Three rising stars of European cinema, Iceland’s Runar Runarsson, France’s Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Belgium’s Joachim Lafosse – won out big-time at the 2015 San Sebastian Film Festival, vindicating the enthusiasm that Wild Bunch and young sales companies in Paris have shown for the festival and the Toronto-San Sebastian Express: a practice of world premiering movies at Toronto and then garnering more profile at San Sebastian, the highest-profile event in the Spanish-speaking world.
That said, Latin America – and often films made on a Latin America-Europe axis- came a close second.
Sold by Paris-based Versatile Films, “Sparrows,” by Iceland’s Runar Runarsson, took flight Saturday night winning the top Golden Seashell plaudit at the 63rd San Sebastian Festival, an edition marked by hiked interest from press and distributors alike in Latin America’s now multi-prized movie industry.
Runarsson’s second feature, after “Volcano,” which bowed at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, Iceland-set “Sparrows,” was among the most-liked foreign titles at San Sebastian, a critically praised coming-of-age tale set against majestic scenery.
Of other big winners at San Sebastian, described by Variety as “an open-ended visual feast,” Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s auteur genre movie “Evolution” – a follow-up to “Innocence,” set on a island inhabited only by women, and young boys, who never reach adulthood, – won both the Special Jury Prize and best cinematography.
Impressing with Cannes 2012 Un Certain Regard player “Our Children,” Belgian Joachim Lafosse won best director at San Sebastian for “White Knights,” sold by Parios-based Indie Sales, and starring Cannes 2o15 best actor winner Vincent Lindon (“The Measure of a Man”) as the head of a NGO trying to rescue 300 children from civil war-torn Chad.
“Evolution” is co-produced by Spain’s Volcano Films. Spain’s three other major winners all mix Spanish and Latin American elements.
Prompting the biggest applause of the night, Ricardo Darin and Javier Camera shared best actor for their performances on Cesc Gay’s friendship dramedy “Truman,” a Spain, Argentina co-production. Cuba’s Yordanska Ariosa snagged best actress for Agusti Villaronga’s “The King of Havana,” a torrid sexual story set in embargo-hit ‘90s Cuba, but shot and co-financed out of the Dominican Republic. “The Apostate” – a Madrid-set rites-of-passage comedic drama marking Uruguayan-Spaniard Federico Veiroj’s first Spanish shoot – won a Special Mention.
“21 Nights With Pattie,” the eighth film from French bros Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, took best screenplay
Rudi Rosenberg’s debut, Indie Films-sold “The New Kid,” a Gallic children-targeting coming-of-age comedy, snagged San Sebastian’s coveted New Directors Award, which came with a €50,000 ($57,000) cash prize.
The second film from one of Latin America’s most talked-up new talents, the also Versatile-sold “Paulina,” from Argentina’s Santiago Mitre, swept three prizes: Horizontes Latinos, which carried a €35,000 cash prize ($40,000). A remake of Argentine modern classic, “La Patota,” and a study of varying reactions to violence, “Paulina” also won both San Sebastian’s Youth Award and RTVE-backed Other Look Prize. “Paulina” already topped Cannes 2015 Critics’ Week.
With San Sebastian firmly established as a major Latin American beach-head in Europe, building interest in Latin America translated into packed screenings at Films in Progress, renewed interest in Latin American showcase Latinos Horizontes, which was packed out with a bevy of 2015 laurelled gems, and, given the allure of some titles, multiple San Sebastian co-pro and acquisition deals, with the promise of more to come.
In industry trends, on the company count, Telefonica and Disney energized early going, jointly announcing a Star Wars Channel pact; a re-energized Latido, the Madrid sales company, unveiled a world sales alliance with Spanish distributor A Contracorriente Films, acquired for international both Alvaro Brechner’s “Memorias del calabozo,” a standout at fest’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, and Pepa San Martin’s “Rara,” a hit at Films in Progress, a pix-in-post showcase.
With Films in Progress winner “Cambridge Squatter” and “Princess” looking set to close sales agents, 2015’s edition will have been one of the strongest in commercial terms.
The 63rd San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival ran Sept. 18-26.