Rising interest amongst the world’s leading film festivals to create genre sidebars for horror, thriller, sci-fi and fantasy films, inspired the Cannes Festival, the Sitges Fantastic Film Fest and Bernardo Bergeret, creator of Ventana Sur’s genre market, Blood Window, to create a special pitching event, that aims to showcase upcoming trends in fantastic cinema production worldwide.

The initiative involves seven top fests – Sitges, Bucheon, Cairo, Guadalajara (FICG), Macao, SXSW and Toronto (TIFF).

Each festival has endorsed a project that was presented during the digital pitching session held on June 24 at Cannes Marché du Film Online.

Jérôme Paillard, Cannes Film Market executive director and Fantastic 7 co-founder, introduced the second edition, underlining that “this is certainly an inspiring time” for genre cinema.

Bernardo Bergeret said that fantastic cinema has gained renewed importance in the current, highly unpredictable and fear-ridden global situation, adding that “it has always been said that reality surpasses fiction but now we are going to show you seven fantastic projects that can face and surpass the reality we are living in.”

Sitges’ director, Angel Sala introduced Paul Urkijo Alijo’s dark medieval fantasy “Irati,” produced by Spain’s Ikusgarri Films. Set in Spain’s Basque Country, in the 8th century, it turns on a young local girl, Irati, who guides Christian and Muslim warriors into an ancient and pagan mythological world.

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Irati (Sitges) Courtesy: Sitges Film Festival

Alijo’s debut feature “Errementari” toured the fantastic film festival circuit and was nominated for best VFX at the 2019 Spanish Academy Goya Awards. He explained that he will now return to Basque settings and legends, in particular the legend of Mari, a “terrible and beautiful mother goddess.” The pic has 60% of ITS budget in place, including tax incentives and is looking for an international sales agent.

Produced by Luke Spears and Han Sangbum, Minji Kang’s English-language U.S-South Korean psychological thriller “Illicit” turns on a young blind girl in Los Angeles’ Korea town, who befriends a mysterious jazz musician.

With 10% of the $1 million budget in place, from a private investor, the producers plan to shoot in New York City or Atlanta to tap into local tax incentives.

Michelle Garza Cervera’s psychological horror “Huesera” (Mexico), produced by Paulina Villavicencio and Edher Campos, centers on Valeria, a haunted pregnant mother, and explores Catholicism, Hispanic rituals, Mexican folk traditions, modern witchcraft and Mexico’s underground punk scene. Cervera’s previous fantasy shorts toured fantastic film festivals. The producers are looking for $150,000, to complete the $750,000 budget, intended for VFX and post-production.

Maxim Bessmertny’s police thriller “Foreign Cop” (Macau), produced by Bessmertny and Jorge Cordeiro dos Santos, is set in 1980s Macau, prior to the transition from Portuguese to Chinese rule. Portuguese private investigator Mendonza tries to track down thieves who carried out the city’s biggest-ever casino heist. The pic builds on the characters and settings of Bessmertny’s Toronto-playing short, “Tricycle Thief.” The $1.5 million feature was developed at the TorinoFilmLab in 2019. Producers are in talks with Hong Kong and Portugal’s Filmes do Tejo to co-produce.

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Illicit – Fantastic 7 Courtesy: Sitges Film Festival

Tim Kasher’s U.S. horror thriller, “I Have to Have You,” produced by Travis Stevens, focuses on a heavy metal rocker obsessed with a young woman. Kasher explains that the pic is about the male gaze, voyeurism, objectification and surveillance society.

Peter Kuplowsy, lead programmer of TIFF’s Midnight Madness sidebar, introduced Canadian psychological horror pic, “Violation” directed and produced by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli. What the filmmakers propose is “decidedly dark, potentially dangerous and probably deranged, and those are three ingredients that frankly I’m excited to see in any Midnight Madness film,” he said. The filmmakers showed clips from the project and said that it “flips the revenge genre on its head… with shockingly raw performances.”

Rami Yasin’s pan-Arab vampire thriller, “Three for Eternity,” an Egypt-Tunisia-UAE co-production directed by Mohammed Hefzy and Rami Yasin follows parents who revive one of their twin sons from a coma, who begins to act sinisterly. The pic is one of the first projects developed through the partnership between Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Saudi-owned MBC Studios, which aims to produce content for the Arab market, focusing on Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt.

Yasin says that the project was inspired by his personal history in which his mother saved his infant brother from a house fire, showing him that mothers are superheroes. He describes the film as an emotional rollercoaster about family survival and love in an existential crisis. “It’s about what happens when we refuse to accept fate and take matters in our own hands.”

The Fantastic 7 Speed meetings – in which interested co-producers and sales agents can talk with the filmmakers – will be held at the online Cannes Film Market on June 26.

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Three For Eternity (Cairo) Courtesy: Sitges Film Festival