Jaume Balagueró and Ester Expósito Connect the First Wires at Sitges 2022
The team from the opening film Venus captured everyone's attention on the red carpet, along with stars like Robert Englund and Lee Jung-jae
Sitges' virtual world completed its first level today. Starting today, there are eleven days ahead of us for audiences to be able to assess the state of a contemporary fantastic genre that will be demonstrating just how much it has to offer. Well-established directors, including Jaume Balagueró himself, will be presenting new displays of their artistic know-how, while emerging filmmakers will be trying to earn a place in the Olympus of genre films with their stimulating debuts. Digital universes set the seal on an edition full of surprises that will be unveiled over the coming days.
As is customary, this morning the 55th Sitges Film Festival held its classic showing for schools, the film competition's first screening. This time, the youngest moviegoers were able to enjoy Heart of Oak, a fascinating documentary directed by Laurent Charbonnier and Michel Seydoux, which introduces viewers to the astonishing experience of the growth of oak trees, symbols of the strength of nature. Within the Sitges Documenta section, it was also possible to see King on Screen, with a previous presentation by its director Daphné Bawir, about the famous author Stephen King and the multiple film adaptations of his literary work over the last fifty years.
A little before six in the afternoon, the Sitges Festival's red carpet was visited by some of the first day's most iconic personalities, like Robert Englund, who will be presenting Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story tomorrow, a documentary that pays tribute to his entire career, Jeong Woo-seong, who directs and stars in the action-packed A Man of Reason, or Lee Jung-jae, whose debut feature film Hunt will make the Auditori's seats tremble tomorrow. After that, a Festival regular like SAM, whose previous short film Routine: The Prohibition was shown before the screening of Quentin Dupieux's acclaimed Mandibles, was the lead-in for opening night with Paralelos, his ninth work. Next, Lleida-born filmmaker Jaume Balagueró introduced the main course of the evening, Venus, the second film from The Fear Collection, the label specializing in horror films created by Sony Pictures International Productions and Pokeepsie Films (Álex de la Iglesia and Carolina Bang's production company), in association with Prime Video. Fernando Navarro and the Catalan director himself co-wrote a script that sets Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House in a cursed apartment complex in Madrid.
Like every year, the gala ceremony presented by Melina Matthews and Dafnis Balduz, featured speeches by Foundation Director, Mònica Garcia Massagué, and Festival Director, Ángel Sala, bringing together local and regional authorities including Natàlia Garriga, Minister of Culture for the Generalitat de Catalunya; Miquel Curanta, director of the Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals de la Generalitat de Catalunya (ICEC), and Aurora Carbonell, Mayor of Sitges.
The makers of the opening film attended a press conference today at noon. Jaume Balagueró emphasized that, despite the heterogeneous mixture of themes, his main interest was the story: "The film is defined by what it explains. When I began to write, I didn't start thinking about genres, I started thinking about the story. It's true that it's a story that includes horror, thriller, drama and emotion. But above all it's a story about grief, about fighting against it, and also about dancing. It has many different layers." Meanwhile, Álex De la Iglesia, in addition to declaring that "it's Jaume Balagueró's best film", took the opportunity to announce two of his upcoming projects: the third season of 30 Coins, which is already in production, and Anathema, the third project from The Fear Collection label, which will be directed by Jimina Sabadú
The other big highlight of the day came courtesy of a virtuoso of contemporary horror, Mike Flanagan. The Auditori hosted the preview of the first two episodes of The Midnight Club, the terrifying new series that is the result of the alliance between Flanagan, screenwriter Leah Fong and Netflix, a day before its official premiere on the platform. Based on the namesake novel by Christopher Pike, this project, which terrified Sitges audiences with jumpscares, follows a group of eight terminally ill patients in a hospital who meet when midnight falls to share scary stories with each other.
In addition to the aforementioned projects, Sitges' moviegoers were able to enjoy the first films from the Official In Competition Selection, like You Won't Be Alone, a folk horror film starring Noomi Rapace and directed by debut director Goran Stolevski; or Andrew Semans' Resurrection, a supernatural thriller starring Tim Roth and Rebecca Hall. Meanwhile, other sections also kicked off today at the Festival. This is the case with Òrbita, which returns to Sitges' lineup after a two-year hiatus with two interesting options from South Korea: Hunt and A Man of Reason. In the Panorama Fantàstic section, other films were presented like the terrifying Satan's Slaves 2: Communion, a ghost film directed by Indonesian Joko Anwar, or Carnifex, which was presented by its director Sean Lahiff, while Noves Visions opened with After Yang, the second film by the always interesting Kogonada, and continued with the screenings of Brian and Charles, the melancholic comedy where Jim Archer recovers and extends the namesake short film he debuted with, and ARDE!, Paco Campano's unique piece that combines an artsy atmosphere with the aesthetics of B-movies, among others.
As regards parallel activities, from today until Sunday, October 16th, three of the Festival's most eye-catching exhibitions can be visited. At the Miramar Cultural Center, the exhibition Their Favorite Terrors will be on display, dedicated to the most emblematic objects in Spanish fantaterror, and curated by a selection of filmmakers including Paco Cabezas, Paul Urkijo and Jaume Balagueró. Meanwhile, the exhibition Shaun Fantastic Visions, by Valencian artist Shaun Elay, whose art is characterized by large format live negative illustration, will be available at the exit of the Auditori, while the Estudi Vidal already houses the exhibition Cursed Objects and Other Horror Film Toys, by Marc Pujol, propmaker and set designer under the seal of ANOMALIA ARTE & FX. The FOODTASTIC area has also been set up, where the Festival's visitors will be able to enjoy succulent tidbits between screenings.