Packing its first full-on onsite edition since the pandemic, Spain’s San Sebastian Festival has never been busier or bigger. 10 Takes on what is shaping up as a vibrant edition:
Playing Off Powerful Market Forces
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This year, eight movies from Spain and Latin America play in competition alone at San Sebastian, the most important film event in the Spanish-speaking world. The fest’s main sidebar is its New Directors strand. San Sebastian’s focus on the Spanish-speaking world and new talent now aligns with powerful market forces. That fact plays out over the 2022 edition.
San Sebastian’s New Creative Investors’ Conference
CAA Media Finance is teaming with San Sebastian to organize the festival’s first Creative Investors’ Conference, running Sept. 19-20. Attendees take in international film biz movers and shakers: CAA’s own Roeg Sutherland, Wild Bunch’s Vincent Marvel and Patrick Wachsberger, fresh off his Oscar win for “CODA. Symptomatically, CAA has asked not only to be pitched 10 higher-end Spanish film projects but also meet with students at Spain’s top film schools. The aim is for the Conference to continue past 2023. “We might not get 40 investors, but we’re sure we will continue to attract a significant number,” says San Sebastian director José Luis Rebordinos.
David Cronenberg and Juliette Binoche receive Donostia Awards at gala screenings of respectively “Crimes of the Future” and Claire Denis’ “Both Sides Of The Blade.” Expected stars include Penelope Cruz to champion Juan Diego Botto’s “On the Fringe,” which she also produces, plus Olivia Wilde and Ricardo Darín, among many others,
“This year is the strongest Spanish movie presence at San Sebastian in my 11 years directing the festival,” Rebordinos says. That’s par for 2022, the most important year for Spanish cinema that Rebordinos has known, he adds. Just Catalonia, part of Spain, had more directors in competition at Berlin and Cannes – Berlin Golden Bear winner Carla Simón, Isaki Lacuesta and Albert Serra – than Italy (2), Germany (1) or the U.K. (none at all).
Reasons for Spain’s Renaissance
Why Spain’s on fire is another question. San Sebastian may suggests some answers. Emerging from 2000, a generation of drama and crossover auteurs pack out its Official Selection. Jaime Rosales’s female emancipation tale “Wild Flowers” and Fernando Franco’s coming of age “The Rite of Spring” play competition; Alberto Rodriguez opens San Sebastian with “Prison 77.” A second film generation making intimate localised tales of universal resonance, also vies in competition with Pilar Palomero’s “La Maternal,” a teen motherhood story, and “Cork,” Mikel Gurrea’s rural parable on capitalism. This two generation whammy is galvanising Spanish filmmaking.
There’s great word on Swiss Carmen Jaquier’s “Thunder,” a 1900-set tale of sex as religious faith shot in high style in high Alps. Buzz is building on “Runner,” from Brooklyn-based Marian Mathias, a hard-edged tale of two lost young souls in America’s vast mid-West. Both are debuts, suggesting this year’s San Sebastián could yield discoveries. Also attracting heat is Portuguese immigrant tale “Great Yarmouth,” from Marco Martins (“Alice”).
Women to the Fore, Again
Both the debuts are by women. Female filmmakers dominated San Sebastian awards last year and in 2020. Add four more first features or shorts by young Spanish directoras – Rocío Mesa’s “Tobacco Barns” in New Directors, Elena López Riera’s Directors’ Fortnight success “The Water,” Carlota Pereda’s Sundance hit “Piggy” and Estibaliz Urresola’s Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Chords,” plus two potential New Directors’ standouts, Laura Baumeister’s “Daughter of Rage” and Dinara Drukarova’s “Grand Marin,” and history might repeat itself in 2022.
Basque Country Film-TV Scene Catches Fire
Competition contender “Suro,” from the Basque Country’s Gurrea, is also currying great word-of-mouth. The biggest title at the Creative Investors Conference is movie project “Whalemen,” from Baltasar Kormákur (“Everest,” “Beast”) set up at Eduardo Carneros’ Bilbao-based Euskadi Movie. Another is Asier Altuna’s “Karmele,” from San Sebastian’s Txintxua Films whose series “Intimacy” shot to global No. 1 on Netflix non-English series charts this June. Basque series “Balenciaga” is Disney+’s biggest swing in Spain. With Basque province Bizkaia having secured E.U. approval for up-to-70% tax incentives, the Basque film-TV scene is on fire.
The San Sebastian TV Festival
So is Spanish TV, and San Sebastian is the go-to place for big series premieres. Movistar Plus+ will bow “Offworld” (“Apagón”), directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Raul Arévalo, Isa Campo, Alberto Rodriguez and Isaki Lacuesta in a head-turning sign of Movistar Plus+’s talent clout. It also premieres “Simple,” from “Arde Madrid’s” Anna R. Costa. Atresplayer Premium unveils a powerful trio of “The Gypsy Bride,” from “Penny Dreadful” director Paco Cabezas, “La Ruta,” produced by Sorogoyen’s Caballo Films, and “Cardo” Season 2, one of Variety’s best international TV shows of 2021.
Latin America Calling
As state aid splutters over much of Latin America, its producers are turning ever more to international co-production. Little wonder San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum is packed by talent led by Argentina with Emiliano Torres, Anahí Berneri, Agustina San Martín and Clarisa Navas. Mexico’s Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson and Costa Rica’s Sofía Quirós also present new projects.
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