth included Javier Chillon’s “They Will Die in Space,” Fredrik S. Hana’s “Sister Hell,” Luis Quilez’s “Graffiti,” Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “Madre de Dios,” Carl Firth’s “The Witching Hour,” and Johannes Bachmann’s “Driven.”

Sitges’ 2015 budget has crept up Fest to €2.2 million ($2.5 million), a symptom of Spain’s tentative upturn post recession.

The Sitges International Film Festival runs Oct. 9-18.

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