More words than deals at San Seb

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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- As the 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival hit the halfway mark Monday, attendees seemed to agree that there are good films on hand and that the festival is a strong venue in which executives can conduct business.

Nick Broomfield's Iraq-focused "Battle for Haditha" and Iciar Bollain's "Mataharis" made for strong official competition entries, stirring conversations about U.S. foreign policy and women's roles in modern society.

Tzahi Grad's "Foul Gesture" and Max Lemcke's "Casual Day," both screening in the Zabaltegi section, were warmly received by critics and generated good buzz with buyers. But it was the out-of-competition documentary "Earth" that met the most widespread admiration.

As is tradition, Spain's film industry is using the festival as a forum to set up alliances and make known its accomplishments.

Ciudad de la Luz production studio, located in Alicante on Spain's Mediterranean coast, said it has hosted film shoots valued at €212 million ($286.6 million) in its first two years. Donald Petrie's romantic comedy "My Life in Ruins," starring Nia Vardalos, is shooting at the studios, which boasts a new Kodak lab, due to open in October, and Europe's only surface and deep-water tank with a natural horizon -- the property's crown jewel -- due to be completed by 2010.

The northwest region of Galicia announced a new film fund with Brazil that sees the two sides select films that will receive about $320,000 in aid.

Brazil's National Cinema Agency held a co-production forum with Spain's producers federation FAPAE, seeking to foment ties between the countries.

"Brazil's presence is much stronger in San Sebastian and Spain this year, but these things move slowly. We can't talk about results yet," said Brazilian director Alvaro Martinez Toledo, who participated in the forum Monday.

If producers were making contacts, sales agents were a bit frustrated by the lack of activity.

"This is not the ideal market for sellers," said Rachel do Valle of Brazil's EloAudiovisual. "While it's good for making contacts and seeing everyone, it's not the best for actual sales."

That attitude was repeated by many, but so too was approval for the newly enlarged and modern sales office facility.

"The video library is one of the best I've seen at any festival," Sogepaq executive Sophie MacMahon said. "It's all digital video-on-demand and gives you access whenever you want to any film you want."

San Sebastian runs through Saturday in Spain's northern Basque region.
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