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

Categories: Film and TV
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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Christine Galliano
Christine Galliano

Julie Delpy is an amazing and talented actress. As a French woman, born in the same year I was, I have followed her in many movies. I am thrilled she was given a special prize and internationally recognized. She was outstanding in Europa, Europa. Did you know she had to learn fluent German for that movie? She is best known to Americans for her role in American Werefolf in Paris. Vive la France! Bravo Julie. 

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