‘Marshland,’ ‘Magical Girl,’ ‘Loreak' Face Off

62nd edition boasts typically strong and variegated Spanish line-up

MADRID — Alberto Rodriguez’s “Marshland,” Carlos Vermut’s “Magical Girl” and “Loreak,” from Jose Mari Goenaga and Jon Garano, will face off in competition at the 62nd San Sebastian Festival, the highest-profile movie event in the Spanish-speaking world.

With a special screening of Iciar Bollain’s “En tierra extrana” also in the mix, the three titles lead a muscular, multifarious Spanish presence at San Sebastian that has rapidly become a trademark under energetic Jose Luis Rebordinos, gearing up for his fourth edition as San Sebastian director.

Some trends: A welcome reconsideration of Spain’s recent past, often from a more sophisticated or comedic viewpoint; the multi-presence of Spain’s crisis in various titles; a fore-fronting of films from the Basque Country which play in most of the festival’s main sections, as well as receiving a dedicated Zinemira showcase.

Unveiled Thursday in Madrid to a packed Spanish industry crowd, the Spanish presence, which is packed by world premieres, also bids fair to be one of the main draws at this year’s event, running Sept. 19-26.

Distributed by Warner Bros. in Spain, sold by Film Factory, and helmed by Rodriguez, whose “Unit 7” was a sales, B.O. and critical hit, the tightly-shot noirish thriller “Marshland” is already sparking bullish word-of-mouth off sneak-peek screenings, plus comparisons to “True Detective” in its story of two often-at-odds homicide cops on the trail of a serial killer of teen girls in benighted marshlands outside Seville.

One of Spain’s first truly post-transition-to-democracy movies, it unspools a multi-grained, healthily contradictory vision of the country’s recent past, where cops, whatever their ghastly past under Franco, could still be capable of heroic acts. “Marshland” world premieres at San Sebastian.

Also buzzed up, Films Distribution-sold “Magical Girl” is the director’s sophomore outing after 2012’s “Diamond Flash,” which marked out Vermut as one of Spain’s most talked-up young talents. A move towards the mainstream – it at least boasts local stars Jose Sacristan and Barbara Lennie (“The Skin I Live In”) – “Girl” is described by FD’s Nicolas Brigaud Robert as a “sexy, troubling drama that takes twists and turns and puts you on the edge of your seat.” “It’s about people who have to choose between reason and instinct,” Ted Rebordinos, presenting the Spanish film lineup in Madrid.

Another world preem, and suspense drama about memory and forgetfulness, turning on three middle-aged women who suddenly begins to receive flowers, “Loreak” signals Goenaga and Garano’s follow-up to “For 80 Days,” a tender Sapphic drama that established the directorial duo as standard-bearers of Basque-language filmmaking.

Bollain’s docu-feature “En tierra extrana” turns on the emigration of young Spaniards, who have born the brunt of Spain’s recession. Bollain’s “Take My Eyes” won best actor and actress at San Sebastian in 2003.

San Sebastian Spanish line-up sees berths in Perlas, a festival standout showcase, for Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” a Sony Pictures Classics U.S. pick-up produced out of Spain by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo, as well as a second Cannes Competition entry, Naomi Kawase’s “Still the Water,” a co-production of Luis Minarro’s Eddie Saeta in Spain.

Isaki Lacuesta, a 2012 Golden Seashell winner for “The Double Steps,” returns with “Murieron por encima de sus posibilidades,” an acid comedy with a name-actor-packed Spanish cast, including Sergi Lopez, Ariadna Gil and Emma Suarez.

Also out of competition, “Lasa and Zabala” records the kidnapping, torture and execution of two alleged ETA activists in 1983 by a socialist government-backed GAL death squad.

Roberto Caston, whose 2009 gay Basque drama “Ander” played Berlin’s Panorama, competes for San Sebastian’s New Directors’ Prize with the film-rehearsal-themed “The Silly Ones and the Stupid Ones;” as does Hermes Paralluelo, with “No todo es Vigilia,” about an ageing couple’s fear of consignment to an senior citizen’s home, separation, loss of independence.

The 62nd edition features three more docu-features in its Zabaltegi sidebar: Virginia Garcia del Pino’s “Basilio Martin Patino: La ultima carta,” about the famed New Spanish Cinema helmer; “Paco de Lucia: El documental,” from Francisco Sanchez Varela; and the TCM-produced “El ultimo adios a Bette Davis,” helmed by Pedro Gonzalez Bermudez.

Jon Martin Hsu’s Argentina-set immigrant tale “La Salada,” San Sebastian’s 2013 Films in Progress winner, features in Horizontes Latinos; “Negociador,” from Borja Cobeaga, a low-key comedy about the life of a negotiator with ETA, also plays Zabaltegi; Ricardo Ramon and Benat Beitia’s “Mummy, I’m a Zombie,” the second part of a toon zombie franchise, will receive a wide-screen San Sebastian Velodromo screening.

Rebordinos said a fourth Spanish competition film could well be announced mid-August. He added, “The quality of the Spanish films here at the festival is very high this year. It’s been very difficult for us to leave a lot of Spanish films out of the official section.”

Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report

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