Stars show but biz slow at San Sebastian

Javier Bardem, Robert Downey Jr. among fest's big names

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- As the 56th San Sebastian International Film Festival hit the halfway mark, the spotlight was still focused on the A-list stars who provided the spark for the first four days.

Antonio Banderas, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Javier Bardem and Colin Firth all made a big splash in the seaside town, where local media trumpeted the festival's ability to snag big names this year.

Spanish and Latin American industries regularly use the festival as a platform to promote themselves abroad. This year, Latin America's Mercosur -- which combines the markets of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay -- announced a $2.75 million, three-year agreement with the European Union designed to strengthen the Latin American film industry. The deal, which runs 2009-11, will set up a circuit of more than 30 digital cinema screens in the four countries.

But if the sales office was busy with roundtables, buyers and sellers commented on how slow business has been so far.

Many companies have flown in briefly to meet other executives and get the lay of the land at the festival, but few are staying more than a few days.

"I'm here for a whole week and have been able to schedule meetings with the important sellers, but I'm sure there are others that are here for a few days and don't coincide with all of the companies they want because those companies aren't here the whole time either," said one buyer.

Even so, most said they expected business to pick up.

The competition lineup, laden with heavy dramas, was set to screen its first Spanish titles Monday including Jaime Rosales' Basque terrorism drama "Un Tiro en la Cabeza."