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A look at Spanish cinema at the San Sebastian Festival

The participation of Spanish cinema at the Festival (Sept 18-27) will include three films in the Official Selection and another three in Zabaltegi-New Directors Camino, El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard) and Tiro en la cabeza will compete in the Official Selection, and Amateurs, Chicos normales (Ordinary Boys) and El truco del manco in Zabaltegi-New Directors
Flores de luna (Night Flowers) will be presented in Zabaltegi-Specials and La casa de mi padre will be premiered at the Basque Cinema Day

Three films in the Official Selection and another three in Zabaltegi-New Directors will figure among the Spanish films screened at the coming edition of San Sebastian Festival. As already announced, Javier Fesser’s Camino; El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard), by Belén Macías; and Tiro en la cabeza, by Jaime Rosales, will compete in the Official Selection.
In addition to these are three titles taking part in Zabaltegi-New Directors: Amateurs, directed by Gabriel Velázquez; Chicos normales (Ordinary Boys), by Daniel Hernández; and El truco del manco, by Santiago Zannou. These three titles will compete alongside El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard) for the Altadis-New Directors Award, carrying €90,000 to be shared between the director and Spanish distributor of the film.
The Zabaltegi-Specials section will also include Juan Vicente Córdoba’s documentary Flores de luna (Night Flowers).
In addition to the above, the Basque Cinema Day will feature the premiere of the first feature by the director from San Sebastian, Gorka Merchán, La casa de mi padre. Other films, soon to be announced, will similarly be premiered at this event.
Spanish cinema can also be found in the shape of four feature films: Daniel Burman’s El nido vacío (Argentina-Spain - France), to participate in the Official Selection, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Spain-USA), to open Zabaltegi-Pearls; Federico Vieroj’s Acne to compete in Horizontes Selection; and Mirtha Ibarra’s Titón, de La Habana a Guantanamera, to be screened in Horizontes - Specials.
As in other years, the Made in Spain section will showcase some of the best Spanish productions to have been released in the last year.

Camino is the third feature by Oscar candidate, Javier Fesser. Director, screenwriter and producer, Javier Fesser has other features to his name: El milagro de P. Tinto (The Miracle of P. Tinto, 1998) and La gran aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón (Mortadelo and Filemon: The Big Adventure, 2003). He is also the author of several international prize-winning shorts, including El secdleto de la tlompeta (1995), Aquel ritmillo (1995), La sorpresa (2001) and Binta y la gran idea (Binta and the Great Idea, 2004), for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Short Film in the Live Action category. With Camino he brings us a new idea combining family drama, a magical tale and religious fervour. Starring Nerea Camacho, Carme Elias, Mariano Venancio and Manuela Vellés, Camino is produced by Películas Pendelton and Mediapro.
El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard) is the first feature film directed by Belén Macías, author of the shorts Mala espina (2000) and El puzzle (2001), winners of over 70 international prizes, including the Goya Award for Best Short Film for the latter of the two. The film is produced by El Deseo P.C. and Warner Bros Entertainment España S.L. and features a talented cast of actresses, including Candela Peña, Verónica Echegui, Ana Wagener, Blanca Portillo and Patricia Reyes Spíndola. El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard) is the story of a group of women inmates who form a theatre troupe to cope with the unlucky star that brought them into the world.
Winner of Goya Awards for Best Director and Best Film with La soledad (2007), Jaime Rosales will compete at San Sebastian with his new film, Tiro en la cabeza. This director from Barcelona who debuted in feature films with Las horas del día (2003) and landed the Fipresci Award at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, continues to explore the new forms of film language that caused surprise in La soledad (2007), a movie that went on to earn him international acclaim following its participation in Un Certain Regard at Cannes.


Amateurs is the second feature by the director from Salamanca, Gabriel Velázquez, co-director together with Chema de la Peña of Sud Express, competitor in the San Sebastian Festival Official Selection in 2005. He has also written a number of shorts including the prize-winning London Calling (2000) and Soldaditos de latón (2001).
Daniel Hernández makes his feature directorial debut with Chicos normales (Ordinary Boys). Produced by Alea Docs & Films, this work based on true events enters the homes and lives of three youngsters from Jamaa Mezwak, the Tetuan slum and birthplace of five of the terrorists responsible for the Madrid killing on 11th March 2004.
El truco del manco is the first feature from Santiago Zannou, following the shorts Cara sucia (2004), nominated for the Goya for Best Short Film, and Mercancías (2005). It tells the tale of Enrique Heredia, ‘El Cuajo’, a non-Gypsy with Gypsy features who gets by as he can with walking difficulties caused by the cerebral palsy affecting half of his body. The character is played by Juan Manuel Montilla, nicknamed El Langui, leader of the Gypsy hip hop group La Excepción, from the Madrid district of Pan Bendito, w inner of an MTV Europe 2006 award as the best Spanish-language group in the world.

Flores de luna (Night Flowers) is a documentary by Juan Vicente Córdoba, director of the features Aunque tú no lo sepas (2000), which participated in Zabaltegi – New Directors in 2000 and A golpes (2005). It narrates the evolution of the Madrid district Pozo del Tío Raimundo, reflec ting Spanish society, the class war, solidarity and citizen participation over a period of more than 50 years.

La casa de mi padre, first feature by the director from San Sebastian, Gorka Merchán, will be premiered at a special event as part of the Basque Cinema Day. Starring Carmelo Gómez, Juan José Ballesta, Emma Suárez and Verónica Echegui, the film ruminates on “the best way to defend a father’s house is to let it be everyone’s house, without giving anyone more rights than the others. That’s why we have to start abandoning the image of the closed house and start thinking of Euskadi in terms of a city, a city in which all sorts of citizens live side by side, different people, but with the same rights.”

Director: Javier Fesser.
Cast: Nerea Camacho, Carme Elias, Mariano Venancio, Manuela Vellés.
Third feature by Oscar nominee Javier Fesser, after El milagro de P. Tinto (1998) y La gran aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón (2003) Inspired by a real recent event, Camino is an emotional adventure about a brilliant eleven-year-old girl who must simultaneously face two completely new events in her life - falling in love and dying. Above all, Camino is a bright light that manages to shine though every one of the dark doors that try to stifle her desire to live, love and seek ultimate happiness.

Director: Belén Macías.
Cast: Candela Peña, Verónica Echegui, Ana Wagener, Violeta Pérez.
Belén Macías’s first feature, El patio de mi cárcel (My Prison Yard), is a story about women, about female inmates, excluded from life. It is the story of Isa, a caustic yet generous thief unable to adapt to life outside prison, and her friends. Dolores, a blond gypsy who killed her husband; Rosa, a tender fragile prostitute; Ajo, in love with Pilar, who lives her life to unbearable limits; Luisa, a naive Colombian surprised by an environment she doesn’t understand. The arrival of Mar, a prison warden who doesn’t adjust to the rules of the institution, embarks the women on a journey toward freedom. With the help of Adela, the prison director, they create Módulo 4, the theatre group that will provide them with the energy they need to cope with life’s hard knocks.
Competing for the Altadis-New Directors Award

Director: Jaime Rosales.
Cast: Ion Arretxe, Iñigo Royo, Jaione Otxoa, Ana Vila.
Ion is apparently a normal guy. He gets up in the morning, has breakfast, sorts his things, meets his lawyers. One night he meets a girl at a party. They spend the night together at her flat. His life follows its course uneventfully. A phone call in a phone box; a meeting with a friend; small, unimportant everyday situations. One day he gets into a car with another two people. They drive across the border to France. They spend the night at a couple’s house. The next morning, after a chance meeting in a roadside cafe, they kill two civil guards in plain clothes.

Director: Gabriel Velázquez.
Cast: Emilie de Preissac, Paco Luque, Alberto Díaz, Juanma Hernández.
Marseilles (France)¬: The day Blanca turns 16, her mother dies buried under three tons of fish, leaving her alone in life. Vallecas (Madrid): Julio Nieves, a powerfully-built 65 year-old construction boss, collapses in the shower and is left to face the harshness of his retirement. What would you do if a daughter fell from the sky when you were old and lonely in life? Even if it was a lie? Just how far are we prepared to go to avoid being alone?

Director: Daniel Hernández.
Cast: Non-professional actors.
Daniel Hernández makes his feature directorial debut with Chicos normales (Ordinary Boys) is the feature directorial debut by David Hernández. This work, based on true events, enters the homes and lives of three youngsters from Jamaa Mezwak, the Tetuan slum and birthplace of five of the terrorists responsible for the Madrid killing on 11th March 2004.

Director: Santiago Zannou.
Cast: El Langui, Ovono Candela, Javier Iglesias Bustamante, Elio Sagües.
El truco del manco tells the tale of Enrique Heredia, ‘El Cuajo’, a non-Gypsy with Gypsy features who gets by as he can with walking difficulties caused by the cerebral palsy affecting half of his body. El Cuajo convinces his friend Adolfo, a young mulatto living in a commuter suburb with a sick alcoholic father, to set up a music studio and make a living with their shared talent and passion for Hip Hop. The character is played by Juan Manuel Montilla, nicknamed El Langui, leader of the Gypsy hip-hop group La Excepción, from the Madrid district of Pan Bendito, winner of an MTV Europe 2006 award as the best Spanish-language group in the world. El Langui shares the character’s physical handicap from birth, passion for music, social environment and many other features making the character a reflection of the real life person.

Director: Juan Vicente Córdoba.
From a shack in Pozo del Tío Raimundo, the shanty town thrown up in the 50s with mud and tin “houses” that grew like “moonflowers” put up during the night, the “red priest” Father Llanos conveyed to the immigrants his Utopian dream of endeavouring to achieve justice and freedom. Days and years of solidarity, of rebelry, and of forging a new identity in the belief that he could change the world from his slum. How did these people come to realize their situation and put their strength and cohesion into setting about its transformation?

Director: Gorka Merchán.
Cast: Carmelo Gómez, Juan José Ballesta, Verónica Echegui, Alex Angulo, Emma Suárez.
Txomin Garay, a businessman and fine pelota player in his youth, comes home after 10 years in Argentina. The main reason for his trip, on which he is accompanied by his wife Blanca and his only daughter, Sara, is the imminent death of his brother Koldo, to whom he stopped talking several years back. Dreadfully ravaged by his illness and shelving the many years of not speaking to Txomin due to the extreme differences between them, Koldo asks his brother to perform a delicate task: to get his teenage son, a promising pelota player, Gaizka (Juanjo Ballesta) back onto the track of a game for which he seems to have lost flavour.

(Official Selection)
Director: Daniel Burman.
Cast: Oscar Martínez, Cecilia Roth, Arturo Goetz, Inés Efron.
Sixth film from the Argentine director Daniel Burman, author of Esperando al Mesías (2000), El abrazo partido (2004) and Derecho de familia (2006). El nido vacío explores the emptiness experienced when children grow up and leave home, suddenly revealing the marital cracks (hidden for years beneath the everyday noise and chaos of family life). In El nido vacío, it’s Leonardo, a successful if somewhat weary author, who finds himself in this situation. Uncomfortable in the social situations demanded by his life as a member of the middle classes in Buenos Aires, Leonardo behaves like a man on the verge of a middle-age crisis, indulgent towards his neurosis and phobic towards the changes occurring around him.

(Zabaltegi ? Pearls Opening Film)
Spain - USA.
Director: Woody Allen.
Cast: Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, Rebecca Hall
Two young American women, Vicky and Cristina come to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Vicky is sensible and engaged to be married; Cristina is emotionally and sexually adventurous. In Barcelona, they're drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements with Juan Antonio, a charismatic painter, who is still involved with his tempestuous ex-wife Maria Elena. Set against the luscious Mediterranean sensuality of Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen's funny and open-minded celebration of love in all its configurations.

Director: Mirtha Ibarra.
Titón, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1928 – 1996), remarkable filmmaker and one of film history’s paramount names. From his birth at Havana and up to Guantamera, his last movie, this documentary broadly traces Titon’s work, his outlook and vital engagement as reflected in his own words and in the opinions of family members and professionals. An essential and touching thread is provided by the account of actress Mirtha Ibarra, the director of the documentary and Titon’s lifelong companion.

(Horizontes Selection)
Director: Federico Veiroj.
Cast: Alejandro Tocar, Yoel Bercovici, Igal Label, Gustavo Melnik.
Feature directorial debut by Federico Veiroj, selected at Films in Progress 12, 2007. Rafael Bregman, a 13-year-old teenager, has lost his virginity without ever having kissed a girl. To make his dream come true he’ll have to do something about his acne, come to grips with his clumsiness, get over his shyness, and, in other words, deal with adolescence.

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