Fourteen first or second films by European, American and Asian filmmakers have been selected to compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award at the 67th San Sebastian International Film Festival.
From the total number of films selected, eight are debut films and six second movies. In the latter case, several of their makers have already participated in previous editions of New Directors. Ignas Jonynas (Vilnius, Lithuania, 1971), who participated with Losejas / The Gambler (2013), now returns with Nematoma, starring a man who pretends to be blind in a dance contest. Last year, this project filmed in the Lithuanian language won the Glocal in Progress awards.
For her part, the Bulgarian director Svetla Tsotsorkova (Burgas, 1977) also participated in New Directors with Jadja / Thirst (2015), whose actresses Monika Naydenova and Svetlana Yancheva once again work under her orders in Sestra / Sister. The film shows how the lie told by a teenage girl destroys her elder sister’s life and enables both of them to discover the truth about their mother.
Set in the terrible drought which destroyed the Swiss countryside in 1976, Le milieu de l’horizon / Beyond the Horizon portrays a young girl whose family environment and innocence collapse around her. Laetitia Casta and Clémence Poésy are members of the cast on this work by Delphine Lehericey (Lausanne, Switzerland, 1975), who returns to Donostia four years after screening Puppy Love (2015) in New Directors.
Also presenting their second works are the following filmmakers. In Disco, Jorunn Myklebust Syversen (Oslo, Norway, 1978) follows a young dance champion and poster girl for an evangelical movement (Josefine Frida Pettersen, from ‘Skam’ series) who after collapsing at a competition stars looking for answers in an even more radical church. In Algunas bestias / Some Beasts (winner of several awards at Films in Progress 35 Toulouse), Jorge Riquelme Serrano (Santiago de Chile, 1981) directs Paulina García and Alfredo Castro, members of a family faced with their demons on a desert island. For her part, the Tunisian Hinde Boujemaa (1971) participates with Le Rêve de Noura / Noura Dreams, where a woman on the point of divorce meets the love of her life coinciding with her husband’s imminent release from jail.
Following her short films made with the collective Las chicas de Pasaik, Maider Fernandez Iriarte (San Sebastian, Spain, 1988) presents her first feature, the non-fiction film Las letras de Jordi / Jordi’s Letters, about a 51 year-old man (Jordi Drassanes) with cerebral palsy who is worried because God no longer speaks to him. Her debut film will also be shown by another maker of short films, Lucía Alemany (Traiguera, Valencia, Spain, 1985) who, having worked on the production teams of Icíar Bollaín, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo and Borja Cobeaga, now directs La inocencia / The Innocence. The film, with a cast including Laia Marull and Sergi López, stars an adolescent (Carmen Arrufat) involved in a secret relationship with a boy older than her.
Ana García Blaya (Buenos Aires, 1979) debuts with Las buenas intenciones / The Good Intentions, looking at how the conflicts between parents affect their children. A similar plot is followed in the first feature film by Kim Sol (Buyeo, 1992) and Lee Jihyoung (Bucheon, 1988), young South Koreans who debut with Scattered Night (Grand Prix in the Korean competition category at the Jeonju Festival in 2019 and Best Actress Award for Moon Seung-a).
The Giant by American David Raboy (1989) is based on his own short film made in 2012, where the young Charlotte (Odessa Young) will try to put her past behind her in the last summer spent in her native city, while the British director Fyzal Boulifa (Leicester, 1985), whose short film The Curse (2012) was nominated for a Bafta, will present Lynn + Lucy, a study of violence and social hysteria shown through the relationship between two lifelong friends.
Japan’s Koichi Doi (Yokohama, 1978) will participate with Yoake No Takibi / Bonfire At Dawn, the contemporary story of a father who educates his son in the ways of the Kyogen, a branch of classic Japanese theatre. Lastly, Oren Gerner (Petah-Tikva, Israel, 1984), who competed in Cannes in 2018 with his short film Gabriel, will show in San Sebastian his first full-length project, Africa, in which a retired engineer sets out on a silent voyage to reconstruct himself. The young filmmaker returns to the Festival, at the 62nd edition of which he received the Nest Film Students Award for his short film, Greenland.
Established in 1985, the New Directors section reflects the Festival’s engagement with emerging talents. In their day, Olivier Assayas, Nicolas Winding Refn, Laurent Cantet, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Walter Salles, Kevin Smith, Lee Daniels, Ciro Guerra, Isabel Coixet, Alberto Rodríguez, Telmo Esnal and Asier Altuna, among many other filmmakers, presented their debut works in this section.
The titles in this section are also candidates for the Youth Award, decided by a jury of 150 students between the ages of 18 and 25 years.
OREN GERNER (ISRAEL)
Cast: Meir Gerner, Maya Gerner
When retired 68 year-old Meir discovers that his 30 years of planning the annual village celebration have been summarily discarded and the job has been given to inexperienced local teens instead, the ground beneath his feet begins to give way. In his effort to restore a sense of meaning and vitality, Meir begins to rebel against the inevitable: the betrayal of his physical body, the growing distance from his children, and the loss of relevance. First feature film by Oren Gerner, winner of Nest Film Students Best Short Film Award with Greenland (2014).
ALGUNAS BESTIAS / SOME BEASTS
JORGE RIQUELME SERRANO (CHILE)
Cast: Paulina García, Alfredo Castro, Consuelo Carreño, Gastón Salgado, Andrew Bargsted, Millaray Lobos
A family enthusiastically disembarks on a deserted island on Chile’s southern coast with the dream of building a tourist hotel. When the man who brought them across from the continent disappears, the family is trapped on the island. Suffering from the cold, with no water or assurances, the spirits and good manners start fading to reveal the beasts hidden within the family. Second feature film by its director.
JORUNN MYKLEBUST SYVERSEN (NORWAY)
Cast: Josefine Frida Pettersen, Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Andrea Bræin Hovig, Espen Klouman Høiner, Fredericke Rustad Hellerud
On the surface 19-year-old Mirjam’s life appears perfect. She is a world champion freestyle disco dancer and the pride of her modern, evangelical church. Yet her body is calling out for help and at the dance world championships, where she is defending her title, she collapses on stage. Her family’s solution is for her to focus more on her faith. In search of answers, she turns to a stricter, more conservative church. Second feature film by its director.
LA INOCENCIA / THE INNOCENCE
LUCÍA ALEMANY (SPAIN)
Cast: Carmen Arrufat, Laia Marull, Sergi López, Joel Bosqued
Lis is a teenager whose dream is to become a circus artist and leave her hometown, even if she knows that to do it she’ll have to fight her side against her parents. It’s summer and Lis spends her days playing with her friends and flirting with her boyfriend, a few years older than herself. The lack of privacy and the neighbours’ gossip force Lis to keep their relationship secret so that her parents won’t find out. But the idyllic summer comes to an end, and in autumn Lis discovers she’s pregnant. Debut film.
LAS BUENAS INTENCIONES / THE GOOD INTENTIONS
ANA GARCIA BLAYA (ARGENTINA)
Cast: Javier Drolas, Amanda Minujín, Ezequiel Fontanela, Carmela Minujín, Sebastián Arzeno, Jazmín Stuart, Juan Minujín
The early 90s in Buenos Aires. Amanda is 10 years old; she has two elder brothers and separated parents with whom the children alternately live. When they’re with their father, Amanda has to act like an adult and take care –as she can– of everyone, since Gustavo is a rather peculiar character who barely loves his children any more than he loves himself. But one day, their mother suggests an alternative outside the country, far from her father’s messy existence, throwing Amanda into turmoil. Debut film.
LAS LETRAS DE JORDI / JORDI’S LETTERS
MAIDER FERNANDEZ IRIARTE (SPAIN)
Jordi was born 51 years ago with cerebral palsy. Although he can’t speak, he tries to communicate using his letter chart. That’s how he tells Maider, the director of the film, that at the age of 21 he felt God talking to him for the first time. But today, now that he has moved out of his parent’s house into a home, he no longer feels God. Once a year, Jordi makes a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, where he searches for his connection with God, despite not knowing if God will come back one day. Debut film. Project developed at the Ikusmira Berriak residencies programme. REC Grabaketa Estudioa Post-Production Award.
LE MILIEU DE L’HORIZON / BEYOND THE HORIZON
DELPHINE LEHERICEY (SWITZERLAND – BELGIUM)
Cast: Laetitia Casta, Luc Bruchez, Clémence Poésy, Thibaut Evrard, Fred Hotier
Summer 76′, there’s a heatwave and the Swiss countryside is drying out at top speed. In this stifling environment, Gus who is thirteen years old and son of a farmer sees both his family environment and his innocence relentlessly breaking. He’s living the end of a world. Second feature film by its director.
LE RÊVE DE NOURA / NOURA’S DREAM
HINDE BOUJEEMA (TUNISIA – BELGIUM – FRANCE)
Cast: Hind Sabri, Lofti Abdelli, Hakim Boumassoudi, Belhassen Harbaoui, lkbal Harbaoui, Jamel Sassi
While her husband is in jail, Noura meets Lassad. They love each other and want to live together, but Jamel gets out of jail and because of a law Noura just has to get back to normal with him. Second feature film by its director.
LYNN + LUCY
FYZAL BOULIFA (UK – FRANCE)
Cast: Nichola Burley, Jack Shalloo, Roxanne Scrimshaw
Lynn and Lucy are life-long best friends, their relationship as intense as any romance. Neither has ventured far from where they grew up. Lynn, who married her first boyfriend and whose daughter is fast growing up, is delighted when the charismatic, volatile Lucy has her first baby boy. Lucy, however does not react to being a mother as Lynn expects. Soon, they find their friendship is tested in extreme circumstances. Debut film.
IGNAS JONYNAS (LITHUANIA – LATVIA – UKRAINE)
Cast: Dainius Kazlauskas, Darius Bagdžiūnas, Paulina Taujanskaitė
Jonas pretends to be blind and enters a TV dance contest where he meets his attractive dance partner, Saulé. They soon become the show’s most popular contestants. Meanwhile, Vytas, an old acquaintance of Jonas, is released from jail thirsty for revenge, firm in the belief that he isn’t the only person responsible for his wife’s death, but that her former lover, Jonas, shares the guilt. Second feature by its director, winner of Glocal in Progress 2018.
LEE JIHYOUNG, KIM SOL (SOUTH KOREA)
Cast: Moon Seung-a, Choi Junwoo, Kim Hyeyoung, Lim Hojun
Sumin and Jinho are siblings living together. One day, their parents declare to them that they will divorce soon. They say that it is not decided yet how the four members of the family live apart, and ask them to wait for about 2 weeks. Sumin spends every day worrying about which parents she’s going to live with and living apart from Jinho. One day, her parents offer her a suggestion. Debut film.
SESTRA / SISTER
SVETLA TSOTSORKOVA (BULGARIA – QATAR)
Cast: Monika Naydenova, Svetlana Yancheva, Elena Zamyarkova, Asen Blatechky
A small town in present-day Bulgaria. A mother and her two daughters are struggling to survive. The dreamy and distracted younger daughter often invents stories in order to make life more interesting. Unwittingly, she eventually gets caught in the trap of her own lies and destroys her older sister’s well-ordered materialistic world. Meanwhile, the two sisters find out the truth about their mother. Second feature film by its director.
DAVID RABOY (USA – FRANCE)
Cast: Odessa Young, Ben Schnetzer, Jack Kilmer, Madelyn Cline, Danny Ramirez, PJ Marshall
On her graduation day, Charlotte learns her first love has returned to her small Georgia town for the first time since vanishing the year before, in the midst of an awful trauma in her life. But on that night, a girl her age is found dead – and then another. Something terrible has arisen in this place and Charlotte’s final summer speeds towards a nightmarish conclusion. Debut film.
YOAKE NO TAKIBI / BONFIRE AT DAWN
KOICHI DOI (JAPAN)
Cast: Motinari Okura, Yasunari Okura
The Okura family hast 650 years of history as performers of Japan’s traditional stage art, Kyogen. One winter, Monotary Okura and his son head off to undertake training in an isolated mountain resort. The strict regime includes rehearsing and cleaning. One day, they are visited by an old friend and his granddaughter. Debut film.