MADRID — The San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival announced at a press conference on Tuesday morning the fourteen projects selected to participate in this year’s Kutxabank New Directors section at the northern Spanish festival.
Of the participating films, eight are debuts and six are second works, three of the latter from semi-new filmmakers who previously participated in New Directors with their debut features. Notably, this year’s selection includes eight films from nine women filmmakers, a statistic which challenges the selections made by other, similarly-profiled festivals in their competition selections.
The number of returning directors suggests a usefulness of participating in the section. New Directors consolidated as the festival’s major sidebar, whose world premieres often go on to have a vigorous festival circuit career and break out at times to notable foreign territory sales.
Typically, the New Directors sidebar also provides a look at the themes and styles that a younger generation of filmmakers find compelling. This year’s slate features themes of inter-generational family and community conflict, mental and physical health and rites of passage. A number of the films also exhibit strong genre elements in their execution.
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Domestic entries come in Lucía Alemany’s “The Innocence,” a bittersweet coming of age tale set in a Valencia neighborhood where tension rises between generations, and “Jordi’s Letters” from Maider Fernandez Iriarte, a product of San Sebastian Ikusmira Berriak development program which features the director’s relationship with 51-year-old Jordi, a man with cerebral palsy who says he has lost a sense of communicating with God.
Japanese “Bonfire at Dawn” from director Koichi Doi, Korean “Scattered Night” from Lee Jihyoung and Kim Sol, Hinde Boujeema’s “Noura’s Dream” from Tunisia, Belgium and France and Svetla Tsotsorkova’s “Sister” from Bulgaria and Qatar are four of the five films selected not exclusively from Europe or the Americas. New Directors often has the longest international reach of the festival’s competitive sections.
Each focus on parent-child relationships, and in each case one parent is isolated with their child or children, stuck in situations difficult for the kids to understand, but which will shape the rest of their lives.
The fifth non-Euro/American film is Oren Gerner’s “Africa,” produced out of Israel. The film follows a 30-year village employee who finds himself replaced by a group of inexperienced local teenagers, and must deal with a life that seems to have lost its purpose.
South America has two entries in this year’s New Directors. Argentina’s ‘90s-set “The Good Intentions” from Ana Garcia Blaya focuses on two children in a shared-parenting situation, and weighs in as one of the two biggest standouts from last December’s Ventana Sur, where it was snapped up by Film Factory Ent.
Jorge Riquelme Serrano brings “Some Beasts” a reflection on insecurities and the capacity for violence in Chile’s middle class which pairs Chile’s two biggest international stars, Alfredo Castro and Paulina Garcia.
David Raboy’s “The Giant” is the lone U.S. title selected to participate in this year’s New Directors. The film turns on a small-town girl’s first love who’s returned home after leaving without notice a year before, and brings with him some frightening demons.
Ignas Jonynas’ “Nematoma” is a Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine co-production turning on a dance TV show contestant who feigns blindness to secure his place on the show, and a past he can’t escape.
A U.K.-France co-production, Fyzal Boulifa’s “Lynn + Lucy” tracks two lifelong besties who experience conflict like never before when Lucy, the wilder of the two, has her first child. A mother herself, Lynn is critical of Lucy’s reaction to becoming a mother.
From Norway, Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s “Disco” turns on a world-champion disco dancer whose family ignores her need for medical help in favor of faith-based healing.
Delphine Lehericey’s Swiss-Belgian co-production “Beyond the Horizon” is a mid-‘70s period story of a 13-year-old boy whose family environment and his own innocence fall apart amidst a sweltering summer heat wave.
The jury-selected winner of the Kutxabank-New Directors Award will receive a prize of €50,000 ($55,740) split between the director and the film’s distribution campaign in Spain.
SAN SEBASTIAN 2019 KUTXABANK NEW DIRECTORS’ LINEUP
“Africa,” (Oren Gerner, Israel)
“Some Beasts,” (Jorge Riquelme Serrano, Chile)
“Disco,” (Jorunn Myklebust Syversen, Norway)
“The Innocence,” (Lucía Alemany, Spain)
“The Good Intentions,” (Ana Garcia Blaya, Argentina)
“Jordi’s Letters,” (Maider Fernandez Iriarte, Spain)
“Beyond the Horizon,” (Delphine Lehericey, Switzerland, Belgium)
“Noura’s Dream,” (Hinde Boujeema, Tunisia, Belgium, France)
“Lynn + Lucy,” (Fyzal Boulifa, U.K., France)
“Nematoma,” (Ignas Jonynas, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine)
“Scattered Night,” (Lee Jihyoung, Kim Sol, South Korea)
“Sister,” (Svetla Tsotsorkova, Bulgaria, Qatar)
“The Giant,” (David Raboy, U.S.A., France)
“Bonfire at Dawn,” (Koici Doi, Japan)
John Hopewell contributed to this article.