More discussion than deals

Good pics, sluggish mart at San Seb

As the 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival hit the halfway mark Monday, attendees seemed to be in agreement that there are good films on hand and that the festival is a strong venue in which executives can conduct business.

There hasn't been a tremendous amount of dealmaking, though.

Still, Nick Broomfield's Iraq-focused "Battle for Haditha" and Iciar Bollain's "Mataharis" made for strong official competition entries, stirring conversations about U.S. foreign policy and women's roles in modern society, respectively.

Tzahi Grad's "Foul Gesture" and Max Lemcke's "Casual Day," both screening in the Zabaltegi section, were warmly received by critics and generated good buzz with buyers. But it was the out-of-competition documentary "Earth" that met the most widespread admiration.

As is tradition, Spain's film industry is using the festival as a forum to set up alliances.

Ciudad de la Luz production studio, located in Alicante on Spain's Mediterranean coast, said it has hosted film shoots valued at €212 million ($286.6 million) in its first two years. Donald Petrie's romantic comedy "My Life in Ruins," starring Nia Vardalos, is shooting at Ciudad de la Luz, which boasts a new Kodak lab due to open in October and Europe's only surface and deep-water tank with a natural horizon — the property's crown jewel — due to be completed by 2010.

The northwest region of Galicia announced a new film fund with Brazil that sees the two sides select films that will receive about $320,000 in aid.

Brazil's National Cinema Agency held a co-production forum with Spain's producers federation FAPAE, seeking to foment ties.

If producers were making contacts, sales agents were a bit frustrated by the lack of activity.

"This is not the ideal market for sellers," said Rachel do Valle of Brazil's EloAudiovisual.

San Sebastian runs through Saturday in Spain's northern Basque region.