San Sebastian Film Festival Obsessed with Hollywood, Latino Flicks, and Food

Film Fiend features dispatches from Miami International Film Festival Director, Jaie Laplante, as he scopes flicks on the indie film festival circuit.

The San Sebastian Film Festival -- at 59 years old, Spain's #1 film festival event -- has a seashell for a logo, and seems pretty much to be obsessed with three main things:  American movie stars, Spanish/Latino films, and food. If there's ever a festival that is obviously "in the family" for MIFF, this is the one.

The layout of the festival reminds me of Cannes -- big temple of cinema built right on the beach, etc. -- but the weather kinda bites. Not great for visitors but excellent for the citizens. What better thing to brighten up a dreary month than a glamorous film festival? The theaters are packed, because nobody wants to be outside.

The first weekend was lit up with the presence of Clive Owen, on hand to

open the festival with a starring role in the new thriller Intruders; Frances McDormand, who is the president of the main Competition jury;

and Glenn Close, who received her first-ever Career Achievement Award. The festival even has a staggering 40-film retrospective dedicated to

the "American Way of Death," celebrating/examining great film noir films

from the past 20 years. The retro includes films like Se7en, The

Usual Suspects,and Reservoir Dogs, and the festival plays each film

an average three times over the 10 days.  

San Sebastian also has three sections for Spanish/Latino films, and even

then can't contain them all. Besides the "Made in Spain" survey of the

past year's films (eclectically chosen), there's a section just for

Basque films, and a Horizontes Latino competition section (much like

MIFF's own Iberoamerican Competition). But Spanish and Latino films

also crop up in the Festival's main Competition and New Directors

programs, as well.

The Horizontes Latino section is dominated by Mexico and Chile this year

(Chile in particular is having an incredible year). Thirteen films are

vying for the €35,000 top prize, including Colombia's All Your Dead

Ones by Carlos Moreno, which competed in MIFF's Ibero competition

earlier this year. Film Fiend always likes to play the

If-I-Was-On-The-Jury game, dangerous turf indeed! 

All the films are

worthy, but I think Sebastian Cordero's Pescador must certainly be in

the top running.  The 4th feature film from the man who put modern

Ecuadorian cinema on the map with Ratas, Ratones, Rateros and Cronicas is back with a beautifully shot, uncharacteristically soulful

tale of Blanquito, a 30-year-old fisherman who accidentally falls into

the drug trade. Blanquito, played by Andres Crespo, has an

"international look," in his own estimation.

New this year in San Sebastian is the "Culinary Zinema: Cinema and

Gastronomy" section, which boasts the tagline:  "7 films, 7 themes, 7

restaurants, 7 chefs". The new section seems absolutely inevitable,

or as the program book states, virtually an "obligation." All the

tourist info for San Sebastian proudly touts the fact that its

restaurants have the highest concentration of Michelin stars per square

kilometer, a fact that no one in their right mind would argue. 

The festival continues today and tomorrow with industry-only screenings

of six new works-in-progress in the Latin American development program

known as Cine en Construccion.  Among the brave filmmakers unveiling her

rough cut for prospective investors, buyers and programmers is Marialy

Rivas from Chile, who won the $2,500 University of Miami Short Film

Award at MIFF this past March for her powerful short "Blokes." 

At the

time, Marialy emailed an acceptance speech from the set of her first

feature film, Young and Wild (Joven y Alocada), which is now in

post-production and scheduled for industry unveiling tomorrow.

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