Push has come to shove. After 20 months of preparation – some moves planned even before 2011’s event – with 51 press releases this year, the 60th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival puts its pedal to the metal this Friday, opening with Arbitrage.
Festival directors are only as good as their second editions. These must give some inkling of their directors’ ambition, vision and good taste in cinema. The sophomore event under José Luis Rebordinos already suggests a large energy, rather like the man himself.
“Festivals usually walk on three legs: The selection, glamour, and industry”, said Gael Nouaille at Wild Bunch.
He added: “This year, the selection is good, some big stars are coming, and San Sebastian is trying to develop its industry side, inviting more foreign guests”.
Time – nine days – will judge the selection, though some signs already look positive. Key players – sales agents, distributors - have rallied round the festival. One is Wild Bunch itself, which has four films just in Competition.
Of films that segue from Toronto, François Ozon’s In the House, sold by Wild Bunch, won a Toronto FIPRESCI award. Two more, both out-of-competition at San Sebastian, Ben Affleck’s Argo, the first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award, and Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, are being talked up as Oscar contenders. Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves gleaned rave reviews.
Shake a tree at San Sebastian this year and an A-list star will fall out. Honoring Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Stone, John Travolta, Ewan McGregor and Tommy Lee-Jones, and expecting Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Deneuve, Benicio del Toro, Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Claudia Cardinale, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, San Sebastian boasts its biggest U.S. presence in years.
Joel Coler, the Festival’s U.S. delegate who has represented the Festival passionately in Hollywoodfor years, can step down this year, wreathed in glory.
It’s on the industry side, that San Sebastian’s biggest change has come, however.
2012 bows Rebordinos’ brainchild, the 1st Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum.
Carlos Morenos’s Que viva la musica! Javier Fuentes-León’s The Vanished Elephant and Ana Katz’s Mi amiga del parque feature among 17 projects pitched, mixing newcomers and other, upand- coming directors: Mexico’s Nicolás Pereda, Uruguay’s Daniel Hendler and Argentina’s Victoria Galardi and Anahí Berneri.
Hiking San Sebastian’s industry appeal, Latin American “Producers can now have a film in Competition, a production in Films in Progress and a project at the Forum”, Rebordinos said.
Crucially, Forum broaches a strategic alliance with Cannes’ Market, the world’s largest, and Ventana Sur, Latin America’s premiere movie mart.
Forum winners will be invited to Buenos Aires Ventana Sur, running Nov. 30 – Dec. 3. The Cannes Market’s Producers Network offers accreditation to Latin American Forum project producers.
For Cannes Marché’s Jérôme Paillard, “With Thierry Frémaux, we have the idea of building relations outside Cannes. Latin America is one important direction. Of course, San Sebastian is a very good connection between what we do in Cannes and what we do in Ventana Sur”.
For Rebordinos, the Forum and Cannes/Ventana Sur alliance are “the biggest things we’ve created since I’ve come on board”.
They have already had knockon effects: by Sept. 10, Industry participation also looked set to rise to about 1,100 execs, 10% up on 2011, per festival sources.
Remarkably for Spain, San Sebastian’s budget is also up 3.5% vs. 2011 to Euros 7.34 ($9.2 million) million - thanks to theBasque Government’s extra, $337,500 backing for the Forum.
Amid Spain’s gloom boom, San Sebastian projects a widening chink of light.
JOHN HOPEWELL, EMILIO MAYORGA