MADRID — In a move which reflects the burgeoning reinvention of film festivals worldwide, major and minor, Spain’s San Sebastián Festival, the highest-profile movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, is co-launching a training facility, the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (Elías Querejeta Film School).
Financed by the Basque Country’s Gipuzkoa Diputación Foral, the government of one of its three provinces, the Elías Querejeta Film School marks San Sebastian’s first year-round event as festivals reconvert from one-off one-week-or-more events into all-year institutions running film markets (Cannes’ Ventana Sur, a j.v. with Argentina’s Incaa film agency), film funds (Berlin’s World Cinema Fund or Venice’s Biennale College – Cinema) or project development initiatives (the Sundance Institute Lab Program).
Set to launch with next year’s San Sebastián Festival in September 2018, the Elías Querejeta Film School will offer pioneering training in festival programming and showcase curation. Participants, some 15 a year, will be made party, having signed confidentiality contracts, to San Sebastian Festival meetings and its decision-making process, including why films are accepted or rejected, said San Sebastian director José Luis Rebordinos.
“I can’t think of a better school than living this directly, seeing how in practice, not in theory, one of the most important festivals in Europe confronts its programming,” Rebordinos added.
In two parallel post-graduate courses, the Basque Filmotheque will impart training to students in film preservation and restoration, San Sebastián’s Tabakalera, the city’s new contemporary culture center whose reconverted tabaco factory house the Filmotecque and Festival, will offer a one year program in film creation.
The Elías Querejeta Film School dovetails with San Sebastian’s focus on new talent, seen in its New Directors Competition, a its most prominent sidebar, and its International Film Schools Meeting which will see Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon delivering a masterclass and the festival giving larger prominence to its short film section.
Such “endogamic” institutions as festivals also need “fresh air,” Rebordinos said, arguing that “the Festival will give a lot to the school but the School will give a lot to the Festival.”
The Elías Querejeta Film School is named after one of the Basque Country’s most famous film sons, Elías Querejeta who gave up a career as a professional soccer player for Real Sociedad to produce some of the greatest films by Carlos Saura (“The Hunt,” “Raise Ravens,” “Deprisa, Deprisa”), Victor Erice (“The Spirit of the Beehive,” “The South”), Jaime Chavarri (“El Desencanto”), Montxo Armendariz (“Tasio”), Fernando León (“Mondays in the Sun”) and his daughter, Gracia Querejeta (“Seven Billiards Tables”). Under Franco, these films rolled back the fronteirs of freedom for the film industry. After the dictators death in 1975, they went on to expose sometimes the weight of the past and social sores in Spain’s newly-won democracy.