Fifteen pics vie for New Directors Award

Federico Veiroj’s “La Vida util,” Jie Han’s “Single Man” and Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “Las Marimbas del infierno” will screen in the San Sebastian Festival’s Zabaltegi New Directors section.

Unveiled Monday, lineup includes 15 films from 17 countries competing for the Kutxa-New Directors Award, a €90,000 ($120,000) cash prize split between a pic’s director and its Spanish distributor.

A black-and-white fiction tribute to cinema and cinematheques, “La Vida util” won the San Sebastian Films in Progress Industry Award in 2009. Uruguayan Veiroj broke through with coming-of-ager “Acne,” a hit in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2008.

“Single Man,” from writer-director Jie Han (“Walking on the Wild Side”), is set in a remote Chinese mountain village where its overlord’s wife has sex with its single men.

Helmed by Guatemalan Cordon — a 2007 Films in Progress Industry Award and 2008 Horizontes Latinos Award winner with “Gasolina” — “Marimbas” is a dramedy on the alliance between an old-fashioned folk musician and a pioneer of Guatemalan heavy metal.

Two more Films in Progress titles are included in New Directors. Progress Toulouse Award winner “Los Colores de la montana,” helmed by Colombian Carlos Cesar Arbelaez, turns on the devastating effect of armed conflict on the life of a family in a quiet hamlet. “Lucia,” from Chile’s Niles Jamil Atallah, portrays a young seamstress’s life after the death of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pic was backed by the Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund.

This year’s selection delivers a wealth of family dramas and a dearth of comedies.

Belgian producer-director Sophie Schoukens’ “Marieke, Marieke” portrays a young woman who lives with her mother and seeks a sense of identity through relationships with older men.

Bulgarian Dragomir Sholev’s “Podslon” relates a family’s problems in dealing with their anarchist punk son.

In U.S. helmer Shawn Ku’s “Beautiful Boy,” a couple is devastated after their 18-year-old son embarks on a killing spree and commits suicide. Ku’s musical short film “Pretty Dead Girl” caused a stir at the latest Sundance fest.

New Directors showcases two Spanish features. Produced by Catalan talent factory Escandalo, Elena Trape’s “Blog” is a mockumentary about a teenager pregnancy pact. Mikel Rueda’s “Izarren Argia” explores a striking episode in Spain’s Civil War: The abduction of hundreds of Republican women’s babies in a Basque village.

Of other films, teen drama “Dusk” is the new feature by Holland’s Hanro Smitsman, whose short film “Contact” won a Berlin Golden Bear in 2007.

Romanian helmer Constantin Popescu’s “Principles of Life,” about a man’s life-crisis, toplines Vlad Ivanov (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”).

Loneliness drama “Nothing’s All Bad” is the feature debut of Denmark’s Mikkel Munch-Fals.

Debut French helmer Frederic Pelle’s “Elsewhere” adapts Laurent Graff’s book “Voyages.”

Two previously announced films in fest’s Competition — Jose Maria de Orbe’s “Aita” and Victoria Galardi’s “Mount Bayo” — also face off for the Kutxa Award.

Fest runs Sept. 17-25.

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