MADRID – Cesc Gay’s “Truman,” Federico Veiroj’s “The Apostate” and Pablo Aguero’s “Eva Doesn’t Sleep” will face off in competition at September’s 63rd San Sebastian Film Festival with Asier Altuna’s “Amama,” Agusti Villaronga’s “The King of Havana” and Marc Recha’s “Un Dia perfecto para volar.”
The best-known film event in the Spanish-speaking world, San Sebastian runs Sept. 18-26.
Revealed Thursday at a packed Madrid press conference by San Sebastian fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos, the Spanish nationality movie line-up underscores ever-closer links between Spain and Latin America: Four of the six San Sebastian Golden Shell contenders are co-productions with Latin America.
Bulwarked by titles such as Alex de la Iglesia’s “My Big Night,” playing out of competition, Imanol Uribe’s “Lejos Del Mar,” Fernando Colomo’s “Isla Bonita” and Alvaro Longoria’s “The Propaganda Game,” the 20 movie line-up also confirms San Sebastian one more year as the biggest international platform for Spain’s national cinema which, beyond Toronto, is a relative rarity at the world’s other major film fests.
Wracking up a good buzz, the elegiac “Truman,” from Gay, one of Spain’s most accessible auteurs (“A Gun in Each Hand”), stars two of the Spanish world’s foremost actors – Argentina’s Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in Their Eyes) and Spain’s Javier Camara (“Talk to Her”) in a tale of the reunion of two lifelong friends. One of them is dying. Sold by Filmax Intl., Gay’s drama about life’s bedrock values – friendship, family, love – left not a dry eye in the house at a sneak peek screening earlier this month in Madrid.
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A comedic drama, the FiGa Films-repped “The Apostate,” from Spanish-Uruguayan Federico Veiroj, also rolls off strong-word-of-mouth after winning March’s Miami Fest pix-in-post competish Encuentros, curated by Toronto programmer Diana Sanchez.
Following on Veiroj’s Directors’ Fortnight-selected “Acne,” plus the delicious “A Useful Life,” a tribute to film as inspiration, “The Apostate” stars Alvaro Ogalla, and Spain’s Marta Larralde (“Leon and Olvido”) and Barbara Lennie (“Magical Girl”). In a tale of late-teen angst, its antihero struggles with issues of faith, guilt and desires, and attempts to escape his tempestuous past, not conform to his parents’ expectations, and find his own path to a new maturity.
Taking top honors at another March pix-in-post competition, the Toulouse CineLatino Festival’s Films in Progress, and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, the multi-layered “Eva Doesn’t Sleep” is sold by France’s Pyramide Intl. It weighs in as an extraordinary but true fact-based reimagining of the 25-year odyssey of Eva Peron’s embalmed corpse from Argentina in 1953 when she dies to Italy, then Spain, then Argentina where in 1976 Colonel Emilio Massera (Garcia Bernal) finally officially buries Evita, after the Junta’s 1976 coup d’etat, under six meters of cement.
Shot in verdant countryside, family drama “Grandma,” turns on the weight of rural tradition – here embodied in a mute but all-seeing grandmother – on modern Basques’ lives. It marks the second Basque-language feature to play in competition at San Sebastian, after last year’s “Flowers,” and the latest movie from an industry that has withstood Spain’s economic crisis better than most outside Madrid, thanks to Basque government and pubcaster ETB support.
A torrid sexual story set in an embargo-hit ‘90s Cuba (but shot in the Dominican Republic), “The King of Havana,” another Filmax sales title, marks Agusti Villaronga feature follow-up to “Black Bread,” one of Spain’s biggest recent breakouts that swept the 2011 Spanish Academy Goya awards.
Moving slightly towards the mainstream with coming of ager “Petit Indi” after the Chabrolian “Where Is Madame Catherine?” and the countryside-set and pointedly meandering ode to leisure and its pleasures, “August Days,” Recha returns with “Un dia perfecto para volar.” Shot almost off-the radar – so coverage has been almost non-existent – it kicks off with a father (Sergi Lopez, “Pan’s Labyrinth”) and son (Recha’s own son, Roc) flying a kite in the countryside. The film goes on to celebrate the pleasures of story-telling.
A trademark ensemble black comedy which recuperates ‘60s Spanish crooner Raphael, De la Iglesia’s Film Factory-sold “My Big Night” unspools at a lavish New Year’s Eve TV show whose frenzied fake bonhomie contrasts with the shoot date – a sweltering middle-August – plus participants’ actions and sentiments, and the solitude of the studio’s setting.
Starring Elena Anaya (“The Skin I Live In”) and Eduard Fernandez (“El Niño”), Uribe’s “Lejos del mar” turns on an ex-con and woman doctor who re-meet after their life-shaping confrontation in the past.
Sold by France’s Memento Films Intl. Alvaro Longoria’s “The Propaganda Game” narrates Longoria’s attempt to film the lives of ordinary North Korean folk in a country which has become the victim of mass propaganda – its own government’s and the West’s. “Game” is Longoria’s follow-up to his Javier Bardem produced and Goya-winning docu deb “Sons of the Clouds.”
The 63rd San Sebastian Festival catches the Spanish film industry in a paradoxical fix. Spanish films’ 2014 domestic market share hit 24.05%, their best result since 1977. Comedy “Spanish Affair” (€55.1 million: $60.1 million) was the driver, but other titles helped pull the train: “El Niño” (€16.3 million: $17.8 million), “Torrente 5: Operation Eurovegas” (€10.8 million: $11.8 million), Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Of Gods and Kings” (a Spanish co-production, €8.8 million: $9.6 million), “Marshland” (€6.1 million: $6.6 million), “Mortadelo and Filemon Mission Implausible” (€4.6 million: $5.1 million).
“Ten years ago, Spain made the same number of good, bad and regular films. The public’s attitude has shifted. It’s seen that it’s worth supporting Spanish films,” Spanish Academy president Antonio Resines said last week in Madrid, analyzing the 2014 Spanish Cinema Yearbook.
But Spanish film financing has been decimated by piracy – individual consumption of non-authorized movies is not treated as a civil offence in Spain – slashed government subsidies as economic crisis hit Spain, and Spain’s ruling Partido Popular’s drastic foot-dragging in paying out incentives.
In such a context, many Spanish producers have turned to overseas partners to finance films. According to the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO), in 2014, Spain made more international co-productions – majority and minority – than any other country in Europe; 100. This, and the huge sweep of San Sebastian’s selection, ranging over at least three generations of filmmakers, explains in part the huge variety of titles at this year’s edition.
The Festival also consciously sought to reflect the huge breadth of current filmmaking in Spain, Rebordinos emphasized at Thursday’s presentation: “Spanish cinema is ever more powerful and more diverse, from really big films to very small films, representing different ways of understanding Spanish filmmaking. We wanted the selection to capture that,” Rebordinos said, adding that San Sebastian’s Spanish-film line-up might not necessarily be closed.
Breaking through, like Uribe, during Spain’s 1970s transition to democracy, Fernando Colomo’s “Isla Bonita” delivers a zeitgeist-portrait of an ad exec in Menorca flustered by modern times and new generations of women.
San Sebastian frames six more international co-productions outside competition: Argentine Eugenio Canevari’s rural inequality drama “Paula,” about a maid on an estate who suffers an unwanted pregnancy; Ben Sharrock’s “Pikadero,” a Basque Country-set romcom; Peruvian thesp Salvador del Solar’s directorial debut “Magallanes,” a redemption drama and San Sebastian 2014 Films in Progress winner; Western Patagonia Archipelago-set docu-feature “The Pearl Button,” from Chile’s Patricio Guzman, a Berlin 2015 best screenplay winner. Paula Ortiz’s “La Novia,” a Spain-Turkey-Germany co-pro, transposes Federico Garcia Lorca’s stage play “Blood Wedding” to the white desert of Turkey’s Capadocia.
Of new Spanish directors, Dani de la Torre’s feature debut “Retribution,” a car-chase thriller starring Luis Tosar (“Sleep Tight”) and sold by Film Factory, will play at San Sebastian’s big screen Velodrome.
Mixing archive footage, interviews and graphic novel-style pop-up animation, “Un día vi 10,000 Elefantes” narrates a near-surreal act of African exploration over 1944-46 by filmmaker Manuel Hernandez Sanjuan. Neo-colonial heroism suggests a profound disconnect with Africa.
Once driving its arthouse production, social issues now inform many of Spain’s documentaries. As youth unemployment remains at 50% in some parts of Spain and Spanish national debts billows, Pere Joan Ventura’s docu-feature “No Estamos Solos” portrays members of Spain’s street protest movements against austerity cuts in education and health services. Mercedes Moncada’a “Mi querida España” presents a questioning vision of democratic Spain through the interviews of respected journalist Jesus Quintero.
63rd SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL, SEPT. 18-26
“The Apostate,” (Federico Veiroj, Spain, Uruguay, France)
“Un Dia perfecto para volar” (Marc Recha, Spain)
“Eva Doesn’t Sleep,” (Pablo Aguero, Argentina, Francia, Spain)
“Grandmother,” (Asier Aituna, Spain)
“The King of Havana,” (Agusti Villaronga, Spain, Dominican Republic)
“Truman,” (Cesc Gay, Spain, Argentnina)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“My Big Night,” (Alex de la Iglesia, Spain)
“Lejos del mar,” (Imanol Uribe, Spain)
“No estamos solos,” (Pere Joan Ventura, Spain)
“Paula,” (Eugenio Canevari, Argentina-Spain)
“Pikadero,” (Ben Sharrock, Spain, U.K.)
“The Pearl Button,” (Patricio Guzman, Chile, Spain, France)
“Magallanes,” (Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Spain)
“Un día vi 10,000 elefantes,” (Alex Guimbra, Juan Pajares España)
“Isla Bonita,” (Fernando Colomo, Spain)
“Mi querida España,” (Mercedes Moncada, Spain)
“La Novia,” (Paula Ortiz, Spain, Turkey, Germany)
“The Propaganda Game,” (Alvaro Longoria, Spain)
VELODROMO BIG SCREEN
“Retribution,” (Dani de la Torre, Spain)