San Sebastian’s Kursaal building hosted the film’s initial announcement 11 months ago where, apart from a boycott by leftist Basque party EH Bildu of a party thrown for Allen by the San Sebastian mayor, Spain’s reception of Allen has largely been warm.
However, while Spanish and European support for the filmmaker remains strong, the decision to include and open the festival with a Woody Allen film is likely to raise eyebrows. Earlier this year, the filmmaker’s memoir “Apropos of Nothing,” was dropped by its original publisher after widespread criticism of Allen resurfaced, most notably from his son Ronan Farrow who has remained outspoken about alleged abuse his father imparted on sister Dylan. Allen himself has been steadfast in his denial of the accusations, and addresses them in the book, eventually published in March by Arcade Publishing.
This will be the second time that Allen will have opened the festival. He first curtain raiser came in 2004, when he received the Donostia Award for career achievement, with “Melinda and Melinda.” Allen’s films “Manhattan,” “Zelig,” “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Whatever Works” and “Irrational Man” have all participated in some capacity at San Sebastian over the past four decades.
“Rifkin’s Festival” was shot last summer in San Sebastian and the surrounding area. In the film, a married American couple attends the San Sebastian Festival where they are caught up in the glitz and glamor of the event and the Basque charm of the Cantabria coast. There, the wife has an affair with a brilliant French director while her husband falls in love with a beautiful Spanish local.
Elena Anaya, Louis Garrel, Gina Gershon, Sergi López, Wallace Shawn and Christoph Waltz lead the international cast.
Letty Aronson’s Gravier Productions and Wildside produce with Spain’s The Mediapro Studio, whose parent company Mediapro co-produced previous Allen films “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris,” both of which won Academy Awards: a best supporting actress Oscar for Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” the first Oscar ever won by a Spanish actress; and an original screenplay award for Allen on “Midnight in Paris.”
Mediapro Studio Distribution will handle international sales.