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Jonathan Demme to chair the Official Jury at San Sebastian

Academy Award-winning director, Jonathan Demme will present his new feature film, Rachel Getting Married, and a “work in progress” version of his latest Neil Young concert film, Neil Young Trunk Show: Scenes from a Concert.

Jonathan Demme, winner of an Oscar for best director for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and director of films including Something Wild (1986), Philadelphia (1993), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) will chair the Official Jury at the coming edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Jonathan Demme is one of the leading talents in North American filmmaking in the past thirty years. The New York director, producer and screenwriter has aptly combined major international box-office hits with independent projects focusing on some of his many concerns. The Silence of the Lambs was a landmark of the modern thriller, rendering Hannibal Lecter one of the most renowned characters in contemporary cinema. Philadelphia stirred the world with the subject of Aids at a time when the disease was a highly touchy issue. He also shot new blood into the intelligent comedy with Something Wild and Married to the Mob (1988) and imbued the idea of remake with a sense of ‘auteurship’ in The Truth About Charlie (2002), based on Stanley Donen’s 1963 film, Charade, and The Manchurian Candidate based on the John Frankenheimer classic.

Demme also revolutionized the relationship between rock and image. With his staging of the Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense (1984), he reinvented the idea of the rock concert movie, and in Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) he so elegantly reflected the Canadian musician’s emotions. Demme also made some of the most important music videos in the history of the genre, including The Perfect Kiss for New Order, and Streets of Philadelphia, Murder Incorporated and If I Should Fall Behind for Bruce Springsteen.

The documentary is another of the facets in which Jonathan Demme has left an important mark, with titles such as The Agronomist (2003), a portrait of journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique, and Jimmy Carter Man From Plains (2007), which follows the former US president’s book on Palestine tour, and which won three awards at the Venice Festival in 2007.

Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward is Demme's ongoing documentary project. He felt driven to see and document the recovery effort (or lack of one) in New Orleans. His first visit was in the fall of 2005, and Demme has been returning to track the journey of the community and individuals in the Lower Ninth Ward on seasonal visits ever since. PBS’ “The Tavis Smiley Show” dedicated a week of programming to excerpts of Right to Return. Later, a compilation of material became the feature length documentary, Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward, which premiered at the Silverdocs Festival in June 2007.

Demme's ongoing trips to document the constantly unfolding stories of people within the community have inspired four additional biopics which are in various stages of development: The Harrisons of New Orleans, The Carolyn Parker Story, Pastor Mel, and The Blue House, which documents the heroic efforts of the Common Ground organization's work in the community.

Demme is currently in pre-production on a Bob Marley documentary scheduled for release in February 2010, the 65th Anniversary of Marley’s birth.

Jonathan Demme has worked on two films in 2008. Rachel Getting Married is a “drama with an aggressive sense of humor” about a young woman in and out of rehab for ten years who returns to the family home for her sister’s wedding. The film, starring Anne Hathaway, Debra Winger and Rosemarie DeWitt, has entered in competition at the Venice Festival and will be featured in a special presentation at San Sebastian.

San Sebastian will also feature the world debut the work-in-progress version of Jonathan Demme’s new Neil Young documentary, Neil Young Trunk Show, a high energy performance film combining acoustic and electric.

Jonathan Demme was born in Baldwin, New York, in 1944. He began his filmmaking career under Roger Corman, directing his first three feature films, Caged Heat (1974), Crazy Mama (1975) and Fighting Mad (1976) for Corman's studio New World Pictures. He then went on to work at the major Hollywood studios directing films such as Handle with Care (1977), Last Embrace (1979) and Melvin and Howard (1980). Something Wild (1984), one of the best comedies of the 1980s, brought him international acclaim.

Demme has taken part in the San Sebastian Film Festival on three occasions –Stop Making Sense out of competition as part of the 1984 New Directors section; Married to the Mob as part of the 1988 Official Selection; and in 2006 with Neil Young: Heart of Gold in Zabaltegi-Perlas.

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