World Magazine, Issue 2.9, December 1997
Sitges: Horror and Animation in Barcelona
by Bill Plympton
Left to right: Mark Dippe, director of the live-action feature Spawn;
Carolina Lopez Cabrillo, animation supervisor for the Sitges festival;
and Bill Plympton. Photo courtesy of and © Bill Plympton.
I woke up as the plane descended over the beautiful Barcelona Harbor. After a 20-minute chauffeured ride south, along the Mediterranean Coast, I arrived at Sitges: a quaint, sun-drenched, white-stuccoed fishing village, which is now a European gay resort town. As I entered the Gran Sitges Hotel, headquarters for the film festival, I saw, basking by the pool, that great Canadian animator, Marv Newland. Being a judge, he said, only required two hours a day of his time, which explained why he was in such a tropical mind-set. After four hours of catch-up sleep, I joined Marv and his lovely companion Marci, for a tour of the tapas restaurants in town.
The Sitges Sci-fi and Fantasy Film Festival is 30 years-old. Although it's in Spain, the people of Sitges consider themselves to belong to a region called Catalunya, which has its own language and is quite independent. I attended the festival two years ago and met Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, The Day the Earth Stood Still), Ray Harryhausen and the Brothers Quay. Tonight's feature was Lawn Dogs by John Duigan (Sirens, Flirting): a nice, suburban, magic, Gothic story starring Christopher McDonald which will be released in a couple of months.
A still from Bill Plympton's live-action feature
film, Guns on the Clackamas. © Bill Plympton.
My radio inexplicably began blaring at noon and woke me up. The hotel sent a repairman, but it was a beautiful day and I wanted to explore the harbor and beach. I met a number of filmmakers and actors for an excellent seafood lunch at the hotel restaurant. Then, I went swimming with a group from New Zealand and Australia and checked out the naked bodies. Spain has a much more liberated concept of nudity than the U.S. Thank god!
Sitges has a wonderful animation section, organized by Angel Sala and Carolina Lopez Cabrillo. The evening's highlights were: Coatimundi by Great Britain's Danny Capozzi, which is a wonderful puppet animation about a boy and a dog, with a very surreal look; Shock by Zlatin Radev of Bulgaria, which features an excellent use of live-action and animation fused into a frantic love battle between 2-D and 3-D; DNA, a masterly pencil animation about evolution, by Giorgio Valentini of Italy who worked on many Bozzetto films; Ferrailks by Laurent Pouvant of France, which depicts nuts, bolts and gears fighting off the intrusion of nature; and Supernova Unleaded, a film by Belgium's Manu Roig which uses great character design and superb colors in a 3D animated story of an interplanetary gas station.
Another animated film being screened was the excellent feature from Turner Feature Animation, Cats Don't Dance by Mark Dindal. I saw this witty film in the brief two days it appeared in theaters in the U.S. and was disappointed with the lack of publicity and commitment to its release.
I rushed to the Prado Theatre for the screening of my live-action comedy Guns on the Clackamas. It was a full house, I think due to my appearances on MTV. The crowd loved it and afterwards, I sold my videos and Sleazy Cartoons books. (Hey, I've got to finance my films somehow!)
I Married a Strange Person. © Bill Plympton.
I had a two o' clock lunch with Tyron Montgomery (Quest), another judge, and Piper Laurie (Hustler, Carrie). The pool area was mobbed with policia to guard Martin Sheen from his fans. Martin, who was there to present his film Spawn, joked and wrestled with the press. He's a real charmer. I stayed on the beach another three hours, then arrived at the Prado to introduce my animated feature I Married a Strange Person. The print had just arrived from the Hamburg Film Festival, where critics said, "It makes Beavis and Butt-head look like Hansel and Gretel." My second screening of the festival got another great reaction! Later, I met fans in a bar to sell my merchandise.
The late show included Flatworld, a very nice multimedia film by Daniel Greaves, and the much-anticipated feature Pacific Blue by Sadayuki Murai, assisted by Katsuhiro Otamo. Pacific Blue looked nice, but it was all dialogue with very little visual magic.
I Married a Strange Person. © Bill Plympton.
On my last day in Sitges, I spent six hours on the beach. Then we all gathered for the closing night ceremonies which were held in an elegant restaurant. All of the judges were revealed on a stage, drinking and eating. As each award was presented, the winner joined the diners on stage. The trophy was a wonderful two-foot statue of the female robot from Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
The award for the best animated short went to Giorgio Valentini for DNA. Then, we were all treated to Chris Penn in his fractured Spanish, introducing his new feature film Liars, which is a low-budget Usual Suspects. Afterwards, we assembled at the restaurant for a paella feast and drinks. Then downstairs we discoed to a Spanish band playing, "I Will Survive" (more U.S. cultural hegemony). I tried to talk to Chris Penn, but he was a bit drunk and quite surly.
Sitges ranks as one of my favorite festivals, because it's a lot like Cannes (films, beaches and babes), but much more relaxed, and with more emphasis on fantasy and animation; which is only natural in the land that produced Gaudi, Picasso, Dali, and Buñuel.
Bill Plympton is an award-winning independent animator based in New York. His new feature film, I Married A Strange Person, is currently touring the festival circuit, and was shown most recently at the Sitges Festival. Bill Plympton's web site can be seen in AWN's Animation Village at http://www.awn.com/plymptoons
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