Talent, movies to sparkle at San Sebastian

Spain's most important festival opens Friday

MADRID -- Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino, Ian McKellen, Naomi Watts and Robert Duvall are a few of the famous faces expected to spice up the 57th San Sebastian International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday and runs through Sept. 27.

Locals appreciate the star power, but it's the lineup of solid films focusing on political and social issues hand-in-hand with a Latin flavor that make San Sebastian unique in the festival calendar, where it is the only A-level Spanish-language film event.

"Our philosophy is to screen quality cinema and give them the media and industry attention these films deserve," festival director Mikel Olacerigui said.

This year's official competition will see 15 films vie for the top Golden Shell honor, including Atom Egoyan's "Chloe," Juan Jose Campanella's "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" and Lu Chuan's "City of Life and Death."

Rather than caving in to its inability to snag world premieres on the heels of Toronto and Venice, San Sebastian has rejigged its nightly premieres to spotlight the ever-popular Zabaltegi section, with its mix of New Directors and Pearls from previous festivals. Pearls gives festgoers a chance to catch up with films they might have missed at other events during the year, while New Directors offers first- and second-time filmmakers a slot in an international venue and a shot at a €90,000 ($132,000) award.

On Friday, Pitt and Tarantino will be the first to saunter up the newly installed red carpet leading from the Maria Cristina Hotel to the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, which houses the Pearls screenings, as they present "Inglourious Basterds."

Even so, it is undoubtedly San Sebastian's reputation as the first place to see hot Latin talent, take the pulse of Spanish-language cinema and reach a whole new market via the festival's platform that makes Spain's most important festival attractive.

Three sidebars focus solely on Spanish and Latin films: Made in Spain, Latin Horizons and Films in Progress.
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