Parasite by Bong Joon Ho which won the Golden Palm in Cannes, Les Misérables, the first feature film by Ladj Ly and Amazing Grace, the Aretha Franklin gospel concert documentary, are among eight films that will compete for the City of Donostia / San Sebastian Audience Award decided by the audience at the 2019 San Sebastian International Film Festival.
Bong Joon Ho (Daegu, South Korea, 1969) made his international debut in San Sebastian’s Official Selection with Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) and later returned to compete with Memories of Murder (Silver Shell for Best Director and New Directors Award, 2003). Now one of Asian cinema’s leading figures, the moviemaker also responsible for Mother (Perlak, 2009) and Snowpiercer (2013) won the Golden Palm for Parasite, a new social X-ray viewed through the unpredictable meeting between two families: one rich and one poor.
Les Misérables, the first feature film by Ladj Ly (1978), won the Cannes Jury Prize jointly with Bacurau. The Mali-born French director uses the title of Victor Hugo’s immortal literary classic to narrate a contemporary take on tempestuous life in the suburbs of Paris.
Also with a strong social character is Sorry We Missed You, the latest work by Ken Loach (Nuneaton, UK, 1936), winner of the Audience Award at the San Sebastian Festival with I, Daniel Blake (2016). Backed by a career spanning half a century and with thirty titles to his name, the British master competed once again at Cannes with a modern portrayal of a family confronted with the traps of precarious work.
Olivier Nakache (Suresnes, France, 1973) and Éric Toledano (Paris, 1971) are regulars in San Sebastian, having closed the event with the world premiere of Intouchables (Untouchable, 2011) and with Samba (2014), and where they also competed with Le sens de la fête / C’est la vie! (2017). In Hors Normes / The Specials, which closed Cannes out of competition, the French tandem follows the adventures of two friends played by Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb, who set up an association for children with autism.
For his part, the Paris-born Galician filmmaker Oliver Laxe (1982) presents O que arde / Fire Will Come, whose lead character is released from jail after doing time for arson and returns to an isolated hamlet to live with his mother, his dog and his three cows. With this film, the author of Todos vós sodes capitáns (2010) and Mimosas (2016) landed the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the award for the best sound creation.
The same Cannes section pinned the Best Director badge on the young Kantemir Balagov (Nalchik, Russia, 1991) who, having caused surprise with his first work, Tesnota / Closeness (Zabaltegi-Tabakalera, 2017) sets his first film, Beanpole, at the end of World War II, following two women as they attempt to reconstruct their lives in the devastated city of Leningrad.
Added to the above, the Chinese filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai (Shanghai, 1966), author of works including Shi qi sui de dan che / Beijing Bicycle (Perlak, 2001) and 11 Flowers (Official Selection, 2011), will screen Di jiu tian chang / So Long, My Son, where two couples struggle to deal with the social and economic changes sweeping through the China of the ‘80s. Its stars, Yong Mei and Wang Jingchun, carried off the Silver Bears for Best Actor and Best Actress at the Berlinale, respectively.
Amazing Grace is a film about the gospel concerts given by Aretha Franklin in 1972 at a Baptist church in Los Angeles, where the diva filmed her highest-selling album. Moviemaker Sydney Pollak captured that performance in images which, 47 years down the line, Alan Elliott (1964) has turned into a documentary co-produced, among others, by Spike Lee.
In the coming weeks, the Festival will announce the other titles participating in Perlak, a selection of the year’s best feature films, not yet screened in Spain, which have been critically acclaimed and have won awards at other international festivals. All of the works compete for the City of Donostia / San Sebastian Audience Award, which includes two prizes: one for best film (50,000 euros) and the other for best European film (20,000 euros).
ALAN ELLIOTT, SYDNEY POLLACK (USA)
In January 1972, the fabulous Aretha Franklin performed over two days at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, where she recorded what would become her highest-selling album, Amazing Grace. Although the sessions were recorded by a film team led by moviemaker Sydney Pollack, the archive footage was eventually forgotten for four decades. Prior to his death in 2008, Pollack expressed his wish that somebody would complete the film and the producer Alan Elliott set about doing just that with a team of people who felt passionately about the project. Among its co-producers is Spike Lee. The film premiered at the Berlin Festival out of competition.
KANTEMIR BALAGOV (RUSSIA)
Cast: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina
1945, Leningrad. World War II has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and its residents’ lives. Two young women, Iya and Masha, struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the city ruins. Following his debut with Tesnota / Closeness (Zabaltegi-Tabakalera, 2017), with this film the young Russian director Kantemir Balagov garnered the best director Award at Un Certain Regard in Cannes.
DI JIU TIAN CHANG / SO LONG, MY SON
WANG XIAOSHUAI (CHINA)
Cast: Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei, Qi Xi, Wang Yuan, Du Jiang, Al Liya, Xu Cheng, Li Jingjing, Zhao Yanguozhang
Two couples adapt to the enormous social and economic changes sweeping through China from the decade of the 1980s until today. At the last Berlin Festival, Yong Mei and Wang Jingchun won the Silver Bears for Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
HORS NORMES / THE SPECIALS
OLIVIER NAKACHE, ÉRIC TOLEDANO (FRANCE)
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Hélène Vincent
The tale of Bruno and Malik, two friends who have lived for twenty years in a different world: that of autistic children and adolescents. With the support of two non-profit organizations, they train young people to care for cases of severe autism. They therefore create an exceptional association, removed from the traditional environments, for extraordinary characters. The latest feature film from the directors of Intouchables (Untouchable, Official Selection, 2011) and Samba (Official Selection, 2014) closed the Cannes Festival out of competition.
LADJ LY (FRANCE)
Cast: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Steve Tientcheu, Jeanne Balibar
Stéphane has recently joined the Anti-Crime Squad in Montfermeil, in the eastern suburbs of Paris. There he meets Chris and Gwada, two highly experienced colleagues, and soon discovers the tensions existing between the different local gangs. First work from Ladj Ly, a French director born in Mali who landed the Jury Prize (jointly with Bacurau) at the last Cannes Festival.
O QUE ARDE / FIRE WILL COME
OLIVER LAXE (SPAIN – FRANCE – LUXEMBOURG)
Cast: Amador Arias, Benedicta Sánchez
Amador returns home after doing time in jail for arson. There, in an isolated hamlet in Lugo’s Serra dos Ancares, he will return to live with his mother Benedicta, their dog Luna and their three cows. They live their lives slowly, at the speed of nature. Until fire razes the area to the ground. Jury Prize at Un Certain Regard in Cannes and award for the best sound creation.
BONG JOON HO (SOUTH KOREA)
Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Sun Kyun Lee, Yeo Jeong Cho, Woo Shik Choi, So-Dam Park
Ki-taek’s whole family is out of work and takes great interest in the lifestyle of the extraordinarily rich Park family. One day, the son lands a recommendation for an English-teaching job at the Park home, sparking an uncontrollable series of events from which none of them will escape unscathed. The latest film from the director of Barking Dogs Never Bite (Official Selection, 2000), Memories of Murder (Silver Shell for Best Director and New Directors Award, 2003), Mother (Perlak, 2009) and Snowpiercer (2013) landed the Golden Palm at the last Cannes Festival.
SORRY WE MISSED YOU
KEN LOACH (UK – FRANCE – GERMANY)
Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor
Ricky and his family live in Newcastle, where they have been fighting an uphill struggle against precarious work, despite the fact that neither he nor his wife have ever been out of a job. Momentarily unemployed, Ricky sees the opportunity to work as a self-employed delivery driver if he can get his own van. His wife Abbey, a carer, sells her car to help him. But Ricky depends on the transport company that decides his routes and controls his work and, gradually, his life and that of his loved ones. The family find themselves caught up in the infernal spiral of the uberisation trap. Participant in the Official Selection at Cannes Festival.