With the first full edition on site since the pandemic, Spain’s San Sebastian Festival has never been busier or bigger. 10 Takes the form of a lively edition:
Playing out powerful market forces
Nine of Netflix’s Top 10 Non-English Language Movies and TV Shows come from Spain or Latin America. Platforms fight to retain talent.
This year, eight films from Spain and Latin America will play in competition alone at San Sebastian, the most important film event in the Spanish-speaking world. The main sidebar of the fest is the New Directors section. San Sebastian’s focus on the Spanish-speaking world and new talent now aligns with powerful market forces. That fact is set in the 2022 edition.
San Sebastian’s New Creative Investor Conference
CAA Media Finance has partnered with San Sebastian to host the festival’s first Creative Investors’ Conference, September 19-20. Those in attendance will bring international film biz movers and shakers: CAA’s very own Roeg Sutherland, Wild Bunch’s Vincent Marvel and Patrick Wachsberger, fresh off his Oscar win for “CODA. Symptomatically, CAA has not only asked to pitch 10 high-end Spanish film projects, but also to meet students from the best film schools in Spain.The aim is for the conference to continue after 2023. “We may not get 40 investors, but we are sure that we will continue to attract a significant number,” says San Sebastian Director Jose Luis Rebordinos.
David Cronenberg and Juliette Binoche receive Donostia Awards during gala performances of ‘Crimes of the Future’ and Claire Denis’ ‘Both Sides Of The Blade’, respectively. Expected stars include Penelope Cruz, who will be defending 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 presence of Spanish films in San Sebastian in the 11 years I directed the festival,” says Rebordinos. That’s about 2022, the most important year for Spanish cinema that Rebordinos has known, he adds. Only Catalonia, part of Spain, had more directors competing in Berlin and Cannes – winner of the Berlin Golden Bear Carla Simón, Isaki Lacuesta and Albert Serra – than Italy (2), Germany (1) or the UK (none at all) .
Reasons for the Spanish Renaissance
Why Spain is on fire is another question. San Sebastian can suggest some answers. A generation of drama and crossover authors, which emerged from 2000, unpack the official roster. Jaime Rosales’ female emancipation story “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 generation of film making intimate, localized stories of universal resonance also rivals Pilar Palomero’s “La Maternal,” a tale of teenage motherhood, and “Cork,” Mikel Gurrea’s rural parable of capitalism. This two-generation blow stimulates Spanish filmmaking.
There’s a lot of news about Swiss Carmen Jaquier’s “Thunder,” a 1900-set story about sex as a high-style religious faith shot in the high Alps. Buzz builds on “Runner” by Brooklyn-based Marian Mathias, a perceptive tale of two lost young souls in America’s vast Midwest. Both are debuts, suggesting this year’s San Sebastián could bring discoveries. Also attracting heat is the Portuguese immigrant story “Great Yarmouth”, by Marco Martins (“Alice”).
Women in the foreground, again
Both debuts are by women. Female filmmakers dominated the San Sebastian awards last year and in 2020. Add four more feature films or short films by young Spanish directors: 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, Laura Baumeister’s ‘Daughter of Rage’ and Dinara Drukarova’s ‘Grand Marin’, and history could repeat itself in 2022.
Movie TV scene in the Basque Country catches fire
Contender “Suro”, from the Basque Country, Gurrea, is also doing great word of mouth. The biggest title at the Creative Investors Conference is Baltasar Kormákur’s film project ‘Whalemen’ (‘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” hit the worldwide No. 1 non-English-language Netflix series in June. The Basque series “Balenciaga” is the largest Disney+ swing in Spain. Now that the Basque province of Bizkaia has received EU approval for tax breaks of up to 70%, the Basque movie TV scene is on fire.
The San Sebastian TV Festival
So is Spanish TV, and San Sebastian is the place to be for major series premieres. Movistar Plus+ bows “Offworld” (“Apagón”), directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Raul Arévalo, Isa Campo, Alberto Rodriguez and Isaki Lacuesta, in a striking sign of the talent of Movistar Plus+. There will also be a premiere of ‘Simple’ by Anna R. Costa from ‘Arde Madrid’. Atresplayer Premium reveals 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 Varieties best international tv shows of 2021.
Calling in Latin America
As state aid sputters across much of Latin America, producers are increasingly turning to international co-production. No wonder the Europe-Latin America co-production forum in San Sebastian is packed with talent led by Argentina with Emiliano Torres, Anahí Berneri, Agustina San Martín and Clarisa Navas. Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson from Mexico and Sofía Quirós from Costa Rica also present new projects.