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Stone’s ‘Untold History,’ Re-cut ‘Alexander’ for San Sebastian

San Sebastian fires up Zabaltegi, its edgiest sidebar

Oliver Stone’s “The Untold History of the United States,” Emir Baigazin’s “Harmony Lessons” and Lav Diaz’s “Prologue to The Great Desaparecido” feature in this year’s San Sebastian Zabaltegi showcase.

Restructured by fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos as a smorgasbord section for anything that doesn’t fit into another section but certainly merits screening, the sidebar has grown rapidly not only in size but also relevance.

That is a reflection on helmers’ growing willingness to take on works that don’t fit the classic format of feature-length films for theatrical distribution, as well as far greater latitudinarianism from festivals and fest audiences alike about what they expect to program or see at fests.

“Untold History” is a 10-part ruggedly contrarian Showtime docu-series retelling U.S. history from World War II onwards, highlighting unsung heroes, profound mistakes, and cardinal villains, led by Harry Truman.

World preeming at San Sebastian as a theatrical event, “Untold History” is sure to find avid fans in Spain whose political left was one of Europe’s most vociferous critics of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Zabaltegi will also include “Alexander: The Ultimate Cut,” a newly-re-mastered 206-minute version of Stone’s 2004 bio-epic.

A tale of bullying and its brutal consequences, set on the steppes of Kazakhstan, “Harmony Lessons” isn’t made by a famed director but was still one of the best-received movies at this year’s Berlinale.

Set up at Paris-based Dissidenz Films, “Prologue to the Great Desaparecido,” a short/medium feature, anticipates Diaz’s upcoming feature film, and delivers a revisionist take on the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Zabaltegi will also showcase Diaz’s Cannes Un Certain Regard player “Norte, the End of History,” a Cannes highlight for some critics, which transposes Feodor Dostoevsky’s magnum opus “Crime and Punishment” to the Philippines. At four hours, it is far from Diaz’s longest movie.

Zabaltegi will also feature two Sundance docu-feature hits: “Cutie and the Boxer,” Zachary Heinzerlin’s frank, five-years-in-the-making depiction of Brooklyn-based artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara; “and Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Morgan Neville’s caring portrait of some of the world’s greatest background singers.

Two crime thrillers also make the mix: Wojtek Smarzowski’s Warsaw mean streets-set “Traffic Department,” and Park Hoon-jung’s Korean actioner “New World,” sold by Finecut.

Rounding up new Zabaltegi titles – its Spanish productions were announced late July – are Thomas Szabo and Helene Giraud’s “Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants.” A real curio, the 3D adventure movie, which was shot in France, mixes CGI ants and real-life scenery.

The 61st San Sebastian Festival runs Sept. 20-28.

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