‘Deus Irae’ Tops Sitges Pitchbox

BARCELONA — Projects “Deus Irae,” “The Occupant,” “9 Steps’ and ‘Fiesta” won prizes at the 4th Sitges Pitchbox, hosted by Spain’s Sitges Fantastic Film Festival in partnership with online platform Filmarket Hub and godfathered this year by Ron Perlman. Awards were announced Friday Oct. 5.

“Deus Irae” aims to be the feature debut of Argentine Pedro Cristiani, a co-writer of the acclaimed sci-fi short “Moebius.” A supernatural thriller and a follow-up to Cristiani’s short of the same name, “Deus Irae” follows Father Javier whose mandate is to examine and explain alleged miracles and Satanic events.

According to Cristiani, “the horror elements are explicit, but the visual treatment enhances its monstrous beauty.” Creature design is inspired by the creations of Dante Alighieri, Hieronymus Bosch and Francis Bacon.

The first 26 minutes are already produced and the film expected to be completed in Argentina. It is backed by Cristiani, Simon Ratziel and Guido Volpi, at Buenos Aires’ nerdHaus Films. Nod comes with a €5,000 ($5,807) cash prize for project development. Jury praised the understanding of genre elements and how the author fuses them with a devotion to practical effects.

The NAFF Award, an invitation to present at South Korea’s Bucheon Film Festival, went to the Netherlands’ “The Occupant,” a psychological dramatic thriller with a sci-fi twist,  penned by Philip Michael Howe and directed by first-timer Hugo Keijzer (“Denham Psycho”). “The Occupant” follows a female geologist who survives a mysterious helicopter crash in the wilds. While calling for help by radio, she discovers there’s another person also begging for aid. Maurice Schutte at Oneplayer Productions produces.

“9 Steps” took a third official plaudit, to present at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, one of Latin America’s most important launchpads for fantasy genre movies. Written and directed by first-timers Moisés Romera and Marisa Crespo (“A Better Place”), it is being developed by Valencia-based Proyecta Films. According to its creators, “9 Steps” is a tragic coming-of-age fable with a psychological thriller structure. It focuses on nine-year-old Sara, who overcomes her childhood fears only to have them replaced by more adult ones.

Promotion board Catalan Films & TV and Blood Window awarded “Fiesta,” produced by Barcelona’s Compacto and written by Rubén Montero, Laia Soler, Tati Dunyó, Enric Pardo and Pep Jové from an original idea of Compacto’s CEO Aritz Cirbián. It tells the story of Hannah, who goes to Pamplona’s San Fermin looking for fun, but ends up a victim of gang rape. It’s inspired by true events which took place in 2016. The rapists finally received a light sentence from a Spanish court last April, sparking energetic protests in Spain and abroad.

Other buzzed projects were the Samuel Sosa and Laura Imperiale-produced “Eat Me,” a cannibalistic thriller, and Woo Ming Jin’s “Siri” (Malaysia’s Greenlight Pictures), a revenge thriller about a maid agency cleaner who moonlights as a cosplay artist.

The international jury for the official awards included Sitges Festival deputy director Mike Hostench; Jongsuk Thomas Nam, managing director of the Bucheon Festival; Jarod Neece, senior film programmer at South by Southwest; Blood Window coordinator Javier Fernández; and Todd Brown, a partner at U.S. company XYZ Films, one of the independent sector’s most cosmopolitan producers.

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