San Sebastian Film Festival Kicks Off

Stars, strong films and general crowd enthusiasm suggest a strong edition of this year's event, with ticket sales already surpassing those for last year's opening weekend.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Annette Bening, Oliver Stone, Michelle Yeoh and Juan Jose Campanella took the stage for the inauguration of the 61st San Sebastian International Film Festival Friday night, kicking off the eight-day long event in the picturesque seaside town that is its namesake.

Bening is presenting Face of Love -- hot off its screening in Toronto -- in the Pearls section, while Campanella's 3D animated film Foosball opened the Official Section.

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"I feel so lucky to be surrounded here. We all come from different parts of the world, but we all love films. It was a pleasure to make this film,” Bening said, smiling as she mentioned co-stars Ed Harris and Robin Williams.

Also on hand to present his The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam applauded the enthusiasm of San Sebastian audiences and the festival.

"It has so much energy," Gilliam said. "So much passion. When they like the film, you think you went to heaven. But if they don't, you feel like Saint Sebastian himself, shot with all the arrows."

Meanwhile, Stone asked the audience to "please come see" the festival’s screening of his The Untold History of the United States, which he called "the more truthful story." The festival will show two hours of Showtime’s documentary series each day and have Stone on hand to answer audience questions.

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Yeoh was the guest of honor for the Culinary Cinema sidebar as the star of the section’s opening film, Final Recipe.

Abdellatif Kechiche also picked up the Fipresci Grand Prize for the Best Film of 2013 for Adele: Chapters 1 & 2 (Blue is the Warmest Color).

"Many times it's thanks to the press that my films have captured audiences' attention, and it's thanks to their analyses that they’ve been able to understand the films and support them. Thank you," Kechiche said.

Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the Cannes Jury Prize, spoke of countryman Nagisa Oshima, whom the festival is honoring with a retrospective of his work.

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Spanish actors Unax Ugalde and Cayetana Guillen Cuervo conducted the inaugural ceremony, held in the futuristic Kursaal convention center, in Spanish, English and the local Basque language as is customary at the festival.

The gala ceremony was broadcast live on Television Espanola’s second channel.

San Sebastian buzzes with excitement for what promises to be strong lineup of films and stars. Carmen Maura and Hugh Jackman are set to be honored by the festival with Donostia lifetime achievement awards.