San Sebastian Film Festival Unveils First Competition Titles

San Sebastian Film Festival - curtain raiser - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Festival de San Sebastian/Montse Castillo

Alejandro Amenabar's 'While at War' is among the competition titles, while Netflix's Spanish original 'Seventeen' will screen out of competition.

The San Sebastian International Film Festival on Friday unveiled 15 Spanish titles set to screen in various sections of the event's upcoming 67th edition.

Three of them will screen in the competition of the official section, while the Netflix original film Seventeen (Diecisiete), a production of Atipica Films, was invited to screen in an out-of-competition slot as part of the official selection. From director Daniel Sanchez Arevalo, the road movie focuses on the relationship between a troubled teenager (Biel Montoro), his big brother (Nacho Sanchez) and his missing therapy dog. Netflix has screened three other originals in San Sebastian, including Roma in Pearls last year, The Wolf Brigade in competition in 2018 and 2017's Bomb Scared in the Velodrome.

"We think it's a very strong year for Spanish cinema," festival director Jose Luis Rebordinos said at a press conference at the Spanish Film Academy headquarters in Madrid. Many of the invited filmmakers and stars were on hand for the presentation.

Set at the start of Spain's Civil War and focused on the evolving stance towards the war of distinguished Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno, the competition title While at War (Mientras Dure la Guerra) marks Alejandro Amenabar's first Spanish-language feature since Oscar winner The Sea Inside (2004) starring Javier Bardem. His most recent films include the mystery Regression (2015), starring Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke, and the historical drama Agora (2009). His 1997 thriller Open Your Eyes was remade in the U.S. as Vanilla Sky. While at War is a co-production of Movistar+, MOD Producciones, Himenoptero and K&S Films. It is being sold internationally by Film Factory Entertainment.

Also competing for the festival's top Golden Shell award is director Belen Funes' debut feature, A Thief's Daughter (La Hija de un Ladron), about a young woman (Elisa & Marcela's Greta Fernandez) who wants to distance herself from her father (Eduard Fernandez, also co-starring in While at War) when he is released from prison. The film was produced by Oberon and BTeam Pictures.

The third Spanish film announced for the official competition is La Trinchera Infinita, starring Antonio de la Torre (who won a Goya this year for The Realm) as a man who hides in his house for 33 years following the start of Spain's Civil War in 1936. The pic was directed by San Sebastian regulars (and locals) Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, the team behind Flowers (Loreak), which premiered in San Sebastian in 2014 and was Spain's first-ever Basque-language nominee for the foreign-language Oscar. La Claqueta, Irusoin, Manny Films, Moriarti Produkzioak and Trinera Film co-produced. Film Factory has international rights.

Another Spanish-language film that will get a special screening in the official section is Argentina-born Sebastian Borensztein's dramedy Heroic Losers (La Odisea de los Giles), starring Ricardo Darin and his son Chino Darin. The Argentina-Spain co-production, sold by Film Factory, is set during the economic crisis of 2001 in Argentina and is based on a book by Eduardo Sacheri, author of the novel that inspired 2009's The Secret in Their Eyes (remade in the U.S. in 2015 with Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts).

Two Spanish helmers will debut features in the New Directors section: La Inocencia, Lucia Alemany's tale about a teenager who wants to join the circus and is the first project from the Spanish film school ECAM's Incubator program to compete at San Sebastian; and Maider Fernandez Iriarte's Las Letras de Jordi, based on the relationship the director forged with a 51-year-old man with cerebral palsy. As previously announced, Oliver Laxe's Cannes Un Certain Regard jury prize winner Fire Will Come will screen in the San Sebastian Pearls section of the festival.

Two series, including the world premiere of Emmy winner Justin Weber's Nisman (El fiscal, la presidenta y el espia) and part of the new season of Leticia Dolera's Canneseries best series prize winner Perfect Life (Vida Perfecta); the animated feature La Gallina Turuleca; two shorts; and a medium-length film round out Friday's unveiled films for other festival sections.

Lastly, Paco Cabezas (Penny Dreadful, American Gods) will present his return to cinema, the Seville-set detective thriller Adios, at the RTVE Gala at San Sebastian.

Penelope Cruz, previously announced as this year's lifetime achievement Donostia Prize, graces this year's official poster for the festival.

The 67th San Sebastian International Film Festival is set to run Sept. 20-28.