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San Sebastian: ‘Sex Life,’ ‘New Kid,’ ‘Thirst’ Set for New Directors

Section also features multiple takes on youth malaise

TAULL, Spain – Svetla Tsotsorkova buzzed-up “Thirst” (above),  Rudi Rosenberg’s “The New Kid” and Sebastian Brahm’s “Sex Life of Plants” will compete in the San Sebastian’s New Directors competition whose 2015 lineup was announced Tuesday.

Also featuring Edinburgh Fest closer, Scot Scott Graham’s “Iona,” and “Parasol,” from Belgium’s Valery Rosier, titles are diverse. Beyond these five film, however, near half the New Directors lineup – and near all drawn from the developed world – turn on the rebellion of a disaffected youth, their alienation and a generational disconnect as young directors home in on a seemingly widespread young generation malaise.

Reserved for first and second features, San Sebastian’s New Directors competition carries a €50,000 ($55,000) Kutxa New Directors Prize. A prize, or positive play at New Directors, can amp up sales business: Following on its Toronto world premiere, 2014’s San Sebastian New Directors winner, “The Lesson,” helmed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, was sold worldwide by Wide.

Before Cannes, Paris-based Alpha Violet acquired international sales rights to “Thirst,” which is produced by Sofia-based Front Film. Sparking good word-of-mouth, and directed by Bulgaria’s Tsotsorkova, it turns on a couple and teen son who eek out a living doing the laundry for local hotels, despite intermittent water supply. Their life is upended by the arrival of a well digger and his water diviner daughter. Thirst for water is one thing, however; thirst for love is even more powerful.

Rosenberg’s debut, “The New Kid” is a relative rarity – a children-targeting coming-of-age comedy. It centers on 14-year-old Benoit who moves to a Paris school. There, he thinks he has to choose between his new nerd friends and, on the other hand, newfound popularity and chance of getting the prettiest girl in class. In a sign of perceived commercial potential, Paris-based Indie Sales is handling “The New Kid’s” international sales. Mars Film will release it in France.

Brahm attracted attention – the rough cut was a hit at 2009’s Ventana Sur – but never quite broke out with debut “Roman’s Circuit.” Returning with what he calls “a woman’s film about thirtysomethings,” “Sex Life of Plants” centers on a woman in love with her sharp-witted husband, before an accident renders him a dullard. A discreetly ironic portrait of forces driving human behavior, “Sex Life” is produced by Brahm and Franco Valsecchi, along with doc-director-turned-producer Maite Alberdi (“Tea Time”) at Escala Humana.

The collateral damage of Internet, the absence – literal or metaphorical – of parents, and the inhumanity of post-industrial society: These are just some factors explored by this year’s New Directors as they portray youth’s disaffection.

Billed as a story of love and temptation in the age of Internet pornography, for instance, “After Eden,” from Canada-based Austrian writer Hans Christian Berger, marks the theatrical debut of Canadian adult film star Alyssa Reece in a film where fantasy and on-camera reality imperil real human contact.

In the true-event based One of Us,” from Vienna-based Stephan Richter, the only place to meet in an industrialized suburb in Austria is a huge supermarket. One night, two youths break for a lark. It is a brief moment of freedom, which leads to one teen’s death

Another New Directors entry, “Granny’s Dancing on the Table,” from Sweden’s Hanna Skold, has a girl brought up by her father in the deep Swedish forests so to avoid contact with the outer world. Rebellion and escape – here to a magical Italy – is only a matter of time.

In Slovenian Olmo Omerzu’s “Family Film,” alienation plays out within a family. Its members, including the kids, are characters; when the parents take off on a boat trip the kids haven’t a clue what to do with their newfound liberty. A robustly structured Euro co-production, “Family Film” is lead produced by the Czech Republic’s Endorfilm.

Korean Jinwoo Rhee’s “Stay With Me” pictures the friendship between an A-grade student who feels trapped by his father and the school bully, whose mother is ill.

New Directors also features Israeli Michal Vinik’s “Barash,” added to M-Appeal’s sales slate for Cannes, a coming of age tale about a 17-year-old girl who falls in love with a new girl at her high school, – discovering a world of drugs, lesbians and sex – as her family life falls apart.

Of other-themed titles in New Directors, starring Ruth Negga (“Marvel’s Agents of the Shield”) “Iona” turns on a single mother who flees after a violent crime to the Inner Hebrides she was brought up in. She’s soon reminded why she left in the first place. Graham’s “Shell” world premiered to an upbeat reception at San Sebastian’s New Directors in 2012.

New Directors also screens the Mediterranean island-set “Parasol,” the feature debut of well-known short film helmer Valery Rosier (“Bonne Nuit”) whose “Dimanches” competed at Cannes.

As already announced, section will showcase Argentine Eugenio Canevari’s rural inequality drama “Paula,” about a maid on an estate who suffers an unwanted pregnancy; and Scot Ben Sharrock’s Basque Country-set “Pikadero,” about a boy and girl who want to consummate their affair but don’t have the money for a hotel. Here a romcom underscores Spain’s newfound penury.

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