San Sebastian lures big names, political films

Spanish festival hosting 'Tiro en la Cabeza,' 'Camino'

MADRID -- This month's San Sebastian International Film Festival will feature a competition lineup laden with name-brand directors, fresh-faced talent and a sprinkle of Latin flavor from South America.

Michael Winterbottom ("Genova"), Kim Ki-duk ("Dreams"), Daniel Burman ("The Empty Nest") and Hirokazu Kore-eda ("Still Waiting") will all contend for the festival's Golden Shell, organizers said Wednesday.

The world's most important Spanish-language festival's penchant for politically and socially charged features that court controversy also will continue with at least two Spanish titles that are sure to stir things up.

Jaime Rosales' "Tiro en la Cabeza" already has tongues wagging as it focuses on terrorism in the restive Basque region, the festival's home turf, and Javier Fesser's third feature, "Camino," deals with faith, Opus Dei and a dying 11-year-old girl.

San Sebastian -- which, despite being long on social consciousness, ranks as one of the festival circuit's most fun events -- has long acted as a gateway to Europe from Central and South America, with the Latin Horizons section regularly introducing Latin talent to non-Spanish-speaking film execs and audiences.

But increasingly it is the Films in Progress section, which awards financing to complete unfinished Latin American films, that has become one of the event's stronger calling cards -- with its winners reaping accolades on the international festival circuit.

This year's competition includes six films produced in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua, such as Carlos Serrano Azcona's "El Arbol" (Mexico), Santiago Loza's "Artico" (Argentina) and Cristian Jimenez "Ilusiones Opticas" (Chile-Portugal-France).

Meanwhile, San Sebastian's sales office has grown exponentially.

"Every year we see more and more buyers coming and using the sales office," festival director Mikel Olaciregui said. "While (San Sebastian) isn't a market, it is a useful platform for producers and sales agents who have films in different sections to find buyers for different territories for their films."

Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem, Woody Allen, Rebecca Hall, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Colin Firth are all due in town for the festival, which starts Thursday and ends Sept. 27.