San Sebastian: Little Splash, but Plenty of Waves

3:07 AM PST 09/20/2011 by Pamela Rolfe

As the festival hits the halfway mark, a strong lineup of films and steady stream of business keeps festival upbeat.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – The 59th San Sebastian International Film Festival hit the halfway mark Tuesday, sporting minimal star power, but a strong official selection, a steady stream of business and sneak previews at unfinished projects for buyers.

“San Sebastian used to be plagued by the fact that it came after Toronto and couldn’t get premieres, but it’s function as the follow-up for a place to see what you may have missed in the busy schedule of Toronto is not to be underestimated,” one buyer in San Sebastian said.

Steve McQueen’s Shame, Rodrigo Garcia’s Albert Nobbs, Simon Arthur’s Silver Tongues and Ignacio Ferreras’ adult animation film about old age Arrugas stood apart from other titles.

Anticipation runs strong for still upcoming Benito Zambrano’s The Sleeping Voice and Mathieu Demy’sAmericano.

And business is steaming along in San Sebastian this year.

Voice producer Antonio Perez announced a string of projects through his Maestranza production house, including the 7 million euro ($9.6 million) Genie, a 3D movie spin-off the TV sitcom series produced by I Love Television in English for Nickelodeon. Germany’s Scopas Medien and France’s Gebeka Films will co-produce with Maestranza and I Love Television.

Indeed, co-production was the name of the game earlier in the week as the Madrid Film Commission and the Ile de France Film Commission held their annual event in San Sebastian to pair producers as part of the Capital Regions for Cinema (CRC) network.

Projects like Ghost Friends and Piriapolis seemed to leap ahead with promising starts. Paris-based Jacques Arlandis brought Piriapolis to the table Monday with Esteban Schroeder directing based on a script he wrote with Arlandis. Arlandis’ LaVega Prods has already joined forces with Schroeders La Suma from Uruguay and Maiz Prods. from Argentina on the historical drama budgeted at 1.5 million euros ($2 million).

Horacio Urban came to the co-production forum with the 6.4 million euro ($8.7 million) Ghost Friends, produced by Luz Retamar’s Mummy Productions and with Sergi Lopez confirmed in the cast. Kiko Pedreno will direct from a script written by Retamar. Urban also sought to complete financing for Dror Zahavi’s war drama This is Not America, about an American correspondent making a documentary about women who have gone missing in Iraq in the aftermath of the conflict.

Meanwhile, arthouse distributor Alta Films acquired Spanish rights for Shame,Golem took theatrical and home entertainment rights to documentary Bertsolari. Both Wrinkles and David Trueba’s Madrid, 1987have found an international sales agent in 6 Sales.

Still to come this week is the ever-anticipated Films in Progress sidebar, which finds post-production financing for promising Latin American projects. Previous winners have found slots in the world’s top festivals the following year.

Michael Fassbenderand Antonio Banderas are two of the stars due in town later this week.

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