Last October I got the chance to pop my Sitges Film Festival cherry, and as they say, you never forget your first time.
But there’s a reason why the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia is considered by many as the world’s most important genre movie showcase, and this week’s press conference announcement of the preliminary list of films and guests left me sweaty-palmed and impatient as hell to cover this year’s event, particularly when it was brought to our attention that the likes of Bruce Campbell and Rob Zombie, to name just a couple, would be putting in appearances.
Note that this is merely the preliminary list of films and guests heading to Sitges this October 7th to 16th, so watch this space for even more kinds of awesomeness as and when news rolls out…
From the Press Release:
The 2016 Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia will be attended by Rob Zombie and will be awarding prizes to Bruce Campbell, Paul Schrader, Walter Koenig, Barbara Crampton and Dolph Lundgren
The world’s most important genre movie showcase is preparing its 49th festival with a collection of titles and guests representing the best and most varied in fantastic film. Pure horror; explosive thrillers; futuristic science fiction; reinterpreted zombies and vampires, and the most unclassifiable films will complete the lineup at the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, to be held from October 7th to 16th. In addition, this year the Festival arrives with the Trekkie spirit as a backdrop, including a handful of events to celebrate the saga’s 50th anniversary.
Swedish actor Max von Sydow, with an extensive filmography full of memorable titles, will be visiting Sitges 2016 to receive the Grand Honorary Award. Von Sydow was a pet actor for Ingmar Bergman –his mentor– in films like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries or The Magician; he played Jesus Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told and he’s known worldwide for his role as Father Merrin in The Exorcist. In a career spanning over 60 years, he has worked under the orders of great directors like David Lynch (Dune), Woody Allen (Hannah and her Sisters), Lars von Trier (Europa), Dario Argento (Sleepless), Steven Spielberg (Minority Report), Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) or Ridley Scott (Robin Hood), among an endless list of others. He most recently participated in the sixth season of “Game of Thrones.”
Rob Zombie, the multifaceted cult director and artist among horror movie fans, will be a very eagerly awaited guest at Sitges 2016, along with his wife and muse, actress Sheri Moon Zombie. The director and musician, who received the Grand Honorary Award at Sitges 2014, will be presenting 31, a slasher movie set in the 1970’s programmed by Sundance.
Another illustrious guest this year will be actor and director Bruce Campbell, a fantastic film and TV icon, known worldwide for his role as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead trilogy. Campbell will receive the Time Machine Award at Sitges 2016.
One of the most eagerly awaited and controversial films following its screening at Cannes is The Neon Demon, the latest creation from Nicolas Winding Refn (Time Machine Award winner at Sitges 2015). A radical, thought-provoking horror thriller about the fashion world, starring Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves and Christina Hendricks, which fans will be able to enjoy in Sitges.
Another high voltage thriller in this year’s lineup is Dog Eat Dog, a neo-noir film directed by veteran Paul Schrader, starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe in the role of ex-cons hired to pull off an abduction in the city of Los Angeles. Schrader will also be receiving the Time Machine Award in Sitges.
The lineup will also include the dystopian The Girl With All the Gifts, directed by Colm McCarthy–also screened at Cannes, that addresses the zombie issue from a different angle, with its recreation of an apocalyptic London. The Void, one of the best independent horror films of the year, directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, will also be at Sitges. The director of Oculus, Mike Flanagan, will be presenting Before I Wake, continuing with the supernatural horror theme, and this year David Mackenzie, who presented Starred Up at the 2014 Festival, will be bringing the dark thriller Hell or High Water, starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine.
Catalan fantastic cinema will making a big impact at Sitges 2016. We’ll be presenting Proyecto Lázaro, directed by Mateo Gil, a futuristic film with an international cast about a group of doctors who manage to revive a man frozen cryogenically 60 years ago. One of the most active Catalan directors currently in the United States is Carles Torrens, who presented Emergo at Sitges 2011 and won the Cine 365 Film Award at Sitges 2014 with his short Sequence. Now Torrens returns with Pet, a stifling, obsessive thriller starring Dominic Monaghan. We’ll also be screening La propera pell, directed by Isaki Lacuesta (who presented Cravan vs. Cravan at Sitges 2003) and Isa Campo, a film that picked up four awards in Malaga, including the Special Jury Award. Completing this preview of Catalan cinema are the directorial debuts of Iván Morillo and Denise Castro, entitled Vestigis and Salvación, respectively.
Fantastic Geographies: Asia and Latin America
Asian cinema will be hitting Sitges 2016 hard, becoming, as usual, one of the cornerstones of the Festival. From South Korea, Park Chan-wook will be presenting The Handmaiden, a sublimely morbid erotic thriller that the director of Oldboy premiered at Cannes and which was very well received by the critics. Also screened at Cannes –and from Korea– The Wailing and Train to Busan, directed by Na Hong-jin and Yeon Sang-ho, respectively. A murder thriller by the director of The Yellow Sea, in the first case, and a frenetic zombie horror film in the second. From Hong Kong arrives Three, directed by Johnnie To, action and psychological intrigue from an expert genre director. Japan will be bringing Terra Formars, by Sitges regular Takashi Miike, on this occasion with an adaptation of the cyberpunk manga of the same name. Another live action Japanese manga adaptation will be Assassination Classroom: The Graduation, the sequel to Assassination Classroom, directed by Eichiiro Hasumi. The director of Blue in the Face or Smoke, Wayne Wang, will be presenting While the Women Are Sleeping, the adaptation of the short story by Javier Marías Mientras ellas duermen, precisely starring Takeshi Kitano.
Young Mexican cinema included under the Blood Window label will be represented by Tenemos la carne, directed by Emiliano Rocha, a feature debut without taboos or prejudices that takes place in a dark and desolate post-apocalyptic Mexico, and by Desierto, directed by Jonás Cuarón –Alfonso’s son–, that portrays the obstacles that must be overcome by people trying to cross the border with the United States in search of a better future, in a film starring García Bernal.
As usual, Midnight X-Treme will be offering the wildest, most festive screenings, with films like Sadako vs. Kayako, a supernatural Japanese horror film directed by Kôji Shiraishi; Karate Kill!, by Kurando Mitsutake, an action movie also from Japan; Don’t Kill It, a film directed by Mike Mendez where Dolph Lundgren battles demons, or the feature debut by Jackson Stewart, Beyond the Gates, a horror film that pays tribute to the decade of the 80s and that stars a horror movie legend, Barbara Crampton, who will receive a Time Machine Award. Lundgren, actor and director, and one of the maximum exponents of action and martial arts films, will also receive a prize at Sitges: an Honorary Maria Award.
New ways to treat genre
A large handful of films offering different visions of fantastic genre will be landing at the Festival to show that genre is in one of its very best moments. The Eyes of My Mother is Nicolas Pesce’s debut film, a realistic, adventurous, tiny black and white horror gem, with Lynchian touches presented at Sundance and Cannes. Vampires seen in a new light are featured in The Transfiguration, Michael O’Shea’s feature debut, yet another discovery in Cannes. A new, future society where human emotions have been eradicated is the one set out in Equals, directed by Drake Doremus and starring Kristen Stewart and Guy Pierce. The Greasy Strangler, directed by Jim Hosking, considered one of the most disgusting comedies of the year at Sundance; and the surprising documentary Tickled, directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, are two clear examples of new genre perspectives. Closing this first lineup preview is the Irish Billy O’Brien, with the adaptation of the novel by the same name I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, with a first class star: Christopher Lloyd.
Retrospectives and tributes
As its visible figure, the Star Trek universe boasts the character of Chekov from the original series, played by Walter Koenig, who will be visiting Sitges 2016 on the occasion of the celebration of the saga’s 50th anniversary and who will receive a Time Machine Award. The documentary For the Love of Spock, directed by Adam Nimoy, an approach by Leonard Nimoy’s son to the point of view of his father, the legendary Mr. Spock, will also be at the Festival. Trekkies are in for a treat because Sitges 2016 will be celebrating the Star Trek Walk, a parade through the streets of Sitges in honor of this cult saga, on Wednesday 12 October. The Festival will rely on the collaboration of the Star Trek Club Association.
There will also be two exhibitions dedicated to Star Trek, distributed between the Miramar Building and Maricel Palace. The first will be composed of all sorts of different material from private collections: figures, comics, models, props, autographed photos, books and assorted merchandise. The second will be a compilation of illustrations created by different artists from around Spain, paying tribute to the saga’s universe.
As previously announced, Sitges 2016 will be presenting a retrospective on the Communist bloc, under the title Red Planet Marx: the (Soviet) conquest of outer space, which will include a selection of fantastic genre films from 1957 to 1978 produced in currently non-existing states, like the USSR and Czechoslovakia. Ikarie XB-1, directed by Czech Jindrich Polák, is one of the selected films. Each screening will be presented by a specialist on the subject and will include a post-screening.
The Festival will also be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Alien 2 (James Cameron, 1986), with a very special screening of this terrifying sequel that thrilled fans of the original film.
Brigadoon and Sitges Zombie Walk 2016
The Brigadoon section, with adventurous, independent screenings –always free of charge– offers a preview of a good selection of its trends. Among the feature films, it will be screening Peelers, directed by Sevé Schelenz, the story of the owner of a strip club in a small town in the U.S.A. that has to face a strange, infectious disease. You can also see Therapy, a found footage movie directed by a young Nathan Ambrosioni, just 16 years old.
Documentaries will have a significant place in Brigadoon, with the most wide-ranging stars from the fantastic universe. Sitges 2016 will be remembering the deceased Italian filmmaker Joe D’Amato with the documentary Joe D’Amato Totally Uncut: the Horror Experience, directed by Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici. Several films by the Italian director will also be screened. Actress Me Me Lai, who was a jury member at Sitges 2015 in the Focus Àsia section, is the star of the documentary Me Me Lai Bites Back: Resurrection of the Cannibal Queen, directed by Naomi Holwill.
Brigadoon will be paying tribute to filmmaker Joan Bosch, who passed away last November, with the screening of some of his films, like A sangre fría or La muerte llama a las diez.
As usual, the traditional Sitges Zombie Walk will take place on the Festival’s first Saturday, which will be October 8th and that will once again fill the center of town with zombies from all corners.
The Festival supports the industry: Sitges FilmHub
Sitges is an essential meeting place for sector professionals, who come together in an ideal venue for networking, for the purpose of sharing their projects and analyzing new channels of collaboration.
For the second year running, the Festival will be holding the Sitges Pitchbox, a session coordinated along with the Filmarket Hub platform offering genre feature film projects a chance to make a pitch to producers. This will take place on Friday, October 14th. The big news this year is the collaboration of the Barcelona Diputació (City Council), through its Department of Culture, with the endowment of three prizes that will be awarded by a jury of experts from among Sitges 2016’s guests (Sitges Pitchbox 2016 Winner: 6,000 Euros; Sitges Pitchbox 2016 Finalist: 4,000 Euros), and an international collaboration with the NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films). The winner will receive 5,000 Euros and will visit the 2017 BIFAN (Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, in South Korea), where his or her project will be invited to be presented to potential Korean co-producers. On behalf of the NAFF and the BIFAN there will be a reciprocal prize, the Sitges Pitchbox Award, which will allow the winner to visit Sitges 2016 as a guest of the Sitges Pitchbox.
The Festival is attuned to the current climate and is committed to new, experiential audiovisual narratives, which are presently experiencing rapid progress thanks to virtual reality. Sitges will reinforce its commitment to innovative technologies and formats in film production and consumption with the new Sitges Cocoon section.
Passes, tickets and accreditation
Sitges 2016 passed can be purchase as of this upcoming Thursday, July 21st via the Festival website. New this year, tickets for the opening and closing galas can also be purchased.
The period to apply for press passes starts on Monday, July 25th, also via the website.
Sitges’ 50th anniversary
1968-2018. The Festival already has its 50th anniversary in its crosshairs, to be held next year with a large number of actions that will take place all throughout the period between the end of the 49th Festival and the start of the 50th.
The first of these events will be the concert by Fabio Frizzi, as a part of his Zombie Apocalypse Tour. The concert will revolve around the compositions that Frizzi created for filmmaker Lucio Fulci, to whom his career is inevitably linked. The show will take place on November 1st at the Phenomena Movie Theater in Barcelona. Tickets will go on sale on Thursday 21 July.
In collaboration with the Ramon Llull Institute, and as a part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the organization of a Catalan Cinema festival has been planned, curated by the Festival, which will be taking place in London at the end of the year.
SGAE Nova Autoria
For the seventh year in a row, the SGAE Nova Autoria program will bring together short films by students from Catalan film schools as a part of the Festival. The selected fiction, animation and documentary shorts will compete for the SGAE Nova Autoria Awards for best screenplay, best direction and best original music. Through these prizes, the SGAE and the SGAE Foundation offer emerging authors the possibility of exhibiting their works and making them known to the general public in the setting of an audiovisual event with international scope.
Carnet Jove Jury
The Agència Catalana de la Joventut (Catalan Youth Agency), at the Catalonian Generalitat – the Autonomous Government – and the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, have just closed the call period to participate in the twelfth Carnet Jove Jury with a highly successful index of participation. The goal of the Carnet Jove Jury is to professionalize film reviewing and offer an opportunity to five young people interested in this field, or in the film world in general, so they can be a part of an official jury at one of the most prestigious film festivals and the number one in the world in the fantastic genre. The Carnet Jove Jury is incorporated in the Festival’s jury structures and presents two awards: the Carnet Jove Jury Award for the Best Feature Length Film from the Official Fantàstic In-Competition Selection and the Carnet Jove Jury Award for the Best Feature Length Film from the Midnight X-Treme section, a Festival category that contains horror genre movies with a more independent spirit.
Support for the 49th Sites Film Festival
Once again this year, the Festival is grateful for the commitment of all the collaborating entities and companies: Gas Natural Fenosa (main sponsor), Moritz and Torres (sponsors), Meliá Sitges (sponsor and official headquarters), Movistar+ (multimedia partner), Deluxe (collaborator), La Vanguardia (official newspaper), TV3 (official TV), Autolica – Mercedes Benz (official vehicle) and Bacardí (official cocktail).
Sitges 2016 is organized thanks to the participation of the Sitges Town Hall and the Catalonian Generalitat’s Department of Culture’s Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises) and is supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports’ Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts), the Barcelona Diputació (City Council) and the Carnet Jove – Departament de Benestar i Família (Department of Welfare and Family).