You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Guillermo del Toro to Godfather Sitges as Festival Hits 50

The iconic fantastic fest celebrates its half century as fantasy-genre hits huge numbers worldwide

CANNES — Guillermo del Toro will godfather this October’s milestone edition of the Sitges’ Catalonia Intl. Fantastic Film Festival as the famed fantasy-genre fest celebrates its 50th edition and genre gains ever greater mainstream acceptance.

A hallowed place of pilgrimage for genre aficionados worldwide, fishing village-set Sitges launched in 1968 the first Intl. Week of Fantastic Cinema, a bastion of fantasy films and avant-garde film debate which implicitly stood up to Francisco Franco’s arcane dictatorship. Sitges’ Catalonia Intl. Fantastic Film Festival is now one of Europe’s biggest genre events, notching up about 200,000 attendees last year, according to organizers.

For del Toro, godfathering is a debt repaid. “Sitges was, in my mind as a young filmmaker, the Mecca,” he recalls. “Being there with my first film, ‘Cronos,’ and winning the Maria Prize, was a giant boost. A year later, receiving the lifetime achievement award, I felt similarly reinvigorated and went on to create ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’”

He added: “I keep going back to Sitges to restructure, create and meet key collaborators (like Antonio Trashorras or DDT FX). A festival can have an intimate relationship with a filmmaker’s creative story and energies.”

Also a platform for Catalan auteur genre production, arguably Europe’s strongest smart genre strain, Sitges has played a crucial role connecting iconic creators.

Now directing “Jurassic World,” J.A. Bayona said he first met Guillermo del Toro when he presented “Cronos” at Sitges. “Years later, in the same festival corridors, we closed the deal to produce ‘The Orphanage,’ my first movie. Coming back to Sitges is coming back home.”

Sitges was an early champion of Asian auteur genre cinema in Europe, and has become a bellwether of genre trends worldwide, such as move towards the mainstream.

“Despite relatively small budgets, Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out,’ M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Split’ and James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring’ have smashed the U.S. box office $200 million mark. That didn’t happen years ago,” says Ángel Sala, fest director since 2001.

“The films screened there are often challenging and festival is run by the most delightful individuals. Not only is the backdrop of the cityscape magnificent, the audiences are filled with admiration for the filmed arts. This festival is a truly meaningful one for us filmmakers,” said Japanese director Takashi Miike (“Yakuza Apocalypse”).

Sala also underscored the impact on fantastic film of Netflix. He is confident its originals will see limited theatrical releases; more and more series will hit festivals as well, he predicted.

“The world isn’t what it was 10 years ago and festivals can’t escape that,” Sala added, announcing that Sitges will be very open to “serialized fiction.”

In international terms, Sitges’ 50th edition catches fantastic film in an expansive mode. 

”South Korea, as last year, is offering a robust crop of films, as is Japan. China is increasingly open to new contents in horror,” Sala said.

He added: “In Europe, we have been left a bit behind. But I think the continent will resurface with new autuers in France and the Nordic countries and Russia merits attention. Beyond that, Latin America continues being a real phenomenon,” Sala said.

More than anything, perhaps, Sitges has served as a late-night film school for great future genre directors.  “Since my childhood, Sitges has been an inspiration as a spectator and then filmmaker; it’s a main part of what I am as a director,” said (“[REC]”)’s Jaume Balagueró.

The 50th Sitges Catalonia Intl. Fantastic Film Festival runs Oct. 5-15.

More Film

  • The Fault in Our Stars

    Disney Retiring Fox 2000 Label

    Disney will stop making films under the Fox 2000 label, a move that could mean that its head Elizabeth Gabler will not be making the move to the Magic Kingdom, Variety has learned. The decision is surprising because Disney had previously stated that Gabler would stay on board at the studio even after it was [...]

  • Macon Blair27th Annual Gotham Independent Film

    Macon Blair to Direct and Write 'Toxic Avenger' Reboot for Legendary (EXCLUSIVE)

    Macon Blair has been tapped to write and direct Legendary’s reboot of the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger,” sources tell Variety. Legendary acquired the feature film rights in December and have quickly made the project a high priority at the studio. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers with Alex [...]

  • Danny Boyle Bond 25

    Danny Boyle Calls His Exit From 'Bond 25' a 'Great Shame'

    Director Danny Boyle has finally spoken out after leaving the upcoming 25th James Bond movie over creative differences. After splitting from the new 007 flick last August, Boyle told Empire in a story published on Thursday that the script he penned with his “Trainspotting” co-writer John Hodge “wasn’t finished, but it could have been really [...]

  • Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    An elegiac documentary exploring the brief life of rapper Lil Peep, “Everybody’s Everything” certainly doesn’t lack for perspectives. Interviewing virtually everyone who knew the musician (born Gustav Ahr), directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan cover the waterfront, from Peep’s family to his girlfriends, his innumerable collaborators, his managers and his fans, trying to distill exactly [...]

  • A Brinks armored truck pulls into

    Fox Layoffs: Distribution and Marketing Leaders Out

    Layoffs have hit Fox following the entertainment company’s sale to Disney. The staff cuts are hitting employees at the SVP, EVP, and president level. Senior staff is expected to be among the first to be impacted. However, the cuts will be deep, with the ax falling hardest of Fox’s film team. There could be as [...]

  • Emily Blunt in Talks for Inspirational

    Emily Blunt in Talks to Star in Annapurna Drama 'Not Fade Away'

    Emily Blunt is in negotiations to star in Annapurna’s inspirational drama “Not Fade Away” with David O. Russell and John Krasinski producing. The project is based on Rebecca Alexander’s 2015 memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher syndrome type III and [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Nabs Nine Nominations for 6th Premios Platino

    As was widely anticipated, Alfonso Cuaron’s triple Oscar-winning “Roma” dominated the 6th Premios Platino nominations, unveiled Thursday at Hollywood’s legendary Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the very first Oscars. It snagged a total of nine nominations, including best film, director, art direction, cinematography, and acting for its two Oscar-nominated actresses, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content