BARCELONA — Featuring a scaled-up presence of giant Spanish telco Telefonica, a second edition of its mini-mart Sitges Pitchbox and its traditional welter of genre, thriller and fantasy fair, the 49th Sitges Festival, one of the world’s most prominent genre meets, kicks off today with the European premiere of Miguel Ángel Vivas’ “Inside.
Sold by Embankment Films, and the latest movie from the producer of “Buried,” Adrián Guerra at Barcelona-based Nostromo Pictures, Vivas, the director of “Kidnapped,” and Jaume Balaguero, the writer-director of “[REC],” who co-wrote the screenplay, “Inside” weighs in as much more of a mainstream proposition than Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s grand-guignol French original, recasting it as less of a blood-fest more of a Hitchcockian thriller, Guerra has said. Rachel Nichols and Laura Harring star.
Starring Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy and María Valverde, Juan Carlos Medina’ssecond feature “The Limehouse Golem” will screen as the festival’s closing ceremony. Based on Peter Ackroyd’s novel “Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem,” it is produced by U.K.’s New Sparta Films and sold by Hanway Sales. It is set in Victorian London and turns on a series of mysterious murders that could be perpetrated by a ghastly creature, the stuff of legend.
Launching December 2014, Movistar Plus, the pay TV unit of Telefonica, is currently the fastest-expanding TV production force in Spain. It is also keen to tie down fanboys to its broad linear and VOD lineup, containing some of the highlights in world TV genre. This is the second year eat which Sitges will host a Movistar Plus sidebar. TV Series to screen take in Alice Troughton’s “The Living and the Dead” Neil Gaiman’s “Likely Stories” –just aired in the U.K.– and for the Sapin the eagerly-awaited four episodes directed by one of its most acclaimed genre talents –Paco Plaza– of the third season of “Penny Dreadful.”
Olivier Marchal’s Canal Plus Original Series, the futuristic noir “Section Zéro,” NBC’s “Timeless,” Saul Metzstein’s “You, Me and the Apocalypse,” and the second season of Sam Esmail’s “Mr. Robot” also join the lineup which will allow Movistar Plus to inject a sense of event programming into its lineup.
Strengthening its collaboration with the Festival, Movistar Plus is offering a 30-feature bouquet of genre gems screened at Sitges during past editions through its channel Movistar Xtra.
One of Sitges’ main lures, which brought a select but high-powered clutch of sales agents from Paris mid-last decade, led by Wild Bunch, as well as the likes of XYZ Films from Los Angeles, was the Barcelona-based genre/thriller industry which flowered from late last century. Its heyday highlights included Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Orphanage and Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza’s “[REC].” That industry has been hit hard by slashed public and pubcaster funding in Catalonia and at Spanish central government level. World premieres, from talked-up directors, at least in Spain, still remain, however.
Catalonia has also hiked its presence at this year’s edition from six titles in 2015 to 10: Vivas’ “Inside,” Carles Torrens’ “Pet,” Mateo Gil’s “Proyecto Lázaro,” Isaki Lacuesta’s “The Next Skin,” Denise Castro’s “Salvation,” Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro’s “Mine,” Jaume Pujades’ “El cor del pi negre,” Iván Morillo’s “Vestigis,” Diego López and David Pizarro’s “Herederos de la bestia,” and Anuar Doss and Gabriel Rahbani’s “Hunger Diaries.”
Sitges world premieres this year include “Mon Ange,” directed by Belgian actor-turned-director Harry Cleven, a fantasy romance about an invisible boy and a blind girl, Jean-Patrick Benes’ sci-fi thriller “French Arès,” set in a dystopic, down-on-its-heels Paris and Haritz Zubillaga’s anticipated debut “The Glass Coffin,” in which a well-known actress is brutally attacked in a limousine.
Potential highlights this year include Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan singular existential comedy “Swiss Army Man,” Julia Ducournau’s cannibal horror “Grave,” Park Chan-wook’s reinterpretation of Sarah Waters’ Victorian-era lesbian novel “The Handmaiden,” South-Korean Yeon Sang-ho zombie hit “Seoul Station”;
Fest also showcases Anne Hathaway starrer “Colossal,” from Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes”), a prize-winner at Toronto and Austin; Nicolas Winding Refn’s controversial “The Neon Demon,” Mexican Emiliano Rocha Minter’s dark fable “We Are the Flesh,” Kim Jee-woo’s spy thriller “The Age of Shadows,” and Amat Escalante’s “The Untamed.” Just to mention a few.
Sitges also gives the industry a chance to catch up with a clutch of lesser-known international premieres of movies which break out from substantial local box office to fest berths and sales, such as Finnish teen horror title “Lake Bodom,” from Taneli Mustonen, acquired by Film Constellation for world sales.
Bowing last year, the Sitges Pitchbox will see seven genre projects compete for cash prizes and a paid flight to South Korea’s Bucheon Festival and Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur’s Blood Window.
Actors Max Von Sydow and Christopher Walken will be granted with honorary awards. Time Machine prizes go to actors Walter Koenig, Dolph Lundgren and Barbara Crampton, actor-director Bruce Campbell and director Paul Schrader. Director Ruggero Deodato will receive the Maria Honorary Award; Spanish actress Terele Pávez the Nosferatu Prize.
Sitges’ main jury comprises producers Mick Garris and Franck Ribiere, the Tribeca fest’s Geoffrey Gilmore and directors Axelle Carolyn and Brian Yuzna.
The 49th Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival runs Oct. 7-16.
John Hopewell contributed to this article
FANTASTIC OFFICIAL SECTION
“Before I Wake,” (Mike Fianagan, United States )
“Blair Witch,” (Adam Wingard, United States)
“Creepy,” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)
“Desierto,” (Jonás Cuarón, Mexíco, France)
“Dog Eat Dog,” (Paul Schrader, United States )
“Grave,” (Julia Ducournau, France, Belgium)
“Interchange,” (Dain Iskandar Said, Malaysia)
“Karaoke Crazies,” (Kim Sang-chan, South Korea)
“Melanie. The Girl With All the Gifts,” (Colm McCarthy, United Kingdom, United States)
“Mon Ange,” (Harry Cleven, France, Belgium)
“Museum,” (Keishi Otomo, Japan)
“Operation Avalanche,” (Matt Johnson, United States, Canada)
“Pet,” (Carles Torrens, Spain, United States)
“Proyecto Lázaro,” (Mateo Gil, Spain)
“Psycho Raman,” (Anurag Kashyap, India)
“Safe Neighborhood,” (Chris Peckover, United States, Australia)
“Sam Was Here,” (Christophe Deroo, France, United States)
“Seoul Station,” (Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)
“Shelley,” (Ali Abbasi, Denmark)
“Swiss Army Man,” (Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan, United States)
“Terraformars,” (Takashi Milke, Japan)
“The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” (André Øvredal, United Kingdom)
“The Handmaiden,” (Park Chan-wook, South Korea)
“The Love Witch,” (Anna Biller, United States)
“The Lure,” (Agniezka Smoczynska, Poland)
“The Neon Demon,” (Nicolas Winding Refn, United States, France, Denmark)
“The Void,” (Steve Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie, Canada)
“The Wailing,” (Na Hong-jin, South Korea, United States)
“Train to Busan,” (Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)
“We Are the Flesh,” (Emiliano Rocha Minter, Mexico)