The 70th San Sebastian rounded out its final turn with new deals for Spain announced by A Contracorriente, Bteam and Avalon, rejoicing among industry players at a first full festival on site, blessed by early autumn sunshine, a sense of an even slower international sales activity.
Likewise, the Spanish market and production sector remains buoyant, boosted by arthouse outbreaks and vibrant drama series production. Five takeaways from this year’s San Sebastian Festival, taking place tomorrow, September 24:
San Sebastian is growing (again)
“There are markets that have improved during COVID-19, and others that have not, and San Sebastian is a festival that has improved thanks to its industrial activities,” said Vicente Canales of Film Factory. That build comes a long way, with a Films in Progress section in 2002, a Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum in 2012, the Ikusmira Berriak development residency in 2017, and now a Creative Investors Conference.
This is a form of cross-collaterization. Competition movies can get hot or cold. The 40 titles, often completely unknown, marketed by these four industries guarantee something of interest for producers and sales agents who decide where to premiere their most popular films.
“Industry level, more and more things are happening here, and it’s very interesting for me to be in San Sebastian,” said Iván Díaz of Filmax, head of international at Filmax, which sells Cesc Gay’s ensemble comedy “Stories Not to Be”. Told,” premiered Thursday at the San Sebastian Festival as an RTVE Gala.
Slowing down sales activity (even more)
“There was a race to overtake Netflix among streamers and now people are recognizing that that’s not necessarily the best business model,” said 30West’s Trevor Groth. “So now there’s kind of a pause. I think there will be a backlash, a backlash to theatrical distribution and exhibition.” That hiatus, compounded with uncertainty about when adult audiences will flock back to theaters, however, currently appears to be hurting sales activity. French sales agents in particular, who often use San Sebastian to announce the first sales of hot tickets for Venice and Toronto, looked very outraged.
….But there were business
“San Sebastian is a launch pad, not a market to close,” said Latido Films’ Antonio Saura, pointing out he won’t be selling the world on Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s red-hot “As Bestas,” a film Le Pacte has opened to 316,000 admissions sales. in France, about $2 million or more, in gross box office, until the end of November Ventana Sur. So San Sebastian generally cut in two ways: sales agent pick-up announcements, especially in the lead up to the event; co-production agreements where producers contact production partners to offset an increasingly challenged international sales market on more artsy packages. The only exception to this delay is Spain. Buoyed by exceptional box office art film events – “Alcarrás”, “Lullaby” – key players struck deals in San Sebastian or unveiled bold distribution moves.
*Spanish distribution rights for the highly anticipated film “Cerrar los ojos”, by legendary Spanish director Victor Erice (“The Spirit of the Beehive”), have been acquired by Avalon Distribution Audiovisual, whose credits include “Alcarràs”. The film is scheduled to be released next year. Tandem Films, Pecado Films and Nautilus produce.
*Energetic Spanish Distributor-Producer bteam photos has partnered with Film Factory to ink the Spanish rights to Colombian Laura Mora’s “Kings of the World,” a world premiere in the San Sebastian competition and part of Toronto’s Industry Selects section.
*A Contracorrine Movies has bought Spanish rights for Cuban Pavel Giroud’s Horizontes Latinos player, “The Padilla Affair”, co-produced with Spanish Ventú Productions and Lia Rodríguez in Cuba, and sold by Figa Films.
*The international sales rights of Petr Václav’s lavish film “Il Boemo”, which had its world premiere in the main competition, were picked up by the Paris-based Loco Movieswhich also landed on “Woman at Sea”, a buzz title from San Sebastian New Directors of the Paris-based Slot Machine (“Melancholia”).
*”Walls Can Talk”, the latest film by the Spanish Carlos Saura (“Raise Ravens”, “Deprisa, Deprisa”, “Carmen”) was bought for deliberate sale by Latido Movies. Produced by Malvalanda (“Madre”, “The Mole Agent”) and distributed in Spain by Wanda Vision, the film world premiered as an RTVE Gala.
*Madrid-based Latido also acquired the sales rights for the documentary ‘Tequila, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll’ from Goya Award-winning producer-helmer Alvaro Longoria.
*Film Factory Entertainment snapped Roger Zanuy’s documentary “Mibu, The Moon in a Dish,” opening the Culinary Zinema sidebar. It also received worldwide sales rights for ‘El Otro Hijo’, the feature film debut of Colombian Juan Sebastián Quebrada.
*Indie Sales internationally on Emad Aleebrahim Dehkordi’s feature film debut ‘A Tale of Shemroon’, which debuted in New Directors. The film will be released in France via Jour2Fête.
*Danish international sales and aggregation outfit LevelK boarded the scathing British immigration drama “Great Yarmouth: Provisional Figures” by award-winning Portuguese director Marco Martins, a world premiere in the main competition.
*Emiliano Torres’ “Rona,” one of the most notable of 14 titles selected at San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum, saw Italy’s Emanuele Crialese (“L’immensità”) team up with Argentinean Nicolás Gil Lavedra to produce.
*Ulises Porras “Bajo el Mismo Sol” landed a first co-production deal ahead of the festival, with Argentine Pucará Cine embarking on lead producer Wooden Boat Productions’ project in the Dominican Republic.
* Vega Cine from Buenos Aires and Gualicho Cine from Cordoba Argentina work together “Todo el Mundo”, by Agustina San Martín, a leading light of the new generation of female genre filmmakers in Latin America.
*France’s Cité Films has boarded “The Fire Doll”, from Chilean Niles Atallah (“Rey”) and “Left Over”, from San Sebastian Gold Shell winning Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu (“Pandora’s Box”).
A day after Saturday’s awards, the clear frontrunner for local writers was Fernando Franco’s unusual sexual empowerment story “The Rite of Spring,” followed by Mikel Gurrea’s “Suro,” an examination of modern labor relations, and Pilar Palomero’s teen maternity drama “La Maternal,” following on from Hong Sangsoo’s beloved four-part Toronto premiere “Walk Up”. International critics again favored “La Maternal” and “Walk Up” (see Variety Reviews), as well as “Il Boemo”, “Great Yarmouth” and “Daughter of Rage”. One thing is certain. San Sebastian’s award for a single acting performance will be extremely hard to beat with acclaimed performances from multiple female protagonists in the likes of “La Maternal,” “Daughter” and “Yarmouth.”