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Seven of the world’s foremost festivals dedicated to, or with strong traditions of highlighting genre cinema, have banded together to form the Fantastic 7, an initiative which sees each bring one project to be pitched at the Cannes Film Market.

The seven festivals include: Sitges Intl. Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia – which initiated the idea along with the Cannes Market; Bucheon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival, Cairo Intl. Film Festival, Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG), International Film Festival & Awards – Macao; South by Southwest and the Toronto Intl. Film Festival (TIFF).

Cannes Film Market executive director Jérôme Paillard, Sitges deputy general manager Mónica Garcia Massagué, and Ventana Sur and Blood Window founder Bernardo Bergeret initialized and head the program.

In addition to the project pitches, Spanish director J.A. Bayona will godfather the event. Bayona has a memorable relationship with the Cannes Festival. In 2007 he premiered his now classic debut feature “The Orphanage” at Critics’ Week. According to organizers, each year will see another A-list genre filmmaker occupy this role.

For the first edition of the event, the Sitges festival will bring Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s quasi-fantasy psychological thriller “Baby,” which tracks an upper-class, drug-addicted mother who gives up her newborn to a trafficking ring during a particularly dark moment in her life. Filled with regret, the woman decides to track down her child, but must first conquer her own demons to do so. Bajo Ulloa produces the feature with F. Tomás Olalla.

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“Superpower Girl” is the fantastic coming-of-age tale selected by Korea’s Bucheon festival. Juri is an unassuming teenager who is granted superhuman abilities which allow her to make quilts of unparalleled quality. The girl’s talents allow her to get close to another young woman, and the two embark on a fledgling romance which, once it becomes public knowledge, threatens to ruin both the girls’ lives, and inspires a bloody, chaotic turn of events.

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A sequel to 2014’s Egyptian breakout hit “The Blue Elephant,” Cairo will be bringing “The Blue Elephant 2” to the Marché du Film. The feature will see the return of lead actors and Cairo National Festival for Egyptian Cinema nominees Karim Abdel Aziz and Nelly Karim in a new story about protagonist Dr Yehia, a psychotherapist at a hospital working with violent criminally insane patients. Marwan Hamed sits in the director’s chair again while Synergy Film’s Tamer Morsi produces.

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Chile was this year’s guest country of honor at FICG, so it’s only fitting that “Escape,” a Chilean entry in the festival’s projects section, should represent the festival at Cannes. Produced by Santiago-based Parox and directed by Cristián Jiménez, the film follows Miguel, a former political prisoner under Pinochet who made a daring prison break in the ‘80s, all the while imagining it as a film. In 2021, a Holywood actor comes to Chile to make that film a reality. While not itself a true story, the film is heavily influenced by actual events.

Representing the Macao Festival is Chao Koi Wang’s “Wonderland.” A major gambling center, the island of Macao boasts a number of gambling valets, which games can hire to escort them around the city. Huei is one such agent, living illegally on the island to which he emigrated 20 years before. When an old flame asks him to accompany her husband on a night out, things get chaotic when the husband dies of a heart attack in Heui’s house. Bingchi Pictures produces.

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Mickey Keating’s “Haywire” will represent SXSW at Fantastic 7. The near-future sci-fi thriller proposes a world in which every home has a Henry robot that handles day-to-day tasks. Things get scary however, when one such robot gets infected by a rogue computer virus and turns on its owner. Henry gets ahold of the elderly man’s hunting rifle and embarks on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge. Gregory Chambet at WTFilms produces the feature which is currently casting and scheduled to shoot this fall.

Finally, TIFF has backed Jeff Barnaby’s zombie-horror film “Blood Quantum,” offering a twist on the popular genre. As the world is being consumed by undead monsters, the native population living on the of Red Crow Mi’gmaq reservation find themselves immune to the zombie plague. The tribe’s chief and able-bodied members must protect the rest from the bloodthirsty hoards, as there is no immunity from being eaten alive. Jeff Barnaby directs, with John Christou from Prospector Films producing.

Fantastic 7 will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, May 19 at Cannes Palais K.

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JOHNNY WONG