New movies from Bertrand Bonello – the potentially controversial “Nocturama” – Hong Sang-soo and Arnaud des Pallieres will vie in main competition for San Sebastian’s Golden Seashell.
But it is the festival’s daring bet on a new generation of filmmakers, including Sundance winner Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and Chile’s Fernando Guzzoni but mostly drawn from Europe, which will define this year’s 64th edition. Seven of the 11 San Sebastian competition titles announced to date – including Ewan McGregor’s first directorial outing, “American Pastoral” – are either feature-debuts or made by directors under the age of 40.
The focus on young talent, compounded by a long-running New Directors competition, among the most important of its kind worldwide, comes as San Sebastian is also reinforcing another of its central axes: Its bridge with Latin America. In its latest move, it has launched a new prize, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Latin Cinema Award. It first winner is Gael Garcia Bernal, one of Latin America’s best known actors but also a director and producer who has leveraged his international cache to bring more projection and sales to an emerging generation of directors some ten years on from many of the new names which compete this year at San Sebastian. Garcia Bernal’s relationship with Chile’s Pablo Larrain, whose Cannes hit “Neruda” screens at the Spanish fest, is a case in point.
More titles by new directors may be added to San Sebastian’s competition line-up as the festival also looks set to present a vision embraced by a significant number of directorial voices – whether young promises or established talent – of a disaffected, disenfranchised or simply disoriented youth which erupts with sudden unexpected violence or frustration.
Bonello’s Wild Bunch title “Nocturama,” though the seventh film from a director who has had three films in Cannes’ Official Selection, is a case in point. Made before the November attacks on Paris, it posits a group of French youths from disparate backgrounds launching a terrorist attack on Paris which have nothing to do with Islamic radicalism.
23-year-old Joris-Peyrafitte’s “As You Are,” a Sundance Special Jury Award winner sold by Alma Cinema, riffs on the Nirvana song not only in its title but vision of the loneliness, angst and confusion of youth. Its camera work, which toys with different film types, plus use of a procedural structure, typifies a cine-literate generation which are both mobile and agnostic about film types.
Having seen his offbeat but stylish short “Las Palmas” selected for Sundance and Cannes, Johannes Nyholm’s anticipated first feature “The Giant” turns on a severely deformed man suffering from autism who builds an imaginary world where he is a 50-meter-tall giant, while he yearns for his mother, from whom he was separated at birth.
Guzzoni’s “Jesus,” a follow-up to San Sebastian New Directors winner “Dog Head,” turns on the generational disconnect between a father and his estranged son.
In a further San Sebastian competition title announced Friday, the 1865 period drama “Lady Macbeth” from U.K playwright-turned-director William Oldroyd, a woman, distanced from her much older husband, reacts with near primal energy to her physical attraction to a worker on her estate.
Other competition titles turns on different issues. The latest tale of dysfunctional romance from the prolific Hong Sang-soo, sometimes dubbed Korea’s Woody Allen, “Yourself and Yours” is a romantic comedy about a painter suffering from near delirious jealousy sparked by his girlfriend.
Boasting an eye-catching femme cast – Adele Haenel (“L’Apollonide”), Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”), Solène Rigot (“17 Filles”) and Gemma Arterton (“007: Quantum of Solace”) – “Orphan,” from Des Pallieres’ (“Michael Kohlhaas”), depicts four times in four characters’ lives, ranging from childhood to troubled adult maturity.
The 64th San Sebastian Festival runs Sept. 16-24.