San Sebastian chooses eclectic U.S., Euro fare

ROME — European premieres of Lawrence Kasdan’s “Mumford,” Mike Figgis’ “Miss Julie,” Scott Elliott’s “A Map of the World” and Martha Fiennes’ “Onegin” are among the highlights of the official selection for the 47th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival, which runs Sept. 16-25.

Raising the curtain on Spain’s premier film event is “Mumford,” Kasdan’s story of a small-town psychiatrist with an unorthodox approach to treating his patients. Screening in competition, the Touchstone feature stars Jason Lee, Hope Davis, Martin Short, Alfre Woodard and Ted Danson.

Closing the fest out of competition is “Onegin,” which also is closing the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. Pic stars Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler.

Winner of the 1995 best director award in San Sebastian for “Leaving Las Vegas” as well as a past member of the official jury, Figgis returns to the competition this year with “Miss Julie,” his adaptation of the classic August Strindberg play, starring Saffron Burrows and Peter Mullan. United Artists Films has nabbed U.S. and most international rights to the pic.

Also competing for the Golden Shell is Elliott’s drama “A Map of the World,” which stars Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore and David Strathairn. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, “Map” portrays how a loving couple successfully confront sudden tragedy.

‘Element of discovery’

The competition lineup conforms to past editions under Diego Galan, festival director since 1995: a mixture of established helmers and far lesser-known talent.

“Some recent festivals have become based around pics from consecrated directors. Their lineup is little more than an advance of films playing at a multiplex or arthouse a few weeks later,” said Galan. “I still think a festival has to have an element of discovery.”

Hardening the line on San Sebastian’s exclusivity, Galan also stressed that the festival would not be including competition films known to have been selected for Deauville.

One little-known helmer, the Berlin-based American Nora Hope, weighs in with “The Crossing,” a Dutch-German-Danish co-production about an encounter between an elderly Afghan gent and a stranger with a troubled past, while Scandinavia-based Brit director Colin Nutley competes with “Under the Sun,” a 1950s-set tale of a romantic triangle in a lonely farmhouse.

Dramatic element

France is represented in competition with two features: “La Maladie de Sachs,” Michel Deville’s psychological drama about a doctor plagued by his own ills; and Francois Dupeyron’s big-budget drama about urban problems in a rural environment, “C’est quoi la vie?”

Other entries include Carlos Diegues’ “Orfeu,” a major box office hit in its native Brazil, setting the myth of Orpheus and Euridice to the music of Caetano Veloso; and upcoming Chinese director Zhang Yang’s “Shower,” about a father and two sons living in a condemned bathhouse.

Also competing is Antonio-Pedro Vasconcelos’ street kid saga, “Jaime” from Portugal; German director Roland Suso Richter’s “After the Truth,” about Joseph Mengele; and Ebrahim Hatamikia’s “The Red Ribbon,” which marks the veteran Iranian helmer’s first time in competition at San Sebastian.

More official selection titles, which are mainly from the U.S., says Galan, will be announced at a later date.

One major change this year will be the relocation of the festival headquarters to the spectacular seafront Kursaal Festival Palace, which opened Aug. 25. Designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, its main 1,800-seat cinema nearly doubles audience capacity for initial competition screenings.

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