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‘Obaba’ opens San Sebastian fest

Armendariz's latest unspools in competition

MADRID — “Obaba,” the latest film from Spanish auteur Montxo Armendariz (“Secrets of the Heart,” “Broken Silence”) will open the 53rd San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival on Sept. 15, playing in competition.

San Sebastian kicked off last year with the world preem of Woody Allen’s “Melinda, Melinda.” For San Sebastian, that’s a hard act to follow. But for this year’s inauguration Spain’s biggest and most international of meets has nabbed one of Spain’s three big director-driven films bowing this fall.

The festival fate of the other two — Isabel Coixet’s “The Secret Life of Words” and Fernando Leon’s “Princesses” — has still to be announced, though “Princesses” will be released in Spain early Sept.

Armendariz’s films have always played well at San Sebastian both with its international juries and public at large. His first pic, “Tasio,” took the FIPRESCI international critics assn.’s prize in 1994; his second, “27 Hours,” a Silver Shell in 1986; his third, “Letters From Alou,” the Golden Shell in 1990.

Armendariz’s last three film — “Stories From the Kronen,” “Heart,” and “Silence” — have averaged E2.8 million ($3.4 million) at the Spanish B.O.

“Obaba” looks set to mix Armendariz’s customary social observance with a dose of magical realism. Set in a mythical region of Obaba in the northern Spanish countryside, it charts the efforts of a young femme film-maker to capture the essence of Obaba in a video film.

Based on a novel by Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga “Obabakoak,” the film is produced by Armendariz’s wife Puy Oria at Oria Films and Germany’s Pandora Film and Neue Impuls Films.

It stars Pilar Lopez de Ayala (“Mad Love”) and Juan Diego Botto, who toplined “Silence.”

The San Sebastian Film Festival runs Sept.15-24.

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