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Vincenzo Natali to Open Sitges Pitchbox (EXCLUSIVE)

Like Ron Perlman in 2018 and Guillermo del Toro the year before, Canadian writer-director Vincenzo Natali, whose new Netflix film, an adaption of Steven King’s “In the Tall Grass” will innaugurate October’s Sitges Film Festival, is lined up to open this year’s Sitges Pitchbox, organized in by Barcelona-based platform Filmarket Hub. The Sitges Pitchbox take place Oct 4.

One of Canada’s most prominent genre filmmakers, Natali hit the international scene running with 1997’s “Cube,” a bloody low-budget cult classic that broke records for a Canadian horror film and won best film at that year’s Sitges Festival. Herreturned to the main competition at the Catalan fest in 2002 with “Cypher,” and in 2010 directed Canada’s highest-grossing English-language film “Splice,” which starred Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.

His extensive body of work includes turns on some of the most popular genre TV series of the last two decades as well, including “Hannibal,” “Orphan Black,” “American Gods” and “Westworld.” He also helmed the pilot for the 2018 reboot of “Tremors.”

Seven projects make up this year’s Sitges Pitchbox.

A standout at last year’s Ventana Sur Blood Window after first being announced at Cannes market, “Pulpo Negro” (“Black Octopus”) is based on the 1980s Argentine miniseries of the same name from legendary Latin horror pioneer Narciso Ibáñez.

An updated screenplay comes from Santiago Calvete, Luis Murillo and Hernán Moyano to be directed by Nicolás and Luciano Onetti. It’s produced by Roberta Sanchez, 16:9 Cine and Black Mandala.

Thanks to a generous grant, an aspiring young author is granted admission to a prestigious school where he is bullied and isolated thanks to his humble roots. When horrific scenes from his stories begin happening to classmates, police are left confused and only one of the school’s professors might have an explanation to events.

From Chile’s Parox and Catalonia’s Fasten Films, “Evasion” first impressed at the Guadalajara Festival’s Co-production Meetings. Cristian Jiménez will direct and co-writes alongside Teatro de Chile theater director Manuela Infante.

“Inspired by a true event, ‘Evasion’ flirts with the fantasy genre to talk about cinema, memory and forgetting,” Jiménez told Variety. “It’s also the story of a journey to the future, and a country which flees from its memory.”

In the film, Miguel, a combatant against Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship, plans an escape from jail with other political prisoners while imagining a film with a Hollywood star made in the future about his feat.

From Ireland, “Hive Mind” is written by Demian Fox and will be directed by by Conor McMahon with Julianne Forde and Ruth Treacy at Tailored Films producing. The company’s last feature, “The Lodgers,” premiered at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and enjoyed a fruitful international festival run.

In the film, teenager Maya is a lonely young girl who is blamed by her family for the crash that killed her mother. When a host of parasitic beings evolve and start controlling humans however, it’s only the girl’s injuries from the accident that keep her from falling under the parasites’ control.

A straight-up ghost story, “The Plague Doctor,” co-produced by writer Ninon Schubert and director Michael O’Connor, tracks married couple Ava and Theo who move to a German village where, centuries ago, the townspeople burned to death a plague doctor in a futile attempt to eradicate the disease. Since then, the spirit of the masked man has haunted the town and will feast on an untold secret between Ana and Theo which threatens their very lives.

According to the production duo, “’The Plague Doctor’ explores themes of guilt and regret and how the sins of the past contaminate the present. The film will create an atmospheric, under-the-skin experience that will stay with the audience long after they have seen it.”

From Lithuania, “Vespers” is co-directed by Bruno Samper and Kristina Buozyte who wrote the screenplay with Patrick Loughran. The project is being produced by Asta Liukaityte, Daiva Jovaisiene and Buozyte at Natrix Natrix.

The animated feature takes place in a world where rampant biohacking has destroyed most of the planet’s human and animal populations. Oligarchs live in walled Citadels while the rest list in rural wastelands, sustained by genetically modified SEEDS doled out by the Citadel in exchange for blood donations.

Two Spanish films make this year’s cut: Aitor Uribarri’s second directorial feature “Kitsugi,” co-written with Evan Montoya and produced by Big Sur Pictures and Mano Negra Films, and Alberto Gastesi’s “Singular,” co-written with Alex Merino.

In “Kitsugi,” Laura, a fugitive hold-up in a high mountain shelter, must decide between the life or death of an injured climber who breaks his leg near her hiding spot. What should be an easy decision for the woman is made difficult by the fact she is wanted for murder. With no proof to clear herself, Laura must decide if she can live with the blood of an innocent man on her conscious.

Irene Anula, a star of breakout Spanish TV hit “Vis a Vis” (“Locked Up”), is attached to toppling the film.

“’Kintsugi’ refers to a Japanese restoration technique used with destroyed ceramic pieces, where the parts are stuck back together with gold plating, resulting in a more beautiful object,” said Uribarri. “Laura is a broken woman whose soul is divided into a thousand pieces. Like a piece of ceramic rebuilt with Kintsugi, she will resurface from a dark place to remember who she was and become someone new, aware of the consequences of her actions.”

A post-post-apocalyptic thriller, “Singular” asks “What comes after the end?” The war between humans and artificial intelligence is over and we lost. Now the remaining androids must figure out on their own what to do next. What’s left to do after you’ve killed off your creators?

The Pitchbox, which sees directors and producers talk up their projects, each for seven minutes, offers as prizes invitations to Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, South Korea’s Bucheon Intl. Film Festival, and possible selection for Macao’s The Crouching Tigers Project Lab. Additionally, Elamedia Estudios offers a distribution contract for Spain.

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