POSSESSOR, THE STYLIST, MANIBULES and More at Sitges 2020
Of all the festivals I'm not able to attend this year, Sitges will be the most missed. Not only does it take place in the most beautiful town on the planet, but the festival line-up is always packed with variety, with films big and small, crowd-pleasing and obscure, and an audience ready to soak it all up. Like many fests, Sitges will be an online/live hybrid; but as we know from the past few months, that does not mean a drop in the quality of the content. And, as always, Sitges is not known as the best genre festival in the world for nothing.
The theme of this year is The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, often sited as once of the first horror films; it emcompasses so much of what we all love about horror - a monster, a villain, creeping dread, loss of control. A poignant theme for a world trapped in a bizarre timeline. In keeping with the weirdness, the Grand Honorary Award recipient will be renaissance man David Lynch: director, screenwriter, actor, painter, weather reporter.
And so far, the titles showcase an amazing variety. From North American, the new film from Bruce LaBruce Saint-Narcisse; there's Brandon Cronenberg's Possessor; the international premiere of Jill Gevargizian's The Stylist; Justin McConnell's documentary on the indie film business, The Clapboard Jungle; and Archenemy, from Adam Egypt Mortimer.
Very exciting will be the latest film from Juanma Bajo Ulloa, Baby; Bajo Ulloa is one of the hidden gems of Spanish fantastic film, with films such as La madre muerta and Airbag making their mark in decades past. Then there's Mandibules, the latest from the weird mind of Quentin Dupieux; and May the Devil Take You Too, the only way to name a sequel, from Indonesian filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto.
More details in the press release below, and I'm envious of all my friends and colleagues in Spain who will be able to attend.
Possessor, Wendy, Baby and Mandibules head a line-up that also includes the 40th anniversary of the classics Flash Gordon and The Empire Strikes Back. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) thrilled, shook up and had a huge impact on audiences a century ago. Sitges 2020 embraces this spirit and brings it to the present day, with a line-up that aims to capture the latest trends in fantastic films and delight fans.
Cutting edge genre will be the star of the 53rd Sitges - International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. A unique edition with a hybrid format combining on-site and online, and which reaffirms the excellent moment that fantastic films are experiencing. From October 8th to 18th, Sitges will be the meeting point for genre lovers. Both in the Festival's theaters and across the screen, thanks to the Shift72 online content platform, it will be possible to enjoy a daring, top-level line-up.
The latest releases will be combined with the rediscovery of classics and recognition for an inimitable personality in film history, David Lynch. The American filmmaker embodies the concept of the total artist, with multiple facets within the film world (director, screenwriter, producer or actor) and in other arts such as painting, music, design or advertising. Lynch will receive the Sitges Film Festival's Grand Honorary Award (for lifetime achievement in film), a presentation that will be made virtually due to the prevailing circumstances. David Lynch's work speaks for itself and is well known to any film buff. From Eraserhead (1977) to Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), his creations invite the viewer to take a journey through dreams, surrealism, fears and human obsessions. The Elephant Man (1980), the film that will close Sitges 2020 celebrating its 40th anniversary with its remastered 4K restoration; Dune (1984); Blue Velvet (1986), the Festival’s winning feature film in 1986; Wild at Heart (1990); Lost Highway (1997); The Straight Story (1999); Mulholland Drive (2001) or Inland Empire (2006), make up a masterful body of works on film that Sitges 2020 will be paying tribute to.
The Official Fantastic in Competition Selection will offer a sample of the season's most relevant films. In addition to the previously announced Peninsula, Sputnik, Relic or La vampira de Barcelona, there will be a bunch of movies with different themes and origins. Brandon Cronenberg, who picked up the award for best new director in Sitges for Antiviral in 2012, will present Possessor, a horror film about a secret organization that uses brain implant technology to inhabit other people's bodies for the purpose of driving them to commit assassinations. Wendy, directed by Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), will be another of the most eagerly awaited films. Lost on a mysterious island where time and aging have come unglued, Wendy will have to fight to save her family, her freedom and her joyful spirit from the mortal peril of growing up.
Also included in the wide range of Spanish productions this year will be Baby (World Premiere), a very personal work by Juanma Bajo Ulloa (Butterfly Wings, La madre muerta, Airbag) which was endorsed by Sitges as part of the Fantastic 7 project. A young drug addict, unable to look after her baby properly, sells it to a mysterious woman but will soon regret her decision.
Quentin Dupieux, a regular in Sitges with unique comedies such as Rubber (2010), Au poste! (2018) or Le daim (2019) will be presenting Mandibules,this time featuring giant flies. Absurd and almost surreal humor is also the source of the French film Teddy, by twins Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma. The story of a young man attacked by a beast who begins to feel a certain animal drive. And even more comedy: Save Yourselves!, by Alex Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, presents a New York couple who, fearing that their addiction to technology might destroy their love, decide to spend their vacation in a cabin in the woods. Something that will prevent them from realizing that aliens have invaded the Earth. In Polish director Filip Jan Rymsza’s Mosquito State, an obsessive Wall Street data analyst finds similar patterns between his computer models and the mosquitoes in his apartment.
Sitges 2020 will also welcome several world premieres, including three science fiction and action movies, respectively. Romain Quirot's Le dernier voyage de Paul W.R. is a sci-fi piece that begins with the disappearance of astronaut Paul W.R., who was assigned to an important mission to save the Earth. Meanwhile, Archenemy, by Adam Egypt Mortimer, director of Daniel Isn’t Real (Sitges 2019) and Some Kind of Hate (Sitges 2015), features a hero from another dimension who accidentally falls to Earth, where he is unable to use his powers. Meanwhile, Russian director Arseny Sukha's Superdeep is set in 1984 in the Arctic Circle, 12,000 meters below ground, where the largest secret laboratory in the Soviet Union is located.
One of the most suggestive endeavors in the selection is The Book of Vision, a period drama directed by newcomer Carlo Hintermann and produced by Terrence Malick. A medical student discovers an 18th century manuscript, containing the emotions, fears and dreams of a multitude of patients. A film that reveals a strong influence from the Canadian filmmaker responsible for The Tree of Life.
More new features in Sitges 2020's parallel sections, which bring together films of a risky and transversal nature. Jonathan Nossiter's Last Words will open New Visions with a futuristic story where the Earth has become a great desert. A young man will attempt to build a camera to film the final moments of a devastated humanity. The controversial Bruce La Bruce (L.A. Zombie) will present Saint-Narcisse, an intimate film with touches of comedy about a young man searching for his mother, who lives in a remote cabin in the woods in the company of a mysterious woman. Also in the realm of comedy, the unclassifiable Juan Cavestany presents An Optical Illusion, starring Carmen Machi and Pepón Nieto, who play a married couple from Burgos travelling to New York and who, once there, realize that it's actually another city. The Stylist, directed by Jill Gevargizian, introduces a very special hairdresser. Many people visit her chair and sometimes, her scissors cut something other than hair, allowing her to take home a unique souvenir to add to her exclusive collection.
Opening the Panorama Fantàstic section will be the world premiere of Cody Calahan’s Vicious Fun, a very dark comedy tinged with retro neons about a therapy group for serial killers. In this section you can also see Vurdalak Blood, an Argentinian film directed by Santiago Fernández Calvete, an adaptation of a vampire story from 1939. May the Devil Take You Too is the sequel to the Indonesian film directed by Timo Tjahjanto, screened at Sitges 2018, and which continues along the lines of the supernatural terror in the first part.
The 53rd edition of the Sitges Film Festival will also be a time to remember and commemorate major fantastic genre films that are celebrating their anniversaries. Added to the previously announced The Elephant Man (40th anniversary and Sitges 2020 closing film) and Total Recall (30th anniversary), are Flash Gordon, directed by Mike Hodges, and Star Wars. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner. Both movies are celebrating their 40th anniversary and will receive a tribute as essential pieces in the history of fantastic genre.