Sitges: 50 years old

From October 5 to 15, the cinema festival returns to the seaside town to celebrate five decades devoted to fantasy films

The Sitges Film Festival this year reaches its 50th edition, with a special focus on the figure of Dracula and a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the world’s most famous vampire. Between October 5 and 15, the popular festival devoted to fantasy, horror and sci-fi films will have hundreds of screenings, including a number of premieres, such as the European debut of Leatherface, a screen return for the chainsaw wielding maniac from the legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. The festival also attracts some of the world’s biggest names in film, and this year’s patron will be Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro, whose fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth, opened the festival in 2006.

The origins of the festival go back to 1968, when the first International Fantastic and Horror Film Week took place in the seaside town. In the intervening years, as Sitges has grown into one of Catalonia’s most popular holiday destinations, its festival has also grown to become one of the country’s –and Europe’s– most important film festivals. Beginning with two venues for screenings, the Retiro and the Prado, the festival added the 1,300-seater Auditori for its 25th anniversary edition in 1992. Last year, the festival added a fourth venue, the Tramuntana, located in the Hotel Meliá Sitges.

The festival opens on October 5 with a screening of patron Del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water, a fantasy tale set during the Cold War. Another highlight of the festival is the world premiere of Paul Urkijo’s latest film, Errementari, based on a Basque folk tale and produced by Álex de la Iglesia and Carolina Bang. Also to be screened will be Annabelle: Creation, the latest instalment in The Conjuring saga, directed by David F. Sandberg, horror thriller Mom and Dad, starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, and The Ritual, an adaptation of the horror novel by Adam Nevill.

Festival sections

Some of the most interesting and original screenings at Sitges are to be found among the festival’s different sections, which focus on specific genres or styles. For example, the Noves Visions section, devoted to experimental film, will screen Most Beautiful Island, the prizewinning directorial debut of Ana Asensio, the sci-fi film Marjorie Prime, starring Jon Hamm, and the sci-fi romantic comedy, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Meanwhile, the Panorama Fantàstic section, devoted to independent films, will feature Creep 2 and the Turkish horror film, Housewife, while the thriller from Japanese director Ryûhei Kitamura, Downrange, is one of the highlights of the festival’s Midnight X-treme section, devoted to more extreme films.

Sitges has also increasingly worked with other events and institutions, an example this year being the exhibition, Memòria del fantàstic. Curated by Diego López, the retrospective exhibition brings together all sorts of materials associated with the film festival during its history, from programmes and posters to catalogues and books. The exhibition runs from October 5 to the 24 in the Reial Cercle Artístic in Barcelona, after which it will move to Sitges.

Also this year, the festival reached out to the Étrange Film Festival in Paris. In September, Sitges teamed up with the Ramon Llull Institute to provide a special focus on the Catalan fantastic film genre in Paris, as part of the celebrations for Sitges’ 50th anniversary.

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