Brandon Cronenberg has proven to be an heir to his father, David, with his grisly sophomore feature, “Possessor Uncut,” which took home best film and director at Spain’s 53rd Sitges Film Festival on Saturday.
Running Oct.8-18, the fantastic film fest, Europe’s biggest, wrapped yesterday in Sitges, a picturesque seaside resort just south of Barcelona.
With these new honors, Brandon Cronenberg also suggests that his best new director award at 2012’s Sitges for debut feature, “Antiviral,” was no fluke.
A sci fi-horror hybrid, “Possessor Uncut” tracks an elite corporate assassin who uses brain-implant technology to take possession of other people’s bodies and slay prominent targets. The film first premiered at Sundance where Variety’s Peter Debruge described it as a “brilliant sci-fi puzzle” that was “more than just another bracingly extreme psychological thriller.”
Just Philippot’s “The Swarm” also snagged two awards: the Special Jury Prize and best actress plaudit for Suliane Brahim for her performance as a single mother who breeds edible grasshoppers to save her farm from ruin. The plan goes pear-shaped when she develops an odd, obsessive bond with them. The horror thriller was picked up by Netflix in a deal brokered by Wild Bunch just before Sitges. “The Swarm” was among five features and 10 short films chosen for Cannes Critics’ Week’s special 2020 label.
Thesps Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais shared the Best Actor award for their turn in French-Belgian comedy “Mandibules” where they play two feckless pals who attempt to train and exploit a super-sized mutant fly they find in their car trunk.
Among other trophies, best screenplay went to Márk Bodzsár, Juli Jakab and István Tasnádi for Hungarian spy-vampire satire, “Comrade Drakulich.” Set during the Cold War, Hungary organizes a blood drive and a vampire arrives as its guest of honor. A young couple who work for the Hungarian secret police are assigned to keep an eye on him.
Miami-born Jonathan Cuartas nabbed two nods for debut feature “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To” – Sitges’ Citizen Kane Award for new director and a best film winner at its New Visions section – cementing his status as most definitely a talent to watch. Argentina’s Alejandro Fadel snagged a New Visions special mention for his experimental film, “The Enigmatic Element.”
In an unfortunate turn of events, an upsurge of COVID-19 cases in local region Catalonia sparked new health and safety measures that forced the festival to cancel or reschedule some screenings from Oct. 15. Double bills were reduced to screenings of single films. Some cancelled films were made available on the festival’s website and tickets were refunded. Following the lead of other in-person festivals like Venice and San Sebastian, Sitges had reduced seating capacity in all of the festival’s cinema theaters.
WINNERS, 53RD SITGES FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL OF CATALONIA
“Possessor Uncut,” (Brandon Cronenberg, Canada)
Special Jury Prize
“The Swarm,” (Just Philippot, France)
Special Mention, Director:
Natalie Erika James, “Relic” (Australia)
Grégoire Ludig & David Marsais, (“Mandibules,” France)
Suliane Brahim, “The Swarm”
Special Mention: Best Actress
Marin Ireland, (“The Dark and The Wicked” U.S.)
Márk Bodzsár, Juli Jakab & István Tasnádi, (“Comrade Drakulich,” Hungary)
Best Special Effects
Maks Naporowski, Filip Jan Rymsza, Dariush Derakhshani, (“Mosquito State,” Poland, U.S.)
Tristan Nyby, “The Dark and The Wicked”
Bingen Mendizábal & Koldo Uriarte, (“Baby,” Spain)
Audience Award for Best Film:
“La Vampira de Barcelona,” (Lluís Danés, Spain)
Best Fantastic Genre Short Film
“The Luggage,” (Tsai Yi-fen, Taiwan)
Special Mention, Short Film
“Rutina: La prohibición,” (Sam, Spain)
Best Feature Film
“My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To,” (Jonathan Cuartas, U.S.)
“The Enigmatic Element,” (Alejandro Fadel, Argentina)
Laura Casabé, (“Los Que Vuelven,” Argentina)
“Luz Distante – Parte 1, Les Desventurades,” (Santiago Reale, Argentina)
X-Treme Midnight Audience Award
“The Queen of Black Magic,” Kimo Stamboel (Indonesia)
“Ivan, O Terrível,” (Mario Abbade, Brazil)
Blood Window Award
“High Tide,” (Verónica Chen, Argentina)
José Luis Guarner Critic’s Award:
(Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, France)
Citizen Kane Award for Best New Director
Jonathan Cuartas, “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To”
Carnet Jove Award for Best Fantasy Genre Feature Film
“She Dies Tomorrow,” (Amy Seimetz, U.S.)
Best Animated Feature Film:
“Seven Days War,” (Yuta Murano, Japan)
Best Animated Short Film
“Red Rover,” (Astrid Goldsmith, U.K.)
Paul Naschy Brigadoon Award
“Horrorscope,” (Pol Diggler, Spain)