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Celebs Basque in San Sebastian glow

Organizers hope to see more stars throughout fest

San Sebastian — Neil Jordan, Aki Kaurismaki, John Malkovich and Javier Bardem stole much of the limelight at Thursday night’s opening ceremony for the San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival Fest’s 50th edition runs Sept. 19-28.

Picking up Fipresci’s prestigious best film of the year award for “The Man Without a Past,” Kaurismaki displayed his hallmark deadpan humor, saying that he would “find the man who has committed this error.”

Bardem went one better jokingly mistranslating director John Malkovich.

Their “The Dancer Upstairs” received a warm reception at San Sebastian on Thursday.

Otherwise a largely sombre affair, dominated by a “50” figure made up of light-bulbs, the inauguration should set the tone for much of the festival.

There were no heavyweight Hollywood stars. But San Sebastian’s heart has for years been quality, arthouse or cross-over titles: Jordan’s fest opener “The Good Thief” is about as mainstream as its Official Selection gets. But San Sebastian hopes to welcome a long roster of admired name thesps and helmers. Francis Ford Coppola should pick up a special San Sebastian 50th Anni Award on Saturday; Dennis Hopper (Sept. 23), Jessica Lange (Sept. 25) and Bob Hoskins (Sept. 27) their Donostia lifetime achievement awards. Juliette Binoche (for closer “Jet Lag”), Chen Kaige (“Together”) and Bertrand Tavernier (for “Laissez-Passer” and San Sebastian’s marvellous restaurants), are also expected.

The ceremony’s foreign speakers struggled to speak in Spanish, or even Basque, for the benefit of a largely local audience. A simpatico jury prexy Wim Wenders did best managing a full minute of Spanish before reaching for his notes.

But then, with nine of San Sebastian’s Official Selection players having screened earlier this month at Toronto, from an international perspective the fest’s main draw is its rich canopy of contempo Spanish-lingo cinema.

Bardem-starrer “Mondays in the Sun” is already shaping up as one of the fest’s hot tickets. And fest’s “Made in Spanish” section promises some edgy, little-known Latin American fare.

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