San Sebastian: ‘Club,’ ‘Shade,’ ‘Ixcanul’ Play Horizontes Latinos

Latin American showcase underscores strong French co-production presence

The Club - Pablo Larrain San
Courtesy of the San Sebastian Film Festival

BARCELONA — Pablo Larrain’s “The Club,” Cesar Augusto Acevedo’s “Land and Shade” and Jayro Bustamante’s “Ixcanul” will screen at the 63rd San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos.

A contemporary Latin America showcase, Horizontes opens with “The Club,” the latest feature from one of Latin America’s directors who has built his career most wisely, now directing “Neruda,” with Gael Garcia Bernal, his biggest film to date, and then due to direct Natalie Portman in the Insiders-sold “Jackie,” about Jacqueline Kennedy’s first four days after the death of John F. Kennedy, produced by Darren Aronofsky.

It was, however, “The Club” which persuaded Portman to take on that role. A critically lauded parable about Catholic church abuse sold by Funny Balloons, which turns on a group of disgraced priests, “Club” won a Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Horizontes Latinos emphasizes just what a strong first half 2015 has delivered to date for Latin American cinema. Half of its 14 titles took major prizes at Berlin and Cannes alone: “Club,” Gabriel Ripstein’s “600 Miles,” Patricio Guzman’s “The Silver Pearl” and Jayro Bustamante’s “Ixcanul” at Berlin and Michel Franco’s “Chronic,” Ciro Guerra’s “The Embrace of the Serpent,” Santiago Mitre’s Paulina” and Cesar Augusto Acevedo’s “Land” and Shade” on the Riviera.

A standout at San Sebastian’s 2014 Films in Progress, fest’s pics-in-post competition, “Ixcanul,” Guatemalan Bustamente’s debut, about a 17-year-old Kaqchiqel girl’s reaction to unwanted pregnancy, took Berlin’s Alfred Bauer Award, an effective third prize.

Exploring Chile’s archipelago, the longest in the world and linking by poetic association its history of abuse of the indigenous population, and role as a graveyard for Pinochet’s political prisoners, “The Pearl Button” was honored with a Berlin Silver Bear for best screenplay.

Tim Roth starrer “Miles,” a Berlin Panorama opener, scored the Berlinale’s First Feature Award, set against the U.S. arms trade with Mexico. The road movie chronicles an ATF agent’s abduction by a cartel member and their slow friendship. Also toplining Roth, “Chronic,” a Cannes best screenplay laureate, portrays a hospice nurse who takes care of terminal patients.

Criss-crossing two stories — one about an European explorer, the second one a local shaman – “Embrace of the Serpent,” from Colombia’s Ciro Guerra, topped Directors’ Fortnight awards.

Mitre’s “Paulina,” a reworking of an Argentine modern classic movie and study of violence and social commitment, took the top prize at Cannes Critics’ Week. Acevedo’s “Land and Shade” came away from Cannes with its Camera d’Or for best first feature. A somber drama about a Colombian wrestling a pitiful living out of sugarcane plantation, “Shade” also won Visionary Prize and France’s Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize (SACD) in Critics’ Week.

The winner of San Sebastian’s 2014 Films in Progress, “Magallanes” is the feature debut of Peruvian thesp-turned-helmer Salvador del Solar. Starring Federico Luppi, Magaly Solier and Damian Alcazar, “Magallanes” offers the story of a former soldier, now a taxi driver, who runs into a woman whom he randomly arrested more than 20 years earlier.

A third 2014 Films in Progress title, Brazilian father-son drama “To My Beloved,” helmed by Aly Muritiba, participated at San Sebastian’s Europe Latin America Co-production Forum in 2013, a sign of how new directors are using San Sebastian to profile their films in multiple stages of production.

Quintela’s sophomore feature “Century” depicts three generations of men struggling to coexist under the same roof. It was a Tiger Award winner at 2015’s Rotterdam Festival.

Of Horizontes’ 14 pics, four were produced out of just one country – Brazil’s “Beloved,” “The Club,” Venezuela’s “Afar” and Mexico’s “Miles.” The rest have been co-produced by two countries (four pics), three countries (three pics), four countries (two pics) and five countries (one pic). France participated in five co-productions, Spain, Latin America’s natural port of call, in just two.

Screening at Venice, Lorenzo Vigas’ “From Afar” centers on a dentist, who was abandoned by his father and one night takes home a small-time thug.

David Pablos second feature “The Chosen Ones,” which premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, is a love story set against the background of underage prostitution.

At Locarno international competition last week, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “I Promise You Anarchy” centers on two skateboarders, best friends and lovers, Miguel and Johnny, in a Hernandez Cordon’s most confident feature to date.

San Sebastian Horizontes Latinos award comes with €35,000 ($38,832) in prize money. Director will take $11,094 out of the total; the rest will go to Spain’s film distributor. Given such stiff opposition, the cachet of winning is considerable. The 63rd San Sebastian Fest runs Sept. 18 to 26.

John Hopewell contributed to this article.