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24 New directors contenders at San Sebastian

Twenty-four films from eighteen countries will compete at the 53rd San Sebastián International Film Festival (Sept 15-24) for the Altadis-New Directors Award, sponsored by Altadis and carrying a cash prize of €90,000 (approx. US$95,000). Five of these movies will be screened in the Official Selection and the other nineteen in Zabaltegi-New Directors.


AGUA CON SAL (SALTED WATER), Pedro Pérez Rosado, Spain
In this, his second film, the director of Cuentos de la guerra Saharaui takes a closer look at the world of illegal immigration in Spain with a sober, effective portrait. A Cuban girl, played by Yoima Valdés and the Spanish woman Leire Berrocal, exploited workers in a furniture factory, have to do any kind of temporary work they can get to make ends meet.

ALEX, José Alcalá, France
In her mid-thirties, divorced, having lost the custody of her teenage son, Alex (Marie Raynal) plans to renovate an old house in the mountains where she hopes to find a stable sentimental relationship and a more gratifying job than selling vegetables in travelling markets. Written and directed by the until now short-filmmaker José Alcala who handles the situation with neither stridency nor artefacts, respectfully treating his characters, fitting them into an extremely important landscape as far as the plot is concerned.

¡AUPA ETXEBESTE!, Telmo Esnal, Asier Altuna, Spain
Patricio Etxebeste owns a beret-making factory. An important local figure, he is standing for mayor in the upcoming elections. What nobody knows is that he is completely ruined and can’t even pay for his yearly holiday. A comedy noire of Berlanga inspiration, first feature film, completely shot in Basque, by the authors of the short movies Txotz (1997) and 40 ezetz (1999) with a choral cast headed by Ramón Aguirre, Elena Irureta and Paco Sagarzazu.

DREAMING LHASA, Sarin Ritu, Sonam Tenzing (India-UK)
A movie director travels to Dharamsala to make a documentary on the life of the Tibetan community in exile. There she meets peculiar characters who help her to find her own history. First feature film by directors Ritu and Tenzing, committed to portraying the Tibetan community in exile. They were first noticed in 1991 for the medium-length film The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche with which they participated at numerous festivals.

A boy is run over in the street. The car drives off. A woman finds the body and calls the police… this is the start of a tale in which all of the characters have something to hide. A mysterious plot with more than one turn of the screw, based on a frozen, cutting narrative style. First feature film from a young director with several shorts on her filmography.

THE FORBIDDEN CHAPTER, Fariborz Kamkari, Iran-Italy
A serial killer sows panic by killing prostitutes in a slum area inhabited by refugees. A veteran policeman investigates the case. A genre thriller with touches of political fable in a story with rather unusual characters, subjects and images for the Iranian movie scene. Second work by the author of Black Tape (2002).

Second movie by the director of Oscar and European Academy Award nominee, Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel (The Story of the Weeping Camel). Yet again the landscape is that of Mongolia and the characters those of a nomad family. Somewhere between documentary and fiction, the film has the tremendous virtue of demonstrating that mid-21st century it is possible to live differently from the western way of life incorporating modern commodities to a traditional culture.

L’ICEBERG, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy, Belgium
One night Fiona is accidentally locked into the cold storage chamber of her fast-food joint. Rescued the next day on the point of freezing to death, she realises that neither her husband nor her kids had noticed her absence. Throwing everything to the wind, she sets out in search of a real iceberg. The three authors of this opera prima, formerly of several short films such as Rosita (1997) and Walking on the Wild Side (2000), stage veterans, star in this tale of scarce dialogue corresponding to the most genuine humour of Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati.

JOGO SUBTERRANEO, Roberto Gervitz, Brazil
This movie, second by the director of Feliz Ano Velho (1987), is based on Julio Cortazar’s short story Manuscrito hallado en un bolsillo. A solitary man follows the women he fancies, endowing them with a name and a history and leaving them when they stray from the fate he has drawn for them. That’s how he meets three women on the metro, having relations with all three in an interesting to and fro. Faithful to the spirit of Cortázar’s short story, rich in highly attractive characters and of particularly solid manufacture.

LOOK BOTH WAYS, Sarah Watt, Australia
The town is upset by a railway accident leaving a widow and a distraught driver. Among the village inhabitants is a photographer diagnosed with cancer, an artist suffering from constant visions boding the worst and a journalist convinced he’s a failure played by William McInnes, Justine Clarke and Anthony Hayes. First feature film from an experienced, prize-winning animation short-filmmaker (Small Treasures (1995), Living Happiness (2001), who uses her experience to create highly suggestive fictional images.

MISTRZ (THE MASTER), Piotr Trzaskalski, Poland
Second movie by the director of Edi (2002) with which he won several international prizes. A tremendous knack for creating unexpected images is one of the bonuses of this story focussing on a Russian knife thrower travelling on Polish roads. Tormented by his past as a soldier in Afghanistan, the man is unable to find stability and peace, even when he falls in love with a gentle young girl. A road movie of rather peculiar and meticulous making.

OYUN (THE PLAY), Pelin Esmer, Turkey
Nine Turkish women who work hard in the field and at home write a play based on their lives, their problems and their vindications. Their discussions, the rehearsals, the difficulties suffered at home, their doubts, all finally lead to their performance of the play before the local inhabitants. Opera prima by a director who perfectly balances documentary with fiction, making the characters’ dreams her own.

SA-KWA, Kang Yi-kwan, Korea
A young girl sidesteps the repeated proposals made by her office colleague due to already having a boyfriend. Unexpectedly abandoned by the aforesaid, she accepts her suitor’s offer, marrying him and having a son, despite not getting on as well as could be expected. Written and directed by the novel Kang Yi-kwan with fine rhythm and surprising panache, this intimate story with subtle melodramatic overtones features two Korean film stars: Moon So-ri y Kim Tae-woo.

Sacked from his job for something he didn’t do, a young boy decides to commit suicide. Outraged by the injustice, his best friend, a married man and father of a child, demands an explanation from the company management. An opera prima clearly making a social statement, not forgetting the intimate drama of its heroes and featuring an impeccable cast headed by Olivier Gourmet.

A couple of hired killers - Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. – do their work with absolutely no feelings whatsoever until the woman discovers that her next victim is pregnant, helping her to give birth and taking mother and child into her home. A genre movie, with highly suggestive intimate touches based not only on an excellent cast, but also on a solid screenplay and excellent making. Opera prima by a man who has acquired outstanding prestige as an independent producer with such titles to his name as the Oscar-winning Monster’s Ball (Marc Foster, 2001) or The Woodsman (Nicole Kassell, 2004).

SPIELE LEBEN (YOU BET YOUR LIFE), Antonin Svodoba, Austria
The road of chance costs a young compulsive gambler his life. Swept along on a downward spiral, he meets a young street actress capable of accompanying him on his descent into hell.
First feature film as the director of Svodoba, he belongs to one of the most important Austrian production groups alongside Barbara Albert and Jessica Hausner.

STONED, Stephen Wooley, UK
Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, was found drowned in his swimming pool in mysterious circumstances in 1969. This movie takes a look at the last months in the life of a member of one of the greatest rock groups of all times at one of the darkest moments in its history. Opera prima by Neil Jordan’s regular British producer drawing a portrait of the period, of a generation and of a time perfectly corresponding to the description of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

LOS SUICIDAS, Juan Villegas, Argentina
Different kinds of suicide serve as the basis of this sad tale starring a young journalist whose father committed suicide when he was five and who now has to investigate the death of a man. About to become the same age as his father when he died, he finds a possible way out of his desperation in the photographer assisting him with the investigation. Having reaped numerous international awards with his first film Sábado (2001), Villegas now tackles an intimate, suggestive drama starring excellent actors Daniel Hendler and Leonora Balcarce.

Based on the true story of an out-of-work man who decides to “borrow” taxis parked for the night to “work” and feed his family, director Jo Sol, with the collaboration of the Dinero Gratis anti-globalization group, makes an unclassifiable movie somewhere between documentary and pure fiction. The contrast between the taxi-driver’s sensible ideas and those of the youngsters who help him is the main bonus of this tale shot in digital video with no institutional support offering a portrait of Barcelona having very little in common with fashion and design.


The list of titles competing for the Altadis-New Directors Award in Zabaltegi includes several similarly doing so in the Official Selection and already announced as follows:

EL AURA (THE AURA), Fabián Bielinsky, Argentina-Spain-France
Nueve reinas (Nine Queens) clearly demonstrated that Fabián Bielinsky is a director with his own character in Argentinean cinema. With the inestimable collaboration of actor Ricardo Darín, he has on this occasion turned to Patagonia to make a film noir starring an odd taxidermist, solitary and epileptic, convinced that the perfect crime is possible. The movie’s director explains its title, saying that “The aura is that moment just before the epileptic seizure takes place when a strange illumination occurs where past and present melt into one another to cause tremendous confusion”.

This second movie by Stéphane Brizé after his 1999 Le Bleu des villes, prizewinner at Deauville Festival, is a tale of loneliness and hope in which a 55-year-old man convinced that his life has been a complete failure meets a younger woman, similarly convinced of the senselessness of her existence. Cesar awardwinner Patrick Chesnais and actress Anne Consigny bring life to this passionate love story to the sound of a tango.

MALAS TEMPORADAS. Manuel Martín Cuenca. Spain.
Manuel Martín Cuenca was one of Zabaltegi’s revelations on his presentation two years ago of La flaqueza del bolchevique, subsequent winner of several awards at various festivals.
His new film Malas temporadas, with a screenplay by Alejandro Hernández, “tells familiar, simple, stories with sensitivity and strength, made of real emotions”, in the words of its director: “This is a movie about second chances and hope.... Hard times are only the prelude to something better”. At the head of the ample cast are Javier Cámara, Leonor Watling and Nathalie Poza

In 2001, Slovenian director Jan Cvitkovic won the Lion of the Future Award at the Venice Mostra with his first movie Kruh in mleko (Bread and Milk) (2001). His second feature film is set in a little village where the hero earns a living concocting speeches for funerals. From there on the film proceeds to unfold a highly personal kind of humour on portraying an unlikely bunch including a man who refuses to speak, another one who continuously tries to commit suicide, love stories and the odd unusual tragedy.

STESTY (SOMETHING LIKE HAPPINESS), Bohdan Sláma, Czech Republic.
Winner of prizes at numerous festivals and from the international critics for his previous movie, Divoké vcely (Wild Bees) 2001, the young Czech director Bohdan Sláma tells the tale of three childhood friends. One of them works in a supermarket, dreaming of escaping to the USA. Another lives on a farm and dreams of it. The third lives with an irresponsible husband. Fate obliges the three friends to share their lives once again… But maybe happiness never lasts for long.

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