36th Sitges Film Festival. 27/11/03 – 07/12/03
The 36th edition of the festival, my first, was staged two months later than it’s usual October slot (this was apparently done to take advantage of December’s lower facility costs to help address some of the festival’s recent financial difficulties). The Mediterranean town of Sitges providing a perfect backdrop to the festival while offering plenty to pass the time between films.
Our base for the festival, the Hotel Calipolis, allowed easy access to “Brigadoon”, the festival’s sales office located in the Edifici Miramar. In addition to ticket sales, Brigadoon hosted a diverse programme of free-to-see short and feature length films as well as film related exhibits and stands. As well as some great shorts we also managed to catch some classic (and not so classic) martial art films including some magical Chuck Norris moments.
The main festival programme consisted of Nine official sections – Fantastic Official, New visions, Gran angular, Sessions golfes, Orient express, Anima’t, Retrospective, Mondo macabro, and Seven chances – each attracting a diverse array of films from around the world.
The Auditori at the Hotel Melia is the festival’s main theatre. With an impressive 1,384 seating capacity and fantastic audio and visual facilities it’s the natural choice for the festival’s opening and closing ceremonies. The Melia is also home to festival offices and press rooms making it the festival’s nerve centre and celebrity central. However, for all it’s importance to the business side of things, the Melia remains refreshingly accessible to the public.
In contrast, the Cine El Retiro (600 seats) and Cine Prado (450 seats) provide a more intimate film going experience, reflecting the character of the town and more akin to the non-business side of the festival. Here visual and audio quality can be sacrificed (though still good) for good old fashioned atmosphere.
As novices to the festival and with such a varied selection of films to choose from we invariably missed more than we caught, including the eventual winner of Best Film, Zatoichi (Dir. Takeshi Kitano). However, films such as Ju-on: The grudge 2 (Dir.Takashi Shimizu), Haute Tension (Dir. Alexandre Aja) and So Close (Dir. Corey Yuen) gave us a glimpse of cinema Sitges style, where Asia, fantasy, anime, sci-fi, horror, and the plain weird are all happy to share the spotlight.
Sitges is an opportunity to see films beyond your normal field of view and, as such, it pays to leave behind any preconceived ideas you might have of what may or may not make a good film. A striking example of this at the 36th festival was Twentynine Palms (Dir. Bruno Dumont), a film that, at times, did everything it could to drive me to the nearest exit yet, by the end credits, provoked in me more thought and debate than any other.
Fear X (2003 – Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Janghwa, Hongryeon aka A tale of two sisters (2003 – Dir. Ji-woon Kim)
Undead (2003 – Dir. Michael & Peter Spierig)
Ju-on: The grudge 2 (2003 – Dir.Takashi Shimizu)
Haute Tension (2003 – Dir. Alexandre Aja)
So Close (2002 – Dir. Corey Yuen)
Twentynine palms (Dir. Bruno Dumont)
For details of all 36th edition film entries and awards go to: