Valladolid offers director-driven fare

Festival offerings have Iberian flavor

If great filmmakers repeat themselves, then so do great film festivals.

Javier Angulo, Valladolid Festival artistic director, knows one of its selling points is a longstanding tradition for director-driven fare with an Iberian flavor, and he isn’t about to start tinkering with a tried-and-trusted formula that works.

“Valladolid has launched many film careers,” Angulo says. “We like to think of it as the director’s festival, combining the best auteurs with the freshest talent,” he explains.

Set up in 1956 as a religious fest, the annual fall Seminci has become an iconic date for devout Spanish film buffs looking for the latest auteur — and what’s hot in Spain.

The seekers won’t have to look farther than Iciar Bollain to find what they’re looking for. She returns to the Seminci, where her directing debut “Hi, Are You Alone?” scooped best new director 16 years ago and launched a helming career that has blossomed, establishing her as an auteur in her own right.

Bollain returns with one of Spain’s most high-profile fall pics, “Even the Rain,” penned by Scottish partner Paul Laverty (Ken Loach’s regular collaborator), which opens the Castillian confab out of compeition. Pic, which reps Spain in the foreign-language Oscar race, stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Tosar and portrays a Spanish film crew shooting a movie about the conquest of the New World as the Bolivian water wars erupt around them — raising moral questions about filmmaking itself.

Another Spanish thesp taking a trip down memory lane will be Antonio Banderas, set to collect a lifetime achievement award. Banderas won an actor prize here for Juan Minon’s “The White Dove” in 1989, an important nod as he sought to position himself for a Stateside move, proving his acting chops without Almodovar.

Abbas Kiarostami, first introduced to Spanish auds here in 1993, is back with “Certified Copy,” as is Hector Olivera with “El Mural.” And Enrique Gabriel, a filmmaker with prizes from festivals like Huelva and Malaga on the mantelpiece, graces the main competition with “Vidas pequenas.”

Faithful to the Valladolid brand, there is also competish space for newer faces — those looking to emulate the Bollains of today. Agusti Vila bows with ensemble comedy “The Mosquito Net,” while Spanish-Argentinean “Sin retorno” by Miguel Cohan and “Die Fremde” by Feo Aldag for Germany will face off for a Golden Spike, which promises to be as hotly fought over as ever — another long-standing Valladolid tradition.

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