Sitges Film Festival

sitges-2016

I´ve been attending the Sitges Film Festival for as long as memory services.  And during that time it has moved from “Series B” horror films to “Series A” with a wide selection of the best in horror, terror, anguish and fantasy.  A full-fledged Festival which in past years has honored some of the most revered names in the film business.

A favored anecdote of mine took place many years in the lobby of the old Melia Sitges Hotel.  I was sitting in the lobby bar enjoy a drink – a vodka martini, I supposed – when a well and high-heeled young woman came rushing toward me, grabbed my arm and said the interview was about to begin.  Now I confess that I have been mistaken for actors before – I won´t say which ones – but she grabbed me by the arm and led me to a couch a discreet distance from where I was sitting and said, “This is Rolf – you have five minutes.”   Humbled that I was not mistaken for Ethan Hawke or even Al Pacino, I shook Mr. Lundgren´s hand and stared into his blues eyes.  While not particularly familiar with his filmography, I knew that his “Universal Soldier” was premiering at the Sitges Festival.  Tongue-tied and slightly embarrassed, I let a moment pass and then asked him, sotto voce, if it was true that he dyed his hair blond?  Rolf cracked a smile, nodded his head for the briefest of time, stood and shook my hand, announcing the interview over.

After long days of celuloide, zombies, screams and the beach, Cal Florit is the perfect location to chill out with a swim or a glass of wine.  A Modernist house with all modern comforts, it sleeps up to 14 people and is only 20 minutes to the center of Sitges.  The perfect respite for the highlights and lowlights of this year´s Sitges Film Festival.

The 49th Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia continues to chalk up titles. This evening, Festival Director Àngel Sala announced some of the new additions to Sitges 2016 in a conversation with the public at the Fàbrica Moritz Brewery in Barcelona. Horror films and thrillers right out of the oven will be a part of the lineup during a Festival year marked by the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Asian cinema continues to delight genre lovers with the confirmation of three different films from Japan, Korea and China at Sitges 2016. The first of them is Creepy, a psychological thriller directed by Japanese Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a Festival regular with films like Journey to the Shore, Cure or Seventh Code. A retired cop goes back to investigating when an ex-colleague requests his assistance in solving a family’s disappearance. From South Korea comes Kim Seong-hun’s The Tunnel, the second film from the director of A Hard Day, also seen in Sitges. Our hero in this disaster drama is a man left trapped in a collapsed tunnel. On a completely opposite note, Chinese film The Mermaid, directed by Stephen Chow, a movie full of absurd, hilarious humor that broke all box office records in its country, topping half a million dollars in proceeds for the very first time.

From the United States comes the independent horror production Anguish, Sonny Mallhi’s debut feature. A film that’s been compared to It Follows, not because of its storyline but its innovative, sophisticated side, which breaks new ground in genre cinema. A distressing drama revolving around a sixteen year old girl suffering from a multiple identity disorder. Another American film is Rupture, a science fiction thriller directed by Steven Shainberg (Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus) and starring Noomi Rapace, who plays a single mom trying to break free from a mysterious organization that has abducted her.

More psychological horror with the British The Autopsy of Jane Doe, directed by André Øvredal, the Norwegian director who presented Troll Hunter in Sitges 2011. Two forensic doctors –father and son, played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch respectively– receive the body of a young woman who has been murdered in unknown circumstances. During their investigation they’ll discover increasingly bizarre signs, which will lead them to discover terrible secrets.

Finally also confirmed, and straight from the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is Psycho Raman, the Indian film by Anurag Kashyap that follows the life of serial killer Ramanna in present day Mumbai, inspired by the real life murderer from the 1960’s, Raman Raghav. A drug addict cop investigates the case.

Sitges 2016 –a year focusing on the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek saga– has already announced some of its main award winners: veteran actor Max von Sydow will receive the Grand Honorary Award; Bruce Campbell, Paul Schrader, Walter Koenig and Barbara Crampton will acknowledged with the Time Machine Award and Dolph Lundgren with the Honorary Maria Award. Among the most eagerly awaited movies that will be filling the lineup are 31, directed by Rob Zombie, who will be visiting Sitges along with Sheri Moon Zombie; Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon; Colm McCarthy’s The Girl with All the Gifts; Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden; Mateo Gil’s Proyecto Lázaro; Emiliano Rocha’s Tenemos la carne, or David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, among more than forty previously announced titles.