Movie Magazine International

San Sebastian Film Festival Honors Films 'Made in Spanish' at the 'Maria Christina', Spain

Special Report By Moira Sullivan

On the picturesque bay of San Sebastian, called the pearl, the oldest film festival of them all is held in September: The San Sebastian Film Festival (or the Donastia as it is called in the Basque language).

This year, the 49th San Sebastian Film Festival icon was a cowboy, standing in an archway facing a bright horizon. The image conjures up the perennial film spectator who abides in darkness, observing the world. Introducing the awards ceremony held at the luxurious Maria Teresa on September 29th, the cowboy came to life, well sort of like Pinocchio, only on screen, complete with fringe, spurs and pistol, a renegade set loose. And all this was available for viewing on the on-line festival site! ( The site is in English Spanish and Basque and press conferences and interviews are interpreted in Spanish.

The festival opening film by Rose Troche A Safety of Objects was timely in light of the tragic circumstances of September 11 which preceded the festival opening and prevented many of the invited guests of honor from attending such as Donastia recipients Julie Andrews, Warren Beatty and Barbara Hershey.

Troche who made a shoestring budget classic called Go Fish in 1995 about young lesbians out and about, received major distribution by Samuel Goldwyn which opened the doors for new productions. In the on-line panel discussion she spoke about her new film starring Glen Close. She said it concerns how we place things between each other, before each other and how we define ourselves by them. The security of those things thereby becomes how we define ourselves. One of the pivotal moments of the film, she said, is when you have things, and suddenly don't -- and you feel a part of you disappears. A resident of New York, she said this has been tragically illustrated by the World Trade Center Twin Towers.

The majority of prizes this year at San Sebastian went to Spanish speaking films decided by the jury headed by French filmmaker Claude Chabrol. Pilar López de Ayala won the Concha de Plata (best actress) award for Juana de La Loca , (Madness of Love), a co-production of Spain, Italy and Portugal directed by Vicente Aranda. The on line site contains links to the official movie site where you can see a fabulous exerpt of this young actress in full force. The film concerns Juana, the daughter of the Catholic royals Ferdinand and Isabella, who was all set to marry "Philip the Handsome", the son of emperor Maximiliam of Austria. But fate interferes with her plans of becoming an ordinary mother and wife for Philip proves not only to be a womanizer but a manipulator with political ambitions. In this way we learn how she inherited the Spanish crown, became queen of Castile and went 'loca'.

A veteran filmmaker who held his own against the Franco regime, Carlos Saura was a welcome presence throughout the ceremonies. Saura gave the Donastia Award to the grandson of Francisco Rabel who died last month. Saura, a professor at the 'Escuela de Periodismo' (Journalism School) removed in 1963 by Franco, worked to form Spanish Neo-realism working in documentary and poetic film with subjects often about outcast people. His latest film in production is a fictional film about Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, David Goldman, and Federico Garcia Lorca entitled Buñuel y la mesa del rey Salomón. His previous film Goya featured Francisco Rabel as the Aragonese painter.

Next year 'The pearl' celebrates her 'Golden' anniversary with 50 years of festivals. A new commemorative edition of festival anecdotes by Diego Galán presented on the festival site has the curious title Jack Lemmon Never Had Dinner Here.

This is Moira Sullivan on line , San Sebastian, Spain.

© 2001 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/01

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