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San Sebastian Completes Festival Triangle

Enterprising sales agents are increasingly using the San Sebastian festival as the second part of a trans-continental double whammy: A world premiere at Toronto, followed by a European premiere a week or so later in San Sebastian. Thirteen of San Sebastian’s 18 main competition titles this year will choose this route.

Reasons abound. The arthouse theatrical market is ever tougher, distributors ever more cautious.

“Films need ever longer festival runs, but better and quicker promotion. One festival is just not enough,” says San Sebastian Festival director José Luis Rebordinos.

Antonio Saura, head of Latido Films, whose “The Realm” segues from Toronto to San Sebastian competition, agrees. Given the number of movies produced every year, and competition for distributors, “more and more, it’s necessary for a sales agency to be present in different events. Only attending the main four [Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Toronto] is no longer enough to explain a movie’s potential to all distributors.”

Toronto bows 138 world premieres this year. Films can be lost in that crush. San Sebastian delivers a second, near simultaneous window.

“The Toronto-San Sebastian combination is a great way to start the [fall] season, the best way to maximize awareness for a film with distributors, critics, journalists and, ultimately, the audience,” says Iván Díaz, head of international at Filmax, which represents competition contender “Between Two Waters.”

“For a Spanish-language film, premiering at San Sebastian in competition is very important. We’re talking about the most important of Spanish festivals,” adds Film Factory Ent. founder Vicente Canales, whose “Quien te cantará” also vies for San Sebastian’s Golden Shell.

A good reception at San Sebastian boosts Spanish box office, which ultimately benefits foreign sales, Díaz points out.

Some titles do break out at San Sebastian. Canales cites “Marshland,” Díaz “Truman” and Saura “Killing Jesus,” all rolling off a Toronto-San Sebastian one-two.

“San Sebastian may have a small market, but it’s a boutique market with good clients attending,” Saura says. That includes multiple companies from France, which has seven films in competition to Spain’s four.

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