Cronenberg takes center stage at San Seb fest


SAN SEBASTIAN -- Directors David Cronenberg, Paul Auster and Christian Mungio graced the stage as the 55th annual San Sebastian International Film Festival got underway Thursday night.

Cronenberg -- presenting his Russian gangster film "Eastern Promises," hot off the audience award in Toronto -- was accompanied by the film's star and one of Spain's favorite actors, Viggo Mortensen.

"Auster," whose "The Inner Life of Martin Frost" will run out of competition in the Official Section, chairs the main competition jury.

Mungio was on hand to receive the Fipresci Grand Prize for best film of 2007 for his "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," which depicts the last days of communism in a small Romanian town through the eyes of a young couple.

"I think we should make films for audiences, but it is the critics that allow us to get to the audience," Mungio said, as he thanked Fipresci for the honor.

Winner of the Palm d'Or at Cannes, Mungio's film will open the Zabaltegi-Pearls Section at San Sebastian, which showcases the year's top films from previous festivals.

Also present was French director Philippe Garrel, whom the festival is honoring with a retrospective of his work.

The inaugural ceremony, held in the futuristic Kursaal convention center, was presided over by Spanish journalist Edurne Ormazabal and actress Cayetana Guillen Cuervo. Spanish actors Lola Duenas, Ana Alvarez and Asuncion Balaguer and Argentinean director Ana Katz were a few of those participating in the ceremony conducted in Spanish, English and the local Basque language as is customary at the festival, located in Spain's restive Basque region.

A taped version of the gala ceremony was broadcast an hour delayed on pubcaster Television Espanola's second channel.

San Sebastian buzzes with excitement for what promises to be a strong lineup of films and stars. Richard Gere and Liv Ullmann, due in town later in the festival, are to be honored with Donostia lifetime achievement awards.

The festival, set in the picturesque seaside town that bears its name, runs through Sept. 29.