San Sebastian: Carmen Maura Wins Donostia Award

Carmen Maura - P 2013
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Carmen Maura - P 2013

De la Iglesia's "Witching and Bitching" proves popular with crowds as deals start to percolate.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Iconic Spanish actress Carmen Maura, the face of Pedro Almodovar’s 1990s films such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, received the Donostia Lifetime Achievement award Sunday night at the 61st San Sebastian International Film Festival.

“This was my first festival and I’ve always felt such strong emotions here, such happy moments and sad ones,” Maura said. “I feel very lucky. In order to have prizes, you have to have a lot of luck.”

Maura picked up the award just before the Official Section screening of Alex de la Iglesia’s Witching & Bitching, which received wide applause from local audiences at the earlier screenings, with critics calling the comedy about witches in the small Basque town of Zugarramurdi “messy fun.”

STORY: San Sebastian Film Festival Kicks Off 

Meanwhile, San Sebastian already was standing true to its growing reputation as a European launchpad, helping films find what they came to the seaside town looking to find -- distribution.

Fernando Franco’s official competition drama Wounded, premiering at San Sebastian, was picked up for Spanish theatrical distribution by Golem Distribution, with Spanish pubcaster RTVE taking free-to-air rights and pay platform Canal Plus snagging pay rights.

Handled by Imagina International Sales, Wounded is one of three films production house Kowalski Films has at the festival, along with Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang and Violet.

Other competition entries, like Manuel Martin Cuenca’s Cannibal, were enjoying good buzz off of Toronto with buyers waiting to see reactions in San Sebastian theaters.

Oliver Stone’s Showtime documentary series The Untold History of the United States was enjoying packed theaters each day. Being screened in two-hour segments throughout the course of the week, the 12-episode series also has been picked up by RTVE and will be shown once a week starting in October.

“It’s been difficult to get airtime,” Stone said, alleging the mainstream press dismissed him as un-American. “It has taken a lot of work, and based on my name, we could get Showtime. October 15, the 12 hours are coming out on DVD on BlueRay, thanks to Warner Bros.”

Elsewhere over the weekend, Juan Antonio Bayona picked up the National Cinematographic Prize at the festival from Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert.

Wert congratulated The Impossible director for “making real what seemed unreal,” referring also to the 6 million tickets sold and improbable 19.5 percent homegrown films have secured in local box office sales thanks to Bayona’s hit.

San Sebastian runs in Spain’s northern Basque region through Sept. 28.