San Sebastian unveils first pics

Four Spanish movies compete at fest

MADRID — Four radically differing Spanish films — “Aita,” “Elisa K,” “Black Bread” and “The Great Vazquez” — will screen in competition at the 58th San Sebastian Festival.

All world preems, their announcement reps first lineup details for San Sebastian, the biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, which unspools Sept. 17-25.

All the films are Catalan productions, a sign of production vitality and breadth in the Spanish region.

Two of these Golden Shell contenders, “Vazquez” and “Bread,” also show San Sebastian opening up beyond its usual auteurist remit to films that seek wider audiences.

Directed by Oscar Aibar (“Flying Saucers,” “Dance Machine”), “Vazquez” delivers a 60s-set real-life portrait of the larger-than-life Manuel Vazquez, a chronic debtor, bigamist, confidence trickster, low-life bohemian, and the finest comic-strip cartoonist Barcelona has produced.

“Torrente” director-star Santiago Segura plays “Vazquez”; Distinto Films and Gerardo Herrero’s Tornasol and Castafiore produce.

A step towards the mainstream for director Agusti Villaronga (“In a Glass Cage,” “The Sea”), “Bread” is a plush period coming-of-ager, unspooling in a Catalan village in 1943.

Pulling down Euros1.8 million ($2.3 million) from the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries and pubcaster TV3, it reps one of the first fruits of the Catalan government’s push into higher-end production. Germany’s Beta Cinema handles international rights, said producer Isona Passola at Massa D’Or Produccions.

In healthy contrast, “Aita,” helmed by Basque Jose Maria de Orbe (“The Straight Line”), weighs in as a far more left-of-field proposition, set in Orbe’s own decaying mansion just outside San Sebastian, overseen by a caretaker and the local priest.

With echoes of Robert Wise’s “The Haunting,” “Aita” is a film about space, light and shadows,” said producer Luis Minarro at Barcelona’s Eddie Saeta.

“Elisa K” is a directorial two-hander from Judith Colell, whose deb “53 Winter Days” played San Sebastian’s Zabaltegi-New Directors section in 2006, and vet Jordi Cadena, who broke through to attention way back in 1978 with “L’obscura historia de la cosina Montse.”

Set when Elisa is 10 and 25, it chronicles domestic abuse, and a woman’s attempts years later to remake her life. Antonio Chavarrias’ Oberon Cinematografica lead produces.