Autumn circuit highlights


This year’s San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival will speak with a pronounced Gallic accent.

Three esteemed auteurs’ pics — Christophe Honore’s family ensembler “Non ma fille, tu n’iras pas danser,” Bruno Dumont’s study of untrammeled faith, “Hadewijch,” and Francois Ozon’s drama “The Refuge” — screen in competition.

Meanwhile, San Sebastian will unspool an extensive showcase of recent Gallic filmmaking in a section called Backwash: The Cutting Edge of French Cinema.

The Gallic focus is natural for San Sebastian: Powerhouse French sales agents and distributors supply industry heft.

“San Sebastian has a large media coverage, including in the French press,” says Peter Danner at Paris-based sales company Funny Balloons.

And for Spanish-language film specialists like Balloons, San Sebastian, the biggest fest in the Spanish-speaking world, also lays on the largest spread of upscale Spanish-language filmmaking around — in competition and disparate sidebars — of any confab on the festival circuit.

This year’s edition looks true to form. Fernando Trueba’s “The Dancer and the Thief,” his first fiction feature in seven years, world preems out of competition, while Argentine Juan Jose Campanella has the European preem of “El secreto de sus ojos.” Two left-field Spanish helmers — Isaki Lacuesta (“The Damned”) and Javier Rebollo (“La mujer sin piano”) — play in competition, along with a likely crowdpleasing relationship drama, “Yo tambien,” from first-timers Antonio Navarro and Alvaro Pastor.

“Apart from presenting worldwide novelties, one main function of a festival is to grow its national film industry,” says San Sebastian director Mikel Olaciregui.

In other programs, Uruguay’s Federico Veiroj and Argentine thesp-turned-director Daniel Handler will unveil their works in progress at Cine en Construccion. Cary Fukunaga’s “Sin nombre” will open Latin American panorama Horizontes Latinos, and pubcaster RTVE and Wanda Films will present TV series “Los libetadores.”

Other competition contenders include Lu Chuan’s Nanjing massacre chronicle “City of Life and Death,” German Matthias Glasner’s “This Is Love,” Ana Kokkinos’ “Blessed,” “The White Meadows,” from Mohammad Rosoulof, and Atom Egoyan’s “Chloe,” with Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore.  

Dates: Sept. 18-26



With a new name, base and more inclusive nationwide touring brief, the former Bucharest Intl. Film Festival has reinvented itself as the Romanian Intl. Film Festival. Now based in the city of Arad, the Romania fest will tour the country with films to be shown in smaller cities as well as the capital, Bucharest.

A key aim of the festival — which focuses on pics from Romania, Russia, Moldavia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armena, Azerbaidjan, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, — is to address local audiences and bring them back to cinemas with a tempting international program.

Dates: Sept. 27-Oct. 4



Bizarrely but delightfully centered at a hotel perched above the sun-kissed Mediterranean, Sitges has carved out a reputation as Europe’s biggest and most vibrant genre fest. It’s also just half an hour’s drive from one of Europe’s biggest genre hubs, Barcelona.

Over the past decade, local cult items have brought an energy and immediacy to an already meticulously programmed confab. The people behind Catalan genre specialists — Filmax, Rodar y Rodar, Escandalo, Ikiru, Notro and Versus — hang out at the fest bar at nights.

Networking ops abound. At Sitges, Juan Antonio Bayona bonded with Guillermo del Toro, who went on to god-father Bayona’s “The Orphanage.”

And Sitges, given its sleek-geek crowds, has become a far-better sounding board than larger fests for genre breakouts.

The 42nd edition opens with “Rec 2,” from Catalan locals Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza.

The recession has not withered the vitality of genre filmmaking, says Sitges director Angel Sala.

“This year has a strong, very varied crop, with a strong European input,” he says. “There’s a lot of zombie fare, a bevy of comedies and a resurgence of sci-fi.”

Highlights include George Romero’s “Survival of the Dead,” Christian Alvart’s “Pandorum,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” “Moon” from Duncan Jones and French gore romp “La Horde.”

Dates: Oct. 2-12



Though opening this year with a homegrown entry (Cannes hit “The Misfortunates,” whose cast memorably cycled naked down the Croisette to promote its world preem), the Ghent Intl. Film Festival, for its 36th edition, turns its gaze eastward, with a special focus on Asian cinema and culture — the first time the festival has given a regional theme to its programming.

Mainland China occupies much of the spotlight, thanks to an extensive program of both mainstream and underground Chinese cinema. VIP guests include Sixth Generation filmmaker Wang Quan’an and actress Yu Nan, both of whom will serve on the fest’s international jury. All three of the pair’s films will unspool, including 2007 Berlin Golden Bear winner “Tuya’s Marriage.”

But Japan also scores some serious attention via an interactive exhibition of “Anime! High Art, Pop Culture” at the city’s Caermers Convent. The lineup ranges from acknowledged classics (Tezuk Osamu’s “Astroboy”) to more recent hits (Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke,” screening as part of a Studio Ghibli showcase), and also includes TV series and videogames such as Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Even the rather more adult side of the biz comes under scrutiny, in a strand called Pink Industry.

Appropriately, given both this year’s focus on Asia and the fest’s long-standing reputation as a showcase for film music, renowned Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi — who’s worked alongside Wong Kar Wai (“In the Mood for Love,” “2046”) and Zhang Yimou (“House of Flying Daggers,” “Curse of the Golden Flower”) — will present a live concert of his soundtrack compositions on Oct. 15.

Also on the agenda: Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch will make a rare personal appearance, and Marc Streitenfeld (“American Gangster”) and Golden Globe-winner Alexandre Desplat (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) will also attend to serve as presenters at the ninth World Soundtrack Awards on the fest’s final night.

Dates: Oct. 6-17



Once noted as one of Europe’s most extravagant festivals, the 46th edition of Turkey’s Golden Orange Film Festival in the southern holiday resort city of Antalya will be much smaller and more tightly focused than in recent years.

With a budget less than half that of recent years — the figure has dropped from $14 million to $6 million — the festival has scrapped the Eurasia Film Market sidebar after it failed to establish itself as a forum for marketing Turkish film internationally, and it trimmed other programs.

Cost savings have also come from combining the long-running national Golden Orange fest with the Eurasia Intl. Film Festival that had been held concurrently for the past few years.

Organizers and backers say the changes should bring Antalya back to core objectives.

Vecdi Sayar, the festival’s newly appointed artistic director, who has been promoting the new-look event at other film showcases around Europe this summer, says the festival will retain its artistic impact.

The international element will widen beyond Eurasian films — meaning the word “Eurasia” will be no longer be used — and a new debut feature award will be added to encourage the next generation of Turkish directors.

Producers and directors will be relieved to know that the budget cu
ts do not apply to the festival’s traditionally generous prize purse, with best film still due to receive the $200,000 Golden Orange Aaward and best director nearly $34,000.

Dates: Oct. 10-17



Celebrating its golden anniversary this year, the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival, long a popular event on the European fest circuit — not least because that part of southern Europe remains warm and sunny long after the rest of the continent is already wintry — this year champions one of Europe’s great iconoclastic directors, Werner Herzog, with a retrospective of his feature, documentary and television works.

The German director, who will be in Thessaloniki to present his films, conduct a master class and receive a Golden Alexander for his contribution to cinematic arts, shot his first feature, “Signs of Life,” at age 24 on the Greek island of Kos.

The retrospective — of a director whose breadth and variety of work make him hard to classify — reflects many of the core values of a festival noted for the passion and vigor of its program.

“Werner Herzog’s presence during the 50th Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival is absolutely in tune with the spirit of the anniversary event,” says fest director Despina Mouzaki. “The festival’s dedication to supporting the innovative and fresh voices of filmmaking, one of which Herzog remains despite his long career, is as unflinching as his own commitment to his art.”.

The festival’s brief — to celebrate new and emerging filmmakers — will be under renewed focus this year with festival motto Why Cinema Now?

Festival organizers see it as a challenge to the hundreds of film professionals — and tens of thousands of members of the public — expected to attend, and is inviting artists, film professionals and of course its audience to actively participate, to once again ask questions concerning the nature and the role of cinema.

Dates: Nov. 13-22



A Spanish festival-calendar gem, late November’s Gijon Intl. Film Festival will deliver its trademarks: a tempered mix of demanding critical faves and irreverent crowdpleasers, choice retros and a competition peppered with U.S. indies and notable, often yet-to-break-out, Gallic auteurs.

This year’s 47th edition is laced by off-kilter comedy. U.S. competish titles include Lynn Shelton’s two-straight-buddies-do-gay-porno pic “Humpday” and Josh and Bennie Safdie’s inept father dramedy “Go Get Some Rosemary,” while comicbook artist Riad Sattouf’s “French Kissers” and Alain Guiraudie’s “The King of Escape,” in which a middle-aged gay man falls under a teen girl’s spell, will compete for France.

Retros include a New European Satire showcase, featuring more quirky comic fare: Belgian Bouli Lanners’ “Eldorado” and Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s “Abel.” Gijon will screen tribs to France’s Erick Zonca (“Julia,” “Le petit voleur”), experimental cineaste Jean-Gabriel Periot and directorial duo Matthias Mueller and Christoph Girardet. Plus Russia’s Alexsei Balabanov whose quirkily violent “Cargo 200” was a Gijon 2007 highlight, gets a retro. Most unspooling pics’ helmers will attend Gijon, set in Spain’s lush northern green valley — think Scotland speaking Spanish. The 2008 fest saw 44 directors participate in discussions, says fest director Jose Luis Cienfuegos. This helmer influx, and nightly rock concerts, makes Gijon one of the liveliest fests around.

Dates: Nov. 19-28



Its emphasis on independent cinema has seen the Oldenburg Intl. Film Festival labeled as the German Sundance. (Oscar-winning director Volker Schloendorff recently noted that “Oldenburg is clearly the young German festival.”) Its 16th edition will feature a tribute to American indie filmmakers David Siegel and Scott McGehee, including the German premiere of their latest film, “Uncertainty,” while the premiere of “Last Stop 174” will be the centerpiece of a retrospective dedicated to Brazilian helmer Bruno Barreto. Other highlights include Noah Buschel’s neo-noir “The Missing Person” and Judi Krant’s SXSW winner “Made in China” plus international entries like Johnny To’s “Vengeance,” Marina de Van’s “Don’t Look Back” and Michael Polish’s “Stay Cool.”

Dates: Sept. 16-20



With more than 50 Swiss and international film premieres spread over three competition strands (International Feature Films, International Documentary Films and a German-language prize), Zurich boasts a crowded lineup. New to this year’s fest is Industry Day, a one-day conference consisting of panels with local and international industry pros. Argentina is the country of focus for its popular New World View showcase. On the VIP front, Roman Polanski will attend to accept the Golden Eye Award for career achievement, and thesp Michael Keaton will be on hand to receive a special award and participate in a master class.

Dates: Sept. 24-Oct. 4



Celebrating its 10th birthday, Woodstock bestows its annual Maverick Award on writer-director Richard Linklater, whose latest feature, “Me and Orson Welles,” will also unspool; the honor will be presented by his longtime friend and colleague Ethan Hawke. In addition to a full slate of features, docs and shorts, visitors can look forward to panels such as Film Criticism and Journalism, The Changing Faces of Independent Filmmaking and Distribution Trends in a Changing Climate.

Dates: Sept. 30-Oct. 4



Justifiably proud of its programming (last year, 15 festival selections went on to capture Oscar nominations and included the eventual Oscar, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award picture winners), the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival is also an unusually generous benefactor, with more than $300,000 in prize money to award, including a $25,000 Sloan Grant to a feature film exploring issues surrounding science and technology. Its 2009 edition sees a Spotlight on Scandinavian Film, a special sidebar of Israeli cinema — honoring the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv — and the annual A Conversation With … discussion series (hosted for the third time by actor Alec Baldwin) featuring Alan Alda and Sharon Stone.

Dates: Oct. 8-12



Generally regarded as the bellwether event for Far East cinema, this year’s Pusan Intl. Film Fest assumes a more global outlook with the debut of the Flash Forward Award, a new competition strand intended to reward talented young non-Asian helmers. (The fest’s longtime New Currents competition continues as usual). In addition, there’s a retrospective on local writer-director Kil-chong Ha — best known for 1969’s “Ritual of a Soldier” — and a spotlight on Hong Kong multihyphenate Johnnie To, plus special programs on Hollywood classics and independent films from the Philippines. Industryites also descend for the typically hectic activities of the Asian Film Market and Asian Film Academy.

Dates: Oct. 8-16



Despite its intimate atmosphere, the Warsaw Film Festival has established a reputation for strong public attendances and relaxed industry encounters around its CentEast Market, where film professionals get a chance to see Central and Eastern European films nearing completion.

Festival director
Stefan Laudyn, a familiar figure at key European festivals throughout the year, has steered through recent choppy economic waters to secure lasting sponsorship for a festival that focuses on international features and first and second films.

To mark its silver jubilee edition, the 25th Warsaw festival’s grand prize, funded by the Warsaw city council, will be E25,000 ($35,500) — five times more than last year.

Dates: Oct. 9-18



For its 22nd edition, this year’s Tokyo Intl. Film Festival is organized around an ecological theme, befitting the Japanese capital’s status as one of the world’s greenest cities. The establishment of the Green Carpet Club (launched in May at Cannes) is only one of the fest’s eco-conscious initiatives: Natural TIFF isa new section addressing “the coexistence of humans and nature”; a charity auction, will raise money toward forest regeneration. In addition, there’s a retrospective dedicated to the late Egyptian helmer Youssef Chahine (along with a full Panorama of Egyptian Cinema section); special screenings of Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas in World Cinema: 400 Aniversario Japon-Mexico; and a showcase of works by Polish vet Jerzy Skolimowski.

Dates: Oct. 17-25



Britain’s leading documentary film festival Sheffield Doc/Fest has established a firm reputation as a business event.

Seen as one of the world’s best launchpads for documentaries, around 150 features and shorts are screened each year, including a number of films in the official selection that come from unsolicited submissions.

A market, pitching sessions and roundtable discussions attract hundreds of top international commissioning editors, distributors, buyers and sales agents.

Strong teams from the BBC and Channel 4 documentary divisions are already confirmed to attend this year.

Dates: Nov. 4-8



One of the Southern Hemisphere’s leading fests, Mar Del Plata boasts an International Competition (with prizes for best film, director, actress, actor and screenplay), a Latin American Competition section for features and short films, and a national Argentine Competition.

Its Panorama section includes sidebars dedicated to “Movies and Music” and “Film & Environmental Issues,” while Room 3D will showcase works exclusively in that format — a first for the city.

There’s a program of films adapted from the novels of acclaimed Belgian writer Georges Simenon; Spanish helmer Javier Fesser will present a retrospective of his work; and “Omissions of the Hollywood Academy” showcases various movie masterpieces snubbed by the Oscars.

Dates: Nov. 6-15



To mark its quarter-century, this Portuguese fest will present a 19-film Homage to Czech Cinematography (including competition entry “Soldier 47”), plus a special spotlight on Cine Noir and Thriller, which includes both features and shorts — among them, Wolfgang Murmberger’s Austrian detective hit “The Bone Man,” which preemed at this year’s Berlinale. There are also competitive sections dedicated to American independents, debuts and one called Man and His Environment.

Dates: Sept. 4-13



Dedicated to new film with a focus on innovative and experimental fare of all genres and length, the Split Film Festival takes place in one of Croatia’s most beautiful Adriatic seaside resorts. This year’s competition program includes Sally Potter’s “Rage” and veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s “Tatarak.”

Dates: Sept. 12-19



Raindance’s 17th edition sees it move to new digs at the Apollo Cinema in Piccadilly Circus, a state-of-the-art facility built in 2005. The fest will also occupy the Vinyl Factory in nearby Poland Street, which will serve as a hangout for filmmakers and U.K. industry figures as well as a venue for special events. Those will include live music and comedy performances, master classes, Q&As and panel discussions.

Dates: Sept. 30-Oct. 11



London is bookended this year by the world preems of Wes Anderson’s animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (with stars George Clooney and Meryl Streep on the red carpet for opening night) and Sam Taylor-Wood’s John Lennon drama “Nowhere Boy.” In addition, there are industry screenings skedded for Oct. 19-22; the Think-Shoot-Distribute lab for 25 emerging screenwriters, directors and producers; and Power to the Pixel, an annual forum on new models for funding, making and selling independent films.

Dates: Oct. 14-29



Croatia’s Zagreb Film Festival celebrates its sixth edition this year with a program dedicated to first- and second-time filmmakers. The festival scored a hit when it was the first to give an award to German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck for his story about life in Communist East Germany, “The Lives of Others.”

Dates: Oct. 18-24



In addition to its International Perspective section and its New Filmmakers Competition, Sao Paulo Intl. Film Festival also offers a third competitive strand — Mostra Brasil — for local product, with a hefty prize of 200,000 reais ($107,000). This year’s retrospective subject is Greek vet Theo Angelopoulos; there’s a special spotlight on Swedish cinema, in collaboration with the Swedish Film Institute; and a homage to Mexican lenser Gabriel Figueroa, coinciding with the new edition of Leon Cakoff’s book “Gabriel Figueroa: The Master of View.”

Dates: Oct. 23-Nov. 5



True to its name, Molodist — which means “youth” — showcases the work of young directors by unspooling more than 300 features, shorts and student films in the spirit of discovery. In that spirit, the festival also hosts a Talent Workshop featuring discussions with international filmmakers, and of course a special focus on Ukrainian films. Grand Prize is worth $10,000.

Dates: Oct. 24-Nov. 1



Dedicated to Central and Eastern European filmmaking with annual regional focuses that celebrate the work of first- and second-time filmmakers, Film Festival Cottbus attracts a large audience, while its strong industry attendances is attributed to its successful pitching and co-production sidebars. This year, its programs includes a focus on Russia, New Cinema of the Black Sea, a look at 1989, plus the usual prize money totaling some E70,000.

Dates: Nov. 10-15



For his first festival, new Turin topper Gianni (“Stolen Children”) Amelio — who took over last December from previous a.d. Nanni Moretti — offers a cinephile’s treasure-trove, with retrospectives dedicated to Nicholas Ray and Nagisa Oshima, the Sons and Lovers section (where six Italian helmers, from different generations, select a film that has inspired them), and the TorinoFilmLab, a new development program for first- and second-time writers and directors.

Dates: Nov. 13-2



Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Stockholm continues to focus on independent cinema from around the world, with more than 170 titles repped from over 40 countries. This year’s lineup, according to program manager George Ivanov, focuses on “provocative” subjects and themes, and will include Brit helmer Andrea Arnold’s sophomore effort “Fish Tank,” Sundance hits “Precious,” by Lee Daniels, and “Humpday” by Lynn Shelton, and Sebastian Silva’s well-regarded comedy “The Maid.”

Dates: Nov. 18-29


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