Salles to open Sebastian

Fest features 'Neighborhood,' 'Frontier'

ROME — Brazilian director Walter Salles’ “Central Station,” which won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear award earlier this year, has been chosen to open the 46th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival’s principal noncompetitive section, Zabaltegi.

Also at the fest, which runs Sept. 17-26, two key films from Spain — Fernando Leon’s “Neighborhood” and Gerardo Herrero’s “South Frontier” — will world preem in competition.

The Zabaltegi, also known as the Open Zone section, is designed to showcase new directors as well as hit films from recent international festivals. It will close this year with Bob Rafelson’s HBO-produced Raymond Chandler adaptation, “Poodle Springs,” which stars James Caan as Philip Marlowe.

Also in the mix

Other selections include several titles premiered at Cannes this spring. Among these are Greek veteran Theo Angelopoulos’ Palme d’Or-winning “An Eternity and a Day,” Gallic newcomer Erick Zonka’s “The Dreamlife of Angels,” Todd Solondz’s controversial “Happiness,” Colombian Victor Gaviria’s “The Rose Seller,” Frenchman Claude Mourieras’ “Dis-moi que je reve,” British producer Jeremy Thomas’ directorial debut, “All the Little Animals” and “Divine” from Mexico’s Arturo Ripstein.

Features from first- and second-time directors include David Riker’s “The City” (U.S.), Paul McGuigan’s “The Acid House” (U.K.), David Caffrey’s “Divorcing Jack” (Ireland) and Dan Ireland’s “The Velocity of Gary” (U.S.), with the star of the latter pic, Salma Hayek, due in San Sebastian for the screening.

Also featured are Florian Flicker’s “Susie Washington” (Austria), Eoin Moore’s “Plus-Minus Nil” (Germany), Farhad Mehranfar’s “The Tree of Life” (Iran), Chen Jiwen’s “Jam” (Taiwan), Yoichiro Takahashi’s “Fishes in August” (Japan), Simon Staho’s “Wildside” (Denmark) and Florent Siri’s “A Minute of Silence” (France).

Spain calls

Spanish features selected for the section and also competing for the fest’s New Directors prize include Cesc Gay and Daniel Gimelberg’s rent-boy melodrama “Hotel Room,” Pilar Tavora’s Lorca-inspired “Yerma,” actor-turned-director Ramon Barea’s “Pecata minuta” and Maria Ripoll’s romantic comedy “The Man With Rain in His Shoes,” which stars Penelope Cruz and has sold widely offshore, including to Trimark in the U.S.

Leon’s “Neighborhood” and Herrero’s “South Frontier” continue the festival’s support for Spanish-language pics exploring social themes. That artistic vein has supplied the fest with strong films over recent years, such as Adolfo Aristarain’s “A Place in the World” or Imanol Uribe’s “Running Out of Time,” which won the festival’s top Gold Shell award in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

Storylines and credits

Set in a run-down district of Madrid, the slice-of-life “Neighborhood” records the empty summer of three out-of-work adolescents who slip into petty-crime.

Starring Maribel Verdu (“Lovers,” “Belle epoque”) and Federico Luppi (“Cronos”), the late last-century saga “Southern Frontier” charts the fate, loves and friendships among several European families that immigrate to Argentina.

Co-produced with Sogetel, MACT Prods. (France) and MGN Filmes (Portugal), “Neighborhood” is the ninth film by Basque-born producer Elias Querejeta to be chosen for competition at San Sebastian since 1969.

“South Frontier” represents one of the most ambitious and involved European-Latin American co-productions in recent years. Herrero’s own Tornasol Films shares co-production credits with Sogetel again, Continental in Spain and Aleph (Argentina), Road Movies (Germany) and Blue Dahlia (France).

Honors and look-backs

As previously announced, Anthony Hopkins will receive this year’s European Donostia career award, which will be presented to him by Antonio Banderas, his co-star in “The Mask of Zorro.” The swordplay adventure will have its European premiere at San Sebastian.

Also scheduled are retrospectives devoted to Japanese director Mikio Naruse, British maverick Terry Gilliam and a stellar lineup of postwar Italian comedies titled “Hunger, Humor and Fantasy,” many of which were kept out of Spain during the Franco regime and have never before been screened in the country.

While two key Spanish entries already have been announced (see separate story), San Sebastian’s complete official competition selection is expected to be unveiled in early Sept. The fest runs Sept. 17-26.

(John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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