SAN SEBASTIAN – Green-shoot or last stand? Over the last 12 months, as Spain’s economy still hurts, its government has scoured the land from pillar to post for signs of recovery, start-up hothouse talent, new economy rallies, export vectors.
It could have looked no further than San Sebastian’s Festival.
On paper, at least, and in macro terms, San Sebastian has got a lot of things not going for it. Bulwarked by sponsorship deals, the festival’s budget has edged down just 2%-3%, to Euros7.25- Euros 7.3 million ($9.6 million-$9.7 million).
“Our budget isn’t that high but we’re working all the time to increase resources,” said fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos. He added: “There’s uncertainty sometimes about just how much money we have to tap into, which can mean that we can’t close an agreement with a Hollywood star because the travel costs are very high.”
Competition – for movies, talent and industry honchos, traditionally from Toronto, and now from Austin, with its Latin genre pic focused International Co-production Market, running Sept.19-21 – is, in Rebordinos’ description, “brutal.”
San Sebastian cannot rest on its laurels. Nor is it trying to.
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With enough coin to still put together a very good festival, Rebordinos insisted, it is expanding in several directions.
The biggest is its industry surge.
Last year, in the biggest single move under Rebordinos, San Sebastian bowed its first Europe Latin America Co-production Forum, a pitching session for new projects from Spain, Portugal and (mostly) Latin America.
“We want ever more names to attend the Forum,” Rebordinos said.
Among the on-the-rise helmers with feature films in this year’s lineup: Sebastian Cordero, whose caringly realistic sci-fi thriller “Europa Report,” which bowed Aug. 2, has caught Hollywood’s eye; Fernando Guzzoni, whose “Dog Flesh” took 2012’s San Sebastian’s New Directors Prize; Milagros Mumenthaller, with her follow-up to 2011’s “Back to Stay,” which won the Locarno and Mar del Plata fests; and Adrian Saba, whose “The Cleaner” won Palm Springs’ New Voices/New Visions competition this year.
Already a winner at Locarno’s Carte Blanche and Sanfic’s WIP in Santiago de Chile, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “To Kill a Man” is one draw at San Sebastian’s Films in Progress.
The Forum and FIP ensure a stream of usually pristine film properties for San Sebastian. Their aim is to establish San Sebastian as a must-attend event for anybody interested in Latin America, Rebordinos contended.
Business has already been done on San Sebastian titles. In one pact, Spanish sales company Imagina Intl. Sales has taken world sales rights to Fernando Franco’s “The Wound.” “Matar,” Victoria Galardi’s “I Thought It Was a Party” and David Trueba’s “Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed” are all reportedly the subject of sales agents’ negotiation.
Though final figures won’t be in for nine days, San Sebastian Industry Club accreditations were tracking at 1,183 Tuesday, up about 12% vs. 2012. Spain reps 60% of attendees; 102 execs, repping 74 companies and entities, have signed up from France and Spain, the latter Latin America’s prime export market in Europe and a traditional co-production partner.
With the Forum and FIP running parallel Sept. 23-25, San Sebastian has sharpened its industry focus. More prominent and more needed this year, round tables – on tax-break and co-production models, pre-financing Spanish movies out of international, Spanish-language movies’ world sales, the economics of shooting in Spain – set a clear road map for a Spanish film industry that is seeking to export ever more of its movies while importing foreign shoots.
The industry isn’t San Sebastian’s only prime growth target.
In one major 2013 innovation, San Sebastian and Red Bull Media House have teamed to launch Savage Cinema, a fully fledged showcase for the latest and best action sports and adventure movies.
Also, for Rebordinos, “Besides being a festival with a strong Latin American influence, we’d like to the increase the presence of North American films, the presence of actors, producers, with Hollywood seeing us as a good launchpad for Europe.”
Hugh Jackman receives a career achievement Donostia Award and presents Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment’s “Prisoners.” Annette Bening will be on hand for the Exclusive Media-sold “The Face of Love,” Oliver Stone for “The Untold History of the United States,” aired on Showtime and seen for the first time in movie theaters, and WB’s “Alexander: The Final Cut.”
Of other high-profile figures, Terry Gilliam will explain “The Zero Theorem,” produced and sold by Nicolas Chartier Voltage Pics and Michelle Yeoh will tubthump for “Final Recipe.”
Universal contributes Richard Curtis’ “About Time” and the international premiere of Juan Jose Campanella’s 3D toon movie “Foosball,” which opens San Sebastian on Sept. 20.
In a double fest coup, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s anticipated “The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet” will world premiere Sept. 28, closing the festival.
Todd Haynes presides over San Sebastian’s competition jury, Mexican screenwriter Marina Stavenhagen its New Directors jury, Chilean producer Bruno Betatti its Horizontes Latinos judges.
Eleven films that screened in Toronto make their European premiere in competition at San Sebastian, which allowed buzz to build on select major titles before they hit the Spanish fest.
Among the few widely reviewed Toronto-San Sebastian double-bills, good word is building on Roger Michell’s “Le Weekend,” Bertrand Tavernier’s “Quai d’Orsay,” both in competition, and, in New Directors, “Mother of George.”
At the heart of San Sebastian’s offerings, however, Spain’s and Latin America’s movies run ever-wider gamuts.
“I hope that San Sebastian will be a meeting point for the world’s film industry, to discover cinema from all over the world, from Latin America and Spain, and that everybody will find films which suggest something new,” Rebordinos said.
“Witching & Bitching,” (Alex de la Iglesia, Spain, France) (Out of Competition)
“Foosball,” (Juan José Campanela, Argentina, U.K., Spain) (Out of competition)
“Enemy,” (Denis Villeneuve, Spain, Canada)
“Cannibal,” (Manuel Martín Cuenca, Spain, Romania, Russia, France)
“Living is Easy with Eyes Closed,” (David Trueba, Spain)
“Club Sandwich,” (Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico)
“The Railway Man,” (Jonathan Teplitzky, U.K., Australia)
“Wounded,” (Fernando Franco, Spain)
“My Soul Healed By You,” (Francois Dupeyron, France)
“Le Week-end,” (Roger Michell, U.K.)
“Quai d’Orsay,” (Bertrand Tavernier, France)
“Pelo Malo,” (Mariana Rondón, Venezuela)
“For Those Who Can Tell No Tales,” (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
“Devils’ Knot,” (Atom Egoyan, U.S.)
“October November,” (Götz Spielmann, Austria)
“The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet,” (Jean Pierre Jeunet, France) (Out of competition)
“Mother of George,” (Andrew Dosunmu, U.S.)
“The Dune,” (Yossi Aviranm, France, Israel)
“Yozgat Blues,” (Mahmut Fazil Coskun, Turkey, Germany)
“Japanese Dog,” (Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, Romania)
“Funeral at Noon,” (Adam Sanderson, Israel)
“All About The Feathers,” (Neto Villalobos, Costa Rica)
“Hassan’s Way,” (Fran Araújo, Ernesto de Nova Roldán, Spain, Portugal)
“Luton,” (Michalis Konstantatos, Greece, Germany)
“The Empty Hours,” (Aaron Fernandez, Mexico, France, Spain)
“The Gambler,” (Ignas Jonynas, Lithuania)
“The Blinding Sunlight,” (Yu Liu, China)
“Of Horses and Men,” (Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland, Germany)
“The Magnetic Tree,” (Isabel Ayguavives, Spain, Chile)
“Wolf,” (Jim Taihuttu, Netherlands)
“The Green Jacket,” (Volodymyr Tykhyy, Ukraine)
“Puppy Love,” (Delphine Lehericey, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg)
“Paradise,” (Mariana Chenillo, Mexico)
“Wakolda,” (Lucia Puenzo, Argentina)
“Anina,” (Alfredo Soderguit, Uruguay, Colombia)
“Workers,” (Jose Luis Valle, Mexico, Germany)
“Heli,” (Amat Escalante, Mexico, France, Germany, Netherlands)
“So Much Water,” (Ana Guevara, Leticia Jorge, Uruguay, Mexico, Netherlands, Germany)
“Underage,” (Caru Alves de Souza, Brazil)
“Root,” (Matias Rojas Valencia, Chile)
“Who is Dayani Cristal?” (Marc Silver, U.K., Mexico)
“A Wolf at the Door,” (Fernando Coimbra, Brazil)
“I Thought It Was a Party,” (Victoria Galardi, Argentina, Spain)