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San Sebastian Gains Ground as Business Blossoms

Antonio Banderas San Sebastian
Fabrizio Maltese for THR

Insiders applaud new fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos' effort to sharpen industry.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – The San Sebastian International Film Festival wrapped Saturday amidst a general consensus that it gained traction as an attractive platform, with industry insiders reporting upbeat results.

Deals on San Sebastian titles blossomed as Spanish distributors Alta Films, Golem and A Contracorriente announced acquisitions. Latin American sales agents picked up a bevy of titles and dynamic co-production forums matching producers from Spain with those from France or Mexico proved fruitful.

“There’s a positive trend in San Sebastian towards an increasingly more interesting market,” explained A Contracorriente’s Adolfo Blanco. “When there is a selection of strong material and the festival is perceived as a real platform, international sales agents will mobilize their resources to attract buyers. That’s what we’re seeing here.”

Some of the sales announced included: France’s Films Distribution sale of Julie Delpy’s Skylab to Alta Films in Spain, Alfa Films in Argentina and Alambique in Portugal, as well as its sale of competition title  11 Flowers to France’s Haut et Court, Australia’s Palace Films and Israel’s New Cinema; Golem’s pick up for Spanish rights on Brillante Mendoza’s Captured; A Contracorriente’s acquisition of Spanish rights to Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar; and, Mathieu Demy’s Americano found distribution with Imagine Film in Benelux, California Filmes in Brazil and Babilla Cine in Colombia.

"We decided to have the international premiere at the festival and for us it was a strong launch for the film," said Gaumont's Deputy Head of Sales Yohann Comte about the closing night premiere of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's Intouchables. "We certainly don't regret it. It was a wonderful reception."

Golem picked up Spanish rights to France’s candidate for the 2012 Oscar Declaration of War from Wild Bunch and Venice Golden Lion winner Faust from Films Boutique.

“They’ve adopted a clever policy to invest what they have in things that will make a difference structurally, like facilitating what professionals have to do while at a festival to make their jobs easier. And it’s working,” said Paramount Pictures Spain’s Enrique Munoz.

Testament to San Sebastian’s operating as an attractive platform: Paramount had Antonio Banderas on hand to present a 20-minute sneak peak at Dreamworks’ 3D Puss in Boots.

“There was a lot of movement at the Industry Club,” said producer Eduardo Carneros of Armonika Entertainment. “The new director and his team are throwing their weight behind the idea of sharpening and growing the business angle. For me, it’s been a very fruitful festival.”

In addition to seeing his Camera d’Or winner Las Acacias win the juicy 35,000-euro Horizons Prize, Carneros cited successful meetings with broadcasters, sales agents and potential co-production partners on his upcoming Los Ojos del Relojero.

Arguably two of Spain’s biggest deals in the past few months were announced within the framework of the festival. Apaches Entertainment revealed two new shingles: one focused on lower-budget, domestically targeted film label Mapaches and the other a TV production branch called Apachete. And Wild Bunch said it acquired a majority stake in Spanish distributor Vertigo.