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The Sitges Film Festival closes its doors with 30% higher attendance

Jupiter’s Moon, a refugee-drama mixed with science fiction, took home the Best Picture award

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16 October 2017 06:24 PM

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ACN | Rachel Bathgate

The Sitges Film Festival is over, and its numbers show that people are more into fantasy and horror than ever. A total of 200,000 people attended the festival, for a total of 66,136 tickets sold. This, compared to the 61,010 sold in 2016. In the last three years, sales have indeed increased by 30%, “good news, considering the situation” according to festival director Ángel Sala. The 2017 edition of the film festival marked its 50th anniversary

A renowned jury panel

The festival has also announced which productions won its many awards. Five great names from the film and book world of fantasy and horror were on the jury panel: filmmaker Gary Sherman, writer and critic David J. Skal, writer Nick Antosca, screenwriter and film director Alberto Marini, and independent producer Hattie Yu.

The female gaze and an open mind

Festival director Àngel Sala noted how the festival had “opened its doors to the female gaze,” something which had previously been excluded in the genre. Additionally, Sala noted how the Sitges Film Festival tries to be more open than other European festivals, giving films that were rejected or mistreated by other events “a second life or a second chance.”

The jury awarded a special prize to the psychological thriller Thelma, a film that also won Best Screenplay. French female-directed gore dystopia won Best Direction, and emotional tale of love and loss Ghost Story won Best Picture. Additionally, Frank Langella, the actor who played Dracula in the 1979 eponymous horror flick, was presented with the Grand Honorary Award.

  •  “We recover films that were mistreated at other festivals and, here, we give them a second life or a second opportunity" 

    Àngel Sala · Sitges Film Festival director 

Jupiter’s Moon, a “unanimous” decision

Jupiter’s Moon, a genre-bending science fiction-cum-refugee drama, came away with both Best Film and Best Special Effects. This decision, according to the panel of judges, was “unanimous.”

The Hungarian film directed by Kornél Mundruczó follows the story of Aryan, a young immigrant who’s shot while trying to illegally cross the border. His new wound gives him the ability to levitate, and with the help of Dr. Stern, it allows him to escape from a refugee camp. Then, Stern sees an opportunity to exploit the young refugee’s superpower.

The filming of Jupiter’s Moon was an investigative process in and of itself, according to the director, including more than 100 hours of footage shot about the Hungarian refugee crisis. All of the sets are real, as well, with nothing filmed in the studio. The only thing that was imagined was the refugee camp itself due to filming restrictions.  

A learning opportunity

Through the film, Mundruczó wants to remind us that the refugee crisis in Europe is not only “nothing new,” and should inasmuch be approached as a learning opportunity, but also that for that very reason it’s more of an opportunity than a challenge. Indeed, the protagonist of the film, one who could be “an angel” according to the director, also acts as a “societal criticism.”

Breaking the female stereotype in cinema

Other films included the French film Revenge, the debut of director Coralie Fargeat. The director explained that with her work, she wanted to address the issue of clichés, indeed breaking “how women are represented in cinema.” Indeed, the female character in the film – a seemingly weak and vapid personality and the object of men’s desire – undergoes as “transformation.”

The plot of the film follows three rich, married men who go hunting together. One of them brings his lover along for the ride, who soon catches the eye of the other two. Things get out of hand and the three men end up leaving the woman for dead in the middle of nowhere. But she comes back, for a gory hunt of her own.

From Catalonia

Two Catalan names in the festival were Black Hollow Cage and Cunetas. While being from the same part of the world, the two films could not be more different.

Cunetas, a short film by Pau Teixidor, portrays a family during the Spanish Civil War facing fascism and kidnapping. This mix of horror, drama, and action is an effort to “recover historical memory,” according to director Teixidor, specifically about those who were disappeared during the Franco regime. “There are people who say we want to open wounds,” Teixidor noted, but he explained that instead, he wanted to “open the common graves,” in the country, the very same where many people disappeared into.

Meanwhile, Black Hollow Cage aims to address the concept of regret, the idea of going back in time to rectify mistakes. This Catalan produced feature length was directed by Sadrac Gonzàlez Perellón, and it revolves around a little girl who has lost her mother and an arm in an accident, with added elements of a mysterious persecutor, two lost children, and a magical black box. The director described the unique film as an “intimate drama covered in science fiction.” This is the first production from Barcelona Asallam Films.

A varied selection

Other films shown were The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s comedy on the cult classic The Room, the Irish gothic horror film The Lodgers, the redemption-through-violence Brawl in Cell Block 99, and the Mexican abuse and possession piece El Habitante.

Death and reality in the age of misinformation

The festival already has big plans for 2018. That year it will be the anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey; according to Sala, this represents the best film in history made by the best director. The theme to go with the cult classic will tackle such issues as death and reality, in an age where public opinion is mediated by cyberspace, the cloud, and fake news. “The truth is in danger, we don’t really know what reality is,” Sala commented, noting the danger of when opinions on social media become “dogma.” 

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  • The official jury panel for the Sitges Film Festival 2017 right before announcing the awards recipients (by ACN)

  • The official jury panel for the Sitges Film Festival 2017 right before announcing the awards recipients (by ACN)