Clive Owen, Frances McDormand Help Usher in 59th San Sebastian Festival


Owen brings his "Intruders" to the Spanish event where McDormand is serving as jury chair, and Glenn Close will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – The San Sebastian International Film Festival moved decisively into the future Friday night in an opening ceremony that wove together new technology, social networks, 20-something, glamorous presenters and video interviews of players from Spain’s film industry.

Presenters addressed audiences in the auditorium, on live television and those following the ceremony via social networks -- often interjecting tweets on the festivals page. A flat stage with a sleek blue backdrop -- emphasized the organizers’ declared intention that the festival speak to the issues film is addressing.

Even the light rain on the the shell-shaped beach of San Sebastian didn’t dim the excitement as Clive Owen strode up the red carpet and into the futuristic Kursaal building to inaugurate the Official Section of the 59th San Sebastian International Film Festival Friday.

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Owen was on hand to present Intruders with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and the rest of the cast, including Pilar Lopez Ayala and Daniel Bruhl.

As she joined the rest of the official jury on stage -- with each talking of what it takes to make cinema by choosing a language to say “courage” -- jury chair Frances McDormand chimed in with “cojones. You have to have balls.”

The festival awarded Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life the Fipresci Grand Prize for the film deemed the best of 2011 by the Federation of International Film Critics. Spanish distributors of the film, Tripictures, picked up the award.

The ceremony, conducted in Spanish and local Basque language, broke with the traditional faces of the televised ceremony to bring in popular, young actresses from the Basque region Barbara Goenaga, Marta Etura, Paula Echeverria and Nagore Aramburu.

"We don’t know if Internet will finish off cinema or if we will navigate to a better future,” Etura said, as she introduced a series of videos of filmmakers evaluating the future of cinema.

"The future of cinema depends on the viewer,” Javier Bardem said in one of the videos.

Some things are staying the same, though. Festival director Jose Luis Rebordinos -- who took the reins this year from Mikel Olaceregui -- kept up the tradition of personally welcoming guests to the festival upon arrival.

This year’s edition kicks off amidst an aura of promise, with a new director and a declared strategy to infuse the event with renewed Spanish flair.

Glenn Close and Antonio Bandera are due in town later this weekend.

Close, who will present her latest work -- Rodrigo Garcia’s 19th century Irish gender bender drama Albert Nobbs -- is scheduled to pick up the Donostia Lifetime Achievement award on Sept. 18. The film will run in the festival’s official section, out of competition.

San Sebastian runs from the 16-24 in Spain’s northern Basque region.