60th San Sebastian International Film Festival

Spain, September 21 - September 29 2012

The jury

Klaus Eder (Germany), Pamela Pianezza (France), Paulo Pecora (Argentina), José Enrique Monterde (Spain), Pamela Biénzobas (Chile)

Awarded films

The festival of San Sebastian has always entertained particular relations to the cinemas of Latin America. For Latin American filmmakers it has been — and still is — a door to European culture and markets (including the possibility of initiating co-productions). In the last years of Mikel Olaciregui and particularly now, under the new head José Luis Rebordinos, this image has been changing.

The official selection included films of a certain popularity — whether because of their subject (the tsunami, Arab life in Israel, the corruption of bankers), or due to their stars (Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Penélope Cruz, Ben Affleck). This selection, well interspersed with films of a cultural and filmic ambition (François Ozon, Carlos Sorin, Lasse Hallström, Fernando Trueba) puts San Sebastian in the company of the major European festivals of Cannes, Berlin and Venice, even if more producers need to be convinced to premiere films here, and even if not each film kept its promises.

A loose cooperation with the festival of Toronto may have a certain attraction — as it happened this year with François Ozon’s In the House (Dans la maison) which was shown first in Toronto (to cover the market aspect) and then in San Sebastian (to cover the cultural aspect), a wonderfully successful film which would have done well in any other competition. Here, and not only here, the festival managed to go where it wants to go to.

The sidebars “Horizontes Latinos” and “Zabaltegi” lost importance in favor of “Nuevos Directores — New Directors”, a highly interesting section featuring mostly world premieres. In this focus on young cinema (worldwide) the festival may indeed have its own original perspective — none of the other major events in Europe foster young cinema in such a prominent place.

Dustin Hoffman (whose homage to old musicians Quartet closed the festival) and Oliver Stone were honored with “Special 60th Anniversary Donostia Awards”. At the closing ceremony, a short summary of all special awards was shown: indeed an astonishing and attractive ‘guestbook’ of personalities who have written the history of cinema.

In San Sebastian, the history of cinema traditionally plays a big role. The retrospectives are famous, being shown in the cinemas “Principe” which almost face the sea, in a small place which is with its coffee shops a meeting point of film lovers. This year the retrospectives were dedicated to Georges Franju (1912-1987), a long overdue acknowledgement, and to “Very Funny Things. New American Comedy” (covering the period from the ‘80s to today). Only reservation could be found: that there was a regular festival full of new movies going on, preventing you from spending days and nights with the history of cinema. Both retrospectives were accompanied by special publications, a service which cannot be praised enough, in particular in Spain with its problematic financial situation (which without doubt also affects the festival).

The retrospective view included the 1948 film Vida en sombras by Llorenc Llobet-Gracia (1911-1976), restored by the Spanish and the Catalan Cinematheques. Llorenc Llobet-Gracia was an amateur filmmaker. Vida en sombras, his only long feature film, tells the fictitious (but partly autobiographical) life story of an operator and later director (in the movie named Carlos Durán), who lives to see the development of cinema from the Lumieres to Hitchcock’s Rebecca of 1940. Vida en sombras is an early ‘film on film’, filled with a remarkable love for cinema. The film will tour through festivals (an English subtitled print is available.)

Because of a general strike in the Basque region, the festival was (almost) closed for one day — and reached a bigger public than in the previous year. (Klaus Eder)

San Sebastian International Film Festival: www.sansebastianfestival.com