GIJON, Spain — Cannes standout “Shortbus,” and Sundance hits “No. 2” and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” emerged as early favorites at the 44th Gijon Intl. Film Festival. Set in a coastal city in Asturias, northern Spain, fest kicked off Thursday.
Opener “The History Boys” proved a crowdpleaser, which suggests some commercial traction for Fox when the pic bows in Spain.
Also playing out of competition, Kelly Reichardt’s “Old Joy” split opinions, but those critics who liked it tended to like it a lot.
Of those lesser known or yet to be released pics (including some world preems), there was a positive reaction for Cesario Montano’s “Rising Son: The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi,” a pacy talking-heads docu of the rise, fall and redemption of skateboarding’s ’80s glamour boy.
Playing out-of-competition in a prime Sunday afternoon slot, Spanish pic “Resistencia” drew heartfelt ap-plause. That seemed near inevitable. Lucinda Torre’s docufeature chronicled industrial action from 1994 to 1997 — filled with demonstrations, street violence, a hunger strike and the occupation of a cathedral — which, in a rare example of workers winning in a face-off with management, finally prompted the readmission of nearly all the 232 workers laid off in 1994 at the Duro Felguera metallurgical works in Asturias.
The only Spanish film in competition, Jose Maria de Orbe’s “La Linea recta” (The Straight Line) played less well. Recording the life of a girl who works at a gas station and then — in the nearest the film gets to plot — leaves home, “Straight” narrates a tedious life with a principled tediousness that was few people’s cup of tea.
Energized by the presence of Larry Clark — who received a tribute and retro plus an exhibition of his photos — the first stretch of Gijon, Spain’s main launching pad for edgier movies, also sparked meditations in the press about just how much indie filmmaking has evolved over the past few years.
“El Pais,” Spain’s most-read quality paper, nailed one trend in a feature article Monday when, citing competish player “Quinceanera,” it claimed that U.S. indie fare was now “more submissive and digestible.” The same article also quoted Clark, who claimed that “Kids,” made in 1995, “would have been impossible to make a year later.”
Softer indie fare can, of course, prove attractive. Toa Fraser’s Fijian-Kiwi matriarch comedy, “No. 2,” a paean to extended families, in which the grandchildren proved far more in favor of family life than their parents, charmed press and auds alike at Gijon.
Closing with “Idlewild” on Friday, Gijon’s competish looks to have fired some of its biggest cannon. Possible standouts later in the week include Iranian Jafar Panahi’s “Offside” and German pic “Longing,” from Valeska Grisebach.