Sitges celebrates its 50th anniversary with a lineup looking to the new millennium
The Festival, opening with ‘The Shape of Water’, the film that just recently won the Venice Golden Lion, will be closing with the gothic horror film ‘The Lodgers’
The Sitges Film Festival reaches its 50th year paying tribute to the classics, and it will be doing it accompanied by four important guests: Guillermo del Toro, Susan Sarandon, Dario Argento and William Friedkin, who are all key for understanding the evolution that fantasy has experienced over the last few decades. To this end, its lineup is fueled by filmmakers, men and women, who are destined to become the fantastic genre leaders of the new millennium. In addition, the Festival will be entering headlong into the future of the universe of virtual reality screening, thanks to Samsung Sitges Cocoon, and of the new frontiers of distribution, where online platforms have a lot to say. This is the chronicle of Sitges 2017.
The Sitges Festival reaches its half century mark, and it’s doing it staying true to its roots: remembering the fantastic film classics that have passed through its theaters since that first screening that took place in the Prado movie theater in 1968. To recall this milestone, this upcoming September 28th, the Prado will be welcoming the screening of Aelita (Yakov Protazanov, 1924), now a Soviet science fiction classic. But there will be more. Along with Guillermo del Toro, Dario Argento and William Friedkin, Sitges will be rediscovering films like The Exorcist (1973), Suspiria (1977) or Crimson Peak (2015), key to understanding the evolution of fantastic genre from the late 20th century until reaching the new millennium. The Festival will also be paying tribute to actress Susan Sarandon, star of the cult movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and who would later become one of the great ladies of Hollywood.
Irish director Brian O'Malley will be closing Sitges’ 50th anniversary edition with The Lodgers, a gothic horror story set in early 20th century rural Ireland, just recently presented at the Toronto Festival.
The framework behind the lineup that can be seen at the Festival, from October 5th to 15th, is made up of the work of young filmmakers from the United States, Latin America, Asia and Europe, who are destined to become the leaders of fantastic genre over the upcoming years. Brian Taylor, Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Emilio Portes, Cho Sun-ho, Andrés Goteira, among others, will be making their mark at a Festival that, far from conforming, searches for new talent capable of reinventing genre both in its language, and its storylines. Writer and director Brian Taylor directs Mom and Dad, his first solo film following the indispensable Crank. Mom and Dad, with a hilarious storyline, a bizarre epidemic that causes lethally violent attacks of parents against their kids. It stars Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair in a genre fan fest. Meanwhile, S. Craig Zahler –who dazzled us with his feature length debut, Bone Tomahawk– returns to Sitges with the brutal Brawlin Cell Block 99, where an ex-boxer turned drug dealer lands in a prison that will wind up becoming a genuine battel field. Arriving from the United States we can also see Happy Death Day, an amusing horror comedy directed by Christopher Landon, which combines the storylines of Scream and Groundhog Day until it drives Jessica Rothe (La La Land) crazy, seeing a masked man kill he over and over again.
A storyline, time, that will also be featured in the Korean film A Day, by newbie Cho Sun-ho, where a famous surgeon witnesses an accident during which he sees his daughter die. A scene that will be repeated in an endless loop, and where the father will try to change his daughter’s fate. Following a 2016 where the big Asian authors cornered the Sitges Festival’s lineup, this year viewers will be able to confirm that there is life beyond great titles like The Handmaiden, with films like, for example, the Taiwanese mon mon mon Monsters, by Giddens Ko, which combines high school bullying with supernatural horror in a film overflowing with talent and ingenuity and that is one of the big surprises the Festival presents each year. Other outstanding debuts in the Asian selection are the film by Jonathan Li (assistant director on the Infernal Affairs trilogy) who presents The Brink, a 100% made in Hong Kong thriller, starring Shawn Yue, that’s going to be a shocker; and the new film from Lee Sa-Rang who with Real, achieves a cross between Nicolas Winding Refn and the best Korean thrillers.
The Canadian Les affamés, by Robin Aubert –known for the unsettling Saints-Martyrs-des-Damnés–, reinvents the zombie genre with an intellectualized and now almost cult vision, after its screening at the Toronto and Austin festivals. Another one of this year’s big debuts, which consolidates the role of female filmmakers in genre film, is the one from French director Coralie Fargeat. Her debut feature Revenge exudes a violence with a nod to the 70s classics, and contains a final climax that will be a dream for fantastic genre lovers. From Hungary comes Jupiter's Moon, by Kornél Mundruczó –author of the extraordinary White God–, a director who has always intelligently introduced the fantasy element in his films, making it a perfect visual mechanism. On the other hand, in The Ritual British David Bruckner plays with textures that go beyond Blair Witch or The Witch, to achieve a horror movie that has enjoyed an excellent reception in Toronto. More European talent this year in Sitges with Thelma, by Norwegian Joachim Trier whom, from an auteur point of view, presents a supernatural thriller that examines human existence; with the Russian blockbuster Salyut-7, a film that narrates the rescue of the Salyut 7 space station in 1985; or with the spectacular Dutch western Brimstone, starring Dakota Fanning and Guy Pearce.
Latin America continues banking on the fantastic genre with the Brazilian film As boas maneiras, a story halfway between real and oneiric about the power of motherly love, directed by Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas; El habitante, by Uruguayan Guillermo Amoedo, winner of the Award for Best Latin American Feature Film with The Stranger in 2014; or the terrifying Belzebuth, by Mexican Emilio Portes. Once again, Catalan talent will be present at the Festival with several productions, including the latest work by Jaume Balagueró: Muse. Sitges will also be offering Sergio G. Sánchez’s debut feature, with Marrowbone, and programming films like Dhogs by Andrés Goteira, an independent production that tells the story of a chance meeting between a businessman and a mysterious woman, which leads us to a clandestine adventure, a desert and a crime; and Black Hollow Cage, by Sadrac González-Perellón, a film that blends the horror genre with the science fiction genre. Completing the Spanish scene are Errementari, the latest production by Álex de la Iglesia and Carolina Bang, directed by Paul Urkijo; Most Beautiful Island, directed by female filmmaker Ana Asensio, which will open the Noves Visions One section, and Arder, Compulsión and The Biggest Thing That Ever Hit Broadway, three titles from the most contemporary Spanish independent cinema.
The documentary, always present in the Festival’s lineup, will be represented by films like 78/52, by Alexandre O. Philippe –who has presented several documentaries at previous Festival editions–, that will be in the Official in-competition Selection. The piece closely analyzes the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Along with it, we can also see Caniba, following its screening at the Venice Mostra, a film directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, which reflects the disconcerting importance of cannibalistic desire in human existence.
Samsung Sitges Cocoon, series, animation…
Also this year, on its 50th anniversary, the Sitges Festival is taking a step forward and reinforcing the presence of virtual reality through Samsung Sitges Cocoon, which is expanding its lineup this year with two new venues, and that now includes an official in-competition selection that will be evaluated by an official jury, presided over by Jaume Balagueró and Javier Olivares. French director Alexandre Aja (High Tension) will be presenting Campfire Creepers, the first virtual reality horror series with 360º vision, and Guy Shelmerdine, director of Catatonic, a stunning piece that could be seen in last year’s Samsung Sitges Cocoon, returns with Night, Night, a terrifying experience about children’s fears.
Genre series productions will also be playing an important role this year with screenings at the Auditori itself. Movistar+ premieres La Zona; and we can also see the presentation of the second season of Stranger Things attended by Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp, two of its stars, or the screening of the Korean Okja, and What Happened to Monday?, made by a director who’s very well-known at the Festival, Norwegian Tommy Wirkola.
Since 1995, Sitges has dedicated a space to animation. This year, it will be paying tribute to the hundred years of Japanese animation, and it will be doing it with the programming of five animated films from Japan in the Anima't section, including the multi award winning Lu Over the Wall, or A Silent Voice, which has enjoyed a spectacular run on Asian screens. But without forgetting European animation, with gems like the French Loving Vincent.
This upcoming September Monday 18th (at 13:00), will be the start of the presale of tickets –for ticket pack holders–, and on Tuesday 19th (at 13:00), general tickets will go on sale.