San Sebastian competition big on Latin pics

New Directors lineup includes 'Stranded,' 'Savages'

ROME — Spanish and Latin American films represent the lion’s share in the New Directors competition lineup of the 49th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival, running Sept. 20-29.

Australian and Dutch titles also figure strongly, but Asia will be absent for the first time in many years.

The competition, open to first and second features from the Spanish fest’s official selection and Open Zone section, carries a cash award of 150,000 euros ($137,000), making it one of the richest fest prizes in the world.

The line-up was described by new fest chief Mikel Olaciregui as rich in genre movies ranging from adventure to science fiction and fantasy to experimental. The selection is dominated by contemporary portraits of people struggling against the common problems of life in urban environments across the world.

The sole U.S. pic to make the cut is Peter Callahan’s comedy “Last Ball,” about a small-town boy hoping in vain for a peaceful life during school break.

Australia weighs in with producer-turned-director Robert Connolly’s feel-good tale of the downfall of an unscrupulous corporate shark, “The Bank,” and Ray Lawrence’s psychological thriller “Lantana,” which also figures in San Sebastian’s main competition.

Also doing double duty in both competitions is Brit entry “The Warrior,” an epic initiation journey from Anglo-Indian director Asif Kapadia, and Dutch newcomer Ineke Smits’ dreamlike tale, “Magonia.”

Homegrown contenders include Luna’s English-language sci-fi yarn “Stranded,” set on Mars in 2025, Carlos Molinero’s drama of disenchanted Valencia youth, “Savages,” and painter-musician-director Luis Eduardo Aute’s experimental “A Dog Called Pain,” an unclassifiable story featuring artists such as Picasso, Dali, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Spain also figures as a co-producer in Argentine entry “Private Lives,” a drama from Fito Paez looking at the scars left by dictatorship, and in Beto Gomez’s Mexican black comedy-thriller, “The Alligator’s Dream.” Also from Mexico is Gerardo Tort’s drama of life on the mean streets of Mexico City, “De la Calle.”

San Sebastian’s main competition lineup plus opening and closing films are expected to be announced in the next week.

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