07-10-2021 19:45

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Belén Rueda and Ana Lily Amirpour, Stars of Sitges 2021's Opening Day

The red carpet is all decked out to kick off the Festival's 54th edition with the presence of the award-winning actress and the director of the opening night film, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Sitges 2021 is now a reality. Starting today, eleven days brimming with films that bring together the latest trends in a fantastic genre that's more alive than ever. From today and until October 17th, Sitges will be taking the pulse of the most recent and innovative genre films in a year marked by the image of the werewolf and the beast within. The latest works by well-established directors will coexist with new interpretations of fantastic genre in stimulating feature debuts that are sure to fill the headlines of this Festival's columns.

The 54th edition opened today, Thursday, with a kick-off marked by the film competition's classic screening for schools, which this year introduced the directorial debut of special effects expert Yusuke Hirota, with his Poupelle of Chimney Town, one of the highlights of the Anima’t section. Also presented in the same category was Pompo: The Cinéphile (Eiga Daisuki Pompo-San), the new feature film by veteran filmmaker Takayuri Hirao, experienced director of anime series and films such as Death Note (2007) and Attack on Titans (2017).

Women directors and actresses were the focus of attention today in an edition that began by rewarding Belén Rueda's track record as the undisputed national scream queen. The Madrid-born performer's long and successful career has been closely linked to genre cinema with famous roles like the one that earned her a nomination for best actress at the Goya Awards with The Orphanage (2007) or films that have been screened in Sitges like Julia’s Eyes (2010) and The Body (2012). The actress received the Grand Honorary Award from her dearest friend J. A. Bayona and publicly thanked him for the honor before presenting, along with directors Lucas Paulino and Ángel Torres, the Official Selection's opening night short film that she stars in, La inquilina. Next, filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour resented the film that opened Sitges 2021, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, a nighttime journey accompanying Jong-seo Jun, a girl with strange powers and special abilities, in her reinsertion into society after fleeing from a center for the mentally ill where she had been confined.

Like every year, the gala presented by Melina Matthews and Dafnis Balduz featured speeches by the Director of the Foundation, Mónica García Massagué, and the Director of the Festival, Ángel Sala, and authorities such as Beatriz Navas, Director General of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Sports (ICAA), Natalia Garriga, Minister of Culture of the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Miquel Curanta, director of the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises of the Generalitat de Catalunya (ICEC), Aurora Carbonell, Mayor of the Sitges Town Council, and Xavier Salmeron, Councilman for Culture for the Sitges Town Council.

At noon, the American filmmaker and a great friend of the Festival, Ana Lily Amirpour, who appeared at a press conference accompanied by her dog Benny, said in regards to the feminist debate: who appeared at a press conference accompanied by her dog Benny, said in regards to the feminist debate: "There will be equality when men are also asked how it feels to direct films as a man". Regarding the optimism that the film exudes, she commented: "We are constantly immersed in a system that destroys us. I have the feeling that we're always pissed off. I like to look for the beautiful things in the chaos we are immersed in. I'm aware that being optimistic is much more complicated, it requires some effort, but I never stop trying”.

The women's perspective was also present in other first-day films, such as the debut of Prano Bailey-Bond in the immersive Censor, he triumphant return of Julia Ducornau with the outstanding winner of Cannes 2021, Titane or the lycanthropic Bloodthirsty, directed by Amelia Moses. Regarding other sections, it was possible to see Patrick Ridremont's terrifying thriller Le Calendrier (The Advent Calendar), in Panorama Fantàstic, Alien on Stage, an original project documented by Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey from the theatrical adaptation of Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Ridley Scott in Sitges Documenta, or the lycanthropic black humor of Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben, 2021).

Within the framework of parallel activities, between today and tomorrow you can now visit some of the exhibitions that this year use the leitmotiv of the beast within as a reference: “The Return of Waldermar Daninsky” at the Estudi Vidal, “Werewolf Comix: Tribute to the Werewolf", located at the exit of the Auditorium for audiences, the traveling exhibition “Women who are Scary” at the Santiago Rusiñol Public Library and the Josep Roig i Raventós Library, and the drawings made by children from Sitges’ schools at the Mercat Vell (Old Market). The new King Kong Area has also been installed, offering Festival fans places to fill their stomachs, share experiences, relax with fascinating views or buy souvenirs in the Fanshop Area.

The industry activities also kicked off with the Sitges Pitchbox online organized by the Filmarket Hub and Sitges, an international event focused on the development of horror, science fiction or fantasy projects, which this year's godfather is director and screenwriter Mick Garris, and whose official jurors include Ana Díez, developer of original fiction series for Movistar +, actress, producer and creator Nina Dögg Filippusdótti, and Candela Izquierdo, executive producer at Federation Spain. The European series presented were: Dark Road, In Your Skin, Madriz, Nexo and Bad Teeth (Strigoi).

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