Continuing its quest to promote and center women in genre cinema, Sitges will hold its annual networking, scholarship, and conference strand, WomanInFan, which head of the industry department, Patricia Salvatierra declared “is growing by leaps and bounds.”
The events take place over Oct. 6-8, as part of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, unspooling Oct. 5-15.
Labs, A Book Launch and Residency
This year marked the second call for the WomanInFan FanLab Short-Film Teaser Contest, won by director Samantha Aldana, for “Little Lying Wild,” billed as a story of female empowerment rooted in Mayan folklore.
Sitges also celebrates the official release of the WomanInFan imprint’s second book, “Mistress of Fan: Monsters, Creatures and Nightmares Engendered by Them,” teased last year.
The ambitious collection of essays, a joint approach at boosting women who’ve contributed fiercely to the genre, muses on cult classics and blockbuster fare while centering movements that have catapulted the feminine gaze toward the mainstream.
The collection recounts the groundbreaking achievements of women who’ve placed themselves firmly within their passions, standouts in a field still dominated by men.
Further program highlights include the WomanInFan Fantastic Residency, where three emergent directors will receive personalized mentoring on scriptwriting, direction and production based on their projects. A network of prominent representatives of fantasy and genre will be in attendance to forge ongoing professional connections.
The directors selected for the residency include Polish director and screenwriter Anna Kasińska, with her body-horror film “Hiss”; Belgian-born filmmaker Elisa Puerto Aubel, with haunting title “The Mound”; and Gigi Romero, a Spanish-Venezuelan director-writer, who will present “The Cure,” a psychological horror about the desperate struggle against a disease.
“Initiatives like Sitges FanLab provide security to the creators who’re looking to create our scripts and offer a platform within the industry that makes room for new voices and ways of narrating. These types of residences strengthen projects, create community and encourage the creation of new female references. This pushes new generations of filmmakers to trust their stories, knowing there’s a space where they can tell them,” Romero stated.
“By nurturing the female gaze, the genre is enriched with a new language and a new vision of the stories that are told. Women, who in cinema have historically been the perfect victims, have learned to “fear” according to the devices established by traditional horror cinema. Giving strength to the feminine point of view means questioning that classic discourse and looking at fear from another place. This is not only essential, but deeply exciting and necessary to explore,” she added.
Fantastic Geogenre: Ist Meeting of European Female Filmmakers in the Fantastic Genre
Tethering the event are six roundtable discussions with industry leaders, dubbed the Fantastic Geogenre: Ist Meeting of European Female Filmmakers in the Fantastic Genre, set to delve into trends, the role of education, leadership, legacy and the significant drive of women in the field.
The panels include veteran journalists, authors, filmmakers and special effects pros, all with an eye on preserving the feminine gaze in genre cinema. Academy Award-winning makeup artist Montse Ribé (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and director Mary Lambert (“Siesta,” “Pet Sematary”), recipient of the fest’s Màquina del Temps Award, will be in attendance.
“Continuing to promote the female gaze within the genre points to profound changes, both in the industry and in its professionals, which go beyond the cinematographic field,” Mònica García Massagué, Sitges foundation manager, relayed.
“That’s why we’ve also organized a day this year to analyze the role of film schools and their influence in forging references, for example,” she added. “We also question how fantasy production differs from one territory to another; a good example of what cultural and social patterns determine whether a filmmaker has opportunities in the genre industry.”
In the roundtable focused on education, moderator Virginia Yagüe, president of DAMA, Sergi Casamitjana, director of film training center ESCAC and director Céline Rouzet (“En attendant la nuit)” will discuss the influence of film schools and universities on women’s filmmaking trajectories and the responsibility of those in the sector to act as “agents of change.”
“Let us also remember that “monsters” are metaphors of meaning: the fear of zombie domination; the submission of vampirism, etc. We must promote feminine storytelling, giving voice to narratives created by women that, without a doubt, open the window to express new concerns, at least those that represent 50% of the population,” García Massagué added.
Joining peers María Luisa Pino and Mónica Murguía for the panel Creating Amazing Worlds: The Role of Women in Fantasy Film Special Effects, Ribé is set to discuss her inspiration and the demands of the sector. She admits that challenging jobs are preferred, something that allows her to learn new skills and work on all things unfamiliar. Creating a brand new character from scratch, based solely on an idea that resides in the director’s head, is something she finds as thrilling as it is difficult.
Ribé admits to seeing an increase in the number of women working in her field, but credits their dogged determination over any highly-calculated industry moves to promote them, stating, “I don’t know if there’s been an impulse from third parties to place women there. I think it’s the perseverance of the women who’ve wanted to do this work and who’ve worked hard to be there.”
In a panel focused on leadership and references in the fantastic, Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska (“The Silent Twins”), Italian director Milena Cocozza (“Letto Numero 6”) and Spanish director Ángeles Huerta (“O corpo aberto”) will discuss their experiences and diversity among filmmakers from different regions. Silvia Pérez de Pablos, institutional director of audiovisual of the SGAE Foundation, moderates.
“I think that in Spanish genre cinema there’s a certain return to the telluric, to what we can understand as folk, which I think we directors can approach from our own place. Cinema has always been (and continues to be, the numbers are there) a man’s thing, but oral narrative, the transmission of myth, has a lot to do with the voice of women,” Huerta relayed.
“Genre cinema is one of the freest artistic exercises when it comes to reformulating the borders of what’s real, and therefore of what’s possible. Gender not only opens the door to representing, and therefore curing, fears, but also to reconstructing identities,” she added.
Rounding out the discussions are award winning critic and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and writer and genre film critic Alexandra West, who will discuss the benchmarks, challenges and the fundamental role of women in the genre alongside moderator, festival director Alan Jones; and a panel exploring the fantasy genre’s legacy, moderated by writer Maura Mchugh with director Kyra Elise Gardner (“Living with Chucky”) and actress and art director Katharina Kubrick (“The Dark Crystal”).
All-in, the event marks a further contribution to the space, encouraging nascent creatives in the field to pursue a career while sparking dialogue on just what it takes to carve a path in the field going forward.
“Access to financing is no different for genre cinema than for other cinematographic manifestations. At least, if you stay in independent cinema, away from platforms and large groups. It’s true that [Spain’s] public aid points system has helped an increase in the overall number of female directors, but much remains to be done. In the big industry, it’s clear that the big budgets are still in male hands,” Huerta admitted.
Ribé advises women interested in a career in genre cinema to“ follow their intuition, their passion, and focus.” She added that they shouldn’t “listen too much to negative things that can be heard like maybe there won’t be a job, or there are too many people, or it’s very difficult,” instead, she insists they “move on, keep working towards their goals and at the very least, try.”
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