The San Sebastián 70 completed its final curve with new agreements announced for Spain by A Contracorriente, Bteam and Avalon, joy among industry players in a first full festival on site, blessed by the early autumn sun, a feeling of an even slower international sales business.
Similarly, Spain’s market and production sector remains buoyant, fueled by bursts of auteur cinema and a vibrant production of drama series. Five conclusions from this year’s San Sebastian Festival, which ends tomorrow, September 24:
San Sebastián grows (again)
“There are markets that have improved during COVID-19 and others that have not, and San Sebastián is a festival that has improved thanks to its industrial activity,” says Vicente Canales of Film Factory. This construction goes back a long way, with a chapter of Cinema in Progress in 2002, a Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum in 2012, the Ikusmira Berriak development residence in 2017 and now a Conference of Creative Investors.
There is a form of cross collateralization here. Competition movies can blow hot or cold. The 40 often completely unknown titles released by these four industry strands are guaranteed to be of some interest to producers and sales agents who also decide where their most popular films are released.
“At the industry level, more and more things are happening here, and for me it is very interesting to be in San Sebastian,” said Iván Díaz, international director of Filmax, which sells Cesc Gay’s choral comedy “Stories Not to Be Contada” , premiered on Thursday at the San Sebastian Festival as a RTVE Gala.
Sales business slows down (even more)
“There was a race to catch up with Netflix among streamers and now people are recognizing that that’s not necessarily the best business model,” said Trevor Groth of 30West. “So now there’s kind of a pause. I think there’s going to be a pushback, a shift toward theatrical distribution and exhibition.” That lull, however, compounded by uncertainty about when a mass adult audience will return to theaters, appears to be hurting the sales business. French sales agents, who often use San Sebastian to advertise early ticket sales from Venice and Toronto, seemed particularly squabbling.
….But there was business
“San Sebastian is a launch pad, not a market to close,” says Antonio Saura, of Latido Films, and points out that he will not sell Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s hot “As Bestas” to the world, a film that Le Pacte has opened to 316,000 Ticket sales in France, about $2 million or more, in box office gross, through Ventana Sur in late November. So San Sebastian cut, in general, in two ways: Pickup ads from sales agents, especially in the run-up to the event; co-production deals as producers reach out to production partners to offset an increasingly challenged international sales market in more artistic packages. The only exception to this slowdown is Spain. Boosted by exceptional box office in event art films – “Alcarrás”, “Cradle Song” – key players closed deals in San Sebastian or revealed bold distribution moves.
*The distribution rights in Spain of the long-awaited film “Cerrar los ojos”, by the legendary Spanish director Víctor Erice (“The spirit of the hive”), have been acquired by Avalon Audiovisual Distribution, whose credits include “Alcarràs”. The film is scheduled to shoot next year. Tandem Films, Pecado Films and Nautilus produce.
*Spanish energy distributor-producer Photos of Bteam signed with Film Factory the rights in Spanish for “Kings of the World” by Colombian Laura Mora, a world premiere in the competition in San Sebastian, and part of the Industry Selects section in Toronto.
*Against the Current Films has bought the rights in Spanish to the Horizontes Latinos film by Cuban Pavel Giroud “The Padilla Affair”, co-produced by Spain’s Ventú Productions and Lia Rodríguez in Cuba, and sold by Figa Films.
*International sales rights to Petr Václav’s sumptuous period film “Il Boemo”, which made its world premiere in the main competition, were acquired by the Paris-based company crazy movieswho also pounced on “Woman at Sea,” a hot title from San Sebastian New Directors of Paris-based Slot Machine (“Melancholia”).
*“Walls Can Talk”, the latest film by Spanish director Carlos Saura (“Raise Ravens”, “Deprisa, Deprisa”, “Carmen”) was acquired for intentional sale by Heartbeat Films. Produced by Malvalanda (“Mother”, “El agent topo”) and distributed in Spain by Wanda Vision, the film had its world premiere at a RTVE Gala.
*Madrid-based Latido has also secured the sales rights to the documentary “Tequila, Sexo, Drugs and Rock and Roll” by Goya Award-winning producer and director Álvaro Longoria.
*movie factory entertainment acquired Roger Zanuy’s documentary “Mibu, The Moon in a Dish,” which opened the Culinary Zinema sidebar. He also obtained the worldwide sales rights for “El Otro Hijo”, the first feature film by Colombian Juan Sebastián Quebrada.
*independent sales went international with Emad Aleebrahim Dehkordi’s feature film debut, “A Tale of Shemroon,” which debuted at New Directors. The film will be released in France through Jour2Fête.
*Danish international sales and aggregation team LevelK tackled the UK immigration drama “Great Yarmouth: Provisional Figures” from award-winning Portuguese director Marco Martins, a world premiere from the main competition.
*Emiliano Torres “Scab” one of the most outstanding titles of the 14 selected in the Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum in San Sebastián, was produced by the Italian Emanuele Crialese (“L’immensità”) and the Argentine Nicolás Gil Lavedra.
* Ulises Porra “Under the same sun” secured a first co-production deal ahead of the festival, with Argentina’s Pucará Cine tackling lead producer Wooden Boat Productions’ project in the Dominican Republic.
*Vega Cine from Buenos Aires and Gualicho Cine from Córdoba Argentina come together to “All the world” by Agustina San Martín, a leading figure in the new generation of Latin American genre filmmakers.
*Cité Films of France has embarked “The Fire Doll” by the Chilean Niles Atallah (“King”) and “Left Over”, by the Turkish director who won the San Sebastian Golden Shell, Yesim Ustaoglu (“Pandora’s Box”).
A day before the awards on Saturday, the clear favorite in the competition for local scribes was Fernando Franco’s unusual tale of sexual emancipation “The Rite of Spring,” followed by Mikel Gurrea’s “Suro,” a study of the current labor relations and the drama about teenage motherhood by Pilar Palomero. “La Maternal,” tying with Hong Sangsoo’s much-loved four-part Toronto premiere, “Walk Up.” International critics again favored “La Maternal” and “Walk Up” (see Variety reviews), but also “Il Boemo”, “Great Yarmouth” and “Daughter of Rage”. One thing is for sure. San Sebastian’s now-unique acting prize will be very elusive with praised performances from multiple female leads in, for example, “La Maternal,” “Daughter” and “Yarmouth.”