San Sebastian: Films with ideals

Social issues, explorations of troubled times dominate fest

Change of guard | Films with ideals | Honoree: Julie Roberts

There’s more to contempo Spanish-language cinema than the horror escapism of “The Orphanage” and “REC.” Just look at 2010’s San Sebastian slate, which proves that social-issue films are alive and kicking.

In a wave of non-experimentalism, cineastes are returning to the details of ordinary lives and to the wider issues of history, foregoing genre and focusing on message more than medium.

Spanish-language competition selections range from such themes as history in search of answers all the way to very contempo questions.

Agusti Villaronga’s “Black Bread” sees a young boy trying to prove his father’s innocence of murder in post-Civil War Catalonia, tackling issues of attitudes toward history. Oscar Aibar’s “The Great Vazquez” replays the picaresque life of a Barcelona cartoonist in the 60s. Judith Colell and Jordi Cadena’s “Elisa K” explores child abuse with power and discretion.

Latin American history, too, is overhauled, with Felipe Cazal’s fest opener, “Chicogrande,” revisiting the Mexican Revolution from the perspective of a young boy.

Among Spanish-language items in the festival’s edgier Zabaltegi and Made in Spain sidebars, issues such as Chile’s recovery from Pinochet’s dictatorship (Niles Atallah’s “Lucia”), the thrill-seeking of bored middle-class girls (Elena Trape’s “Blog”), the condition of women during a civil war (Mikel Rueda’s “Stars to Wish Upon”) and global poverty (Jose Luis Guerin’s docu/travelogue “Guest”) are among subjects explored by a generation of filmmakers who believe that film is a medium that must reach not only for entertainment but also for an understanding in troubled times.