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Jessica Chastain’s ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye,’ Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’ Join San Sebastián Competition

Jessica Chastain as "Tammy Faye Bakker"
Searchlight Pictures

Starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” will receive its European premiere at late September’s San Sebastian Festival.

The biggest film event in the Spanish-speaking world will open with the anticipated “One Second” from China’s Zhang Yimou, which was dramatically pulled from competition at the 69th Berlin Film Festival.

Both titles play in competition, vying for San Sebastian’s top film plaudit, its Golden Shell, where they are joined by French filmmaker Thierry de Peretti’s “Undercover.”

Recounting the rise, fall and redemption of Tammy Faye, the indomitable wife of televangelist Jim Bakker, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” weighs in as the only U.S. movie in San Sebastian main competition. It catches Chastain on a high as she will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor Award, coinciding with the premiere at Toronto of the film.

The three new films mark the final titles to be selected for San Sebastian competition this year, which boasts a strong Spanish presence – new films from Jonas Trueba (“Quien lo impide!), Icíar Bollaín (“Maixabel”), Fernando León de Aranoa (“The Good Boss”) and Paco Plaza (“La abuela”) – as well as titles from Terence Davies (“Benediction”) and Laurent Cantet (“Arthur Rambo”), an awaited female auteur genre title – Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s “Earwig” –  and three first features, from Romania’s Alina Grigore (“Blue Moon”), Denmark’s Tea Lindberg (“As in Heaven”) and China’s Zhang Ji (“Fire on the Plain”)

The San Sebastian Film Festival runs Sept.17-25.

Final Additions to Main Competition at the 2021 San Sebastian Film Festival:

‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ (Michael Showalter, U.S.)
Directed by film and TV writer-director Showalter (“The Big Sick”), the Searchlight Pictures title presents a bright, brassy chronicle of the roller-coaster life of Tammy Faye Bakker, co-creator of the biggest religious broadcasting network in the world. Chastain, who also produces, looks to relish her titular role as the outspoken, unabashed televangelist, if a trailer last month is anything to go by.

‘One Second,’ (‘Yi miao zhong,’ Zhang Yimou, China)
One of the latest features from the celebrated Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern,” “Hero”) “One Second” was famously yanked from the 2019 Berlin Festival by Chinese authorities for “technical reasons,” frequent governmental shorthand for political issues. Though set during China’s 1966-76 Cultural Revolution – a sensitive, if not taboo, topic, Variety has commented -– Zhang Yimou himself has described the film as a love letter to cinema. It turns on a prisoner who escapes from a labor camp hoping to see images of his estranged daughter in a film screening nearby. A Neon U.S. pick-up sold by Wild Bunch, “One Second” is scheduled as the Toronto Festival’s closing night film.

‘Undercover,’ (‘Enquête sur un scandale d’etat,’ Thierry de Peretti, France)
Roschdy Zem, Pio Marmaï, Vincent Lindon and Julie Moulier star in “Undercover,” which charts a star journalist investigations into police corruption, aided by a self-declared witness. The fourth feature from actor-director Peretti whose “Apaches” (2013) and “A Violent Life” (2017) were selected for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week respectively. Produced by Paris-based Les Films Velvet, who backed Rebecca Zlotowski’s “Planetarium.” Wild Bunch again handles sales.