San Sebastian kicks off with local heroes

Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem bring star power to fest

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Homegrown heroes Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem were the stars of the fuchsia-colored carpet as the 56th annual San Sebastian International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night.

Banderas, due to receive the festival's Donostia Lifetime Achievement award Friday, accompanied director Richard Eyre, presenting the Official Section's opening film, "The Other Man."

Bardem joined Woody Allen and Rebecca Hall at the ceremony to present the director's Spanish film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which opens the Zabaltegi Pearls section. Allen, one of the country's most revered directors, said he was looking forward to showing the film -- shot in Spain -- to Spanish audiences.

"It is a pleasure to show the film here. I take every opportunity to visit Spain and enjoyed the three months shooting the film in Spain, with a gifted cast and crew," Allen said.

"San Sebastian brings together the best of all the world's festivals," Bardem said. "So enjoy the films, food and people here in San Sebastian."

Political leaders, including regional Basque President Juan Jose Ibarretxe and Spanish Culture Minister Cesar Antonio Molina were on hand for the gala.

Terence Davies and Mario Monicelli, both honored by the festival with retrospectives of their work this year graced the stage at the Kursaal, with a standing ovation greeting the 93-year-old Monicelli before he broke into Italian to thank the festival.

The inaugural ceremony was presented by Spanish journalist Edurne Ormazabal and actress Belen Rueda. Miguel Angel Silvestre, Pilar Bardem, Juan Echanove, Barbara Goenaga, Clara Lago, Assumpta Serna and Lucia Jimenez were a few of those participating in the ceremony conducted in Spanish, English and the local Basque language as is customary at the festival.

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

San Sebastian is buzzing with excitement for what promises to be strong lineup of films and stars, with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Meryl Streep some of those due to arrive later in the week.

The festival runs through Sept. 27.