Eleven films from Brazil, China, France, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom and Vietnam will compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award at the 68th San Sebastian Festival, taking place from September 18 to 26.
Among those presenting their feature film debuts are four filmmakers with projects previously conceptualized, awarded or programmed at the San Sebastian Festival. This is the case of Isabel Lamberti (Bühl, 1987), a moviemaker born in Germany and raised in Spain and the Netherlands who, after winning the Torino Award at Nest, San Sebastian Festival’s international film students meeting, will now compete with La última primavera/Last Days of Spring, a feature film set in Madrid’s Cañada Real shanty town. Similarly, David Pérez Sañudo (Bilbao, 1987), who participated in Zinemira-Kimuak in 2017 with the short film Aprieta pero raramente ahoga (2017), will present Ane, a feature film about a mother embroiled in the search for her missing daughter.
For his part, the Brazilian João Paulo Miranda Maria (Porto Feliz, São Paulo, 1982), winner of the European Distributors and Exhibitors Award at Films in Progress 37 Toulouse, will present Casa de antiguidades/Memory House, a spiritual and fantastical story encapsulating the social and racial tensions of modern day Brazil, while the Russian Grigory Kolomytsev (Krasnodar, 1990), a participant in the 2018 Ikusmira Berriak residencies, narrates a child’s discovery of a mystical creature in Chupacabra.
Another of the first-time directors is the Korean Kim Mi-jo (Jeonju, 1989), who recently won the Grand Prix in the Korean competition at the 2020 Jeonju Festival with Gal-mae-gi/Gull, the story of a middle-aged victim of rape. The Chinese filmmaker Xingyi Dong (Anyang, 1986) debuts with Gē shēng yuán hé màn bàn pāi/Slow Singing, whose lead character is a man who returns to his hometown after his release from jail, while Suzanne Lindon (Paris, 2000) directs and stars in 16 printemps / Spring Blossom, about a young girl torn between her love for an older man and enjoying her adolescent life.
On the other hand, four filmmakers will compete in New Directors with their second feature films. Limbo, the latest participation by Ben Sharrock (Edinburgh, 1988) in New Directors after debuting with Pikadero (2015), brings an intercultural satire on the difficulties and hopes of refugees. Also returning to San Sebastian is Imanol Rayo (Pamplona, 1984), winner of the Zinemira Award with Bi anai (2011) who in Hil kanpaiak/Death Knell takes Miren Gorrotxategi’s novel 33 ezkil to the big screen.
Finally, having obtained international recognition with his first film, Silent Night (2017), the Polish director Piotr Domalewski (Lomza, 1983) will come to San Sebastian for the first time with Jak Najdalej Stąd / I Never Cry, a film about a young girl who travels to Ireland to collect her father’s body when he dies in an accident at work. Also coming to the city is Japan’s Akio Fujimoto (Osaka, 1988), author of Boku no kaeru basho/Passage of Life (2017), which won two awards in the Asian Future section at Tokyo International Film Festival; his second film, Umibe no kanojotachi/Along the Sea, follows a Vietnamese woman who escapes from her workplace as a technical trainee and starts to work illegally in Japan in order to support her family.
All of the films selected for New Directors will be screened as world premieres, with the exception of Gal-mae-gi/ Gull, which will be an international premiere, and Limbo and 16 printemps, which will be European premieres. Furthermore, the latter two films and Memory House figure on the list of films selected by the Festival de Cannes for this year in which the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented it from celebrating its 73rd edition. For its part, The Last Spring had been included in the parallel program presented in Cannes by ACID, the Association for the Distribution of Independent Cinema.
SPRING BLOSSOM (16 PRINTEMPS)
SUZANNE LINDON (FRANCE)
Cast: Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot
Suzanne is 16. People her own age bore her. Every day on her way to high school, she passes a theater. There, she meets an older man, who becomes obsessed with her. Despite their age difference, they find in each other an answer to their ennui and fall in love. But Suzanne is afraid she’s missing out on life -that life of a 16-year-old, which she had struggled so much to enjoy in the same way as her peers. Debut film.
DAVID PÉREZ SAÑUDO (SPAIN)
Cast: Patricia López Arnáiz, Jone Laspiur, Mikel Losada, Luis Callejo, Nagore Aramburu, Fernando Albizu, Gorka Aguinagalde, David Blanka
Basque Country, 2009. Lide is a security guard for the high-speed train works, a project that generates social protests in the streets. Coming home after work and partying all night, she makes breakfast for two, but her teenage daughter, Ane, is nowhere to be found. The next day, she’s still not back. Lide isn’t particularly worried, believing that her disappearance is probably connected to their huge argument of the previous day. Looking through Ane’s things, she gradually realizes that her daughter is a stranger to her. Debut film.
MEMORY HOUSE (CASA DE ANTIGUIDADES)
JOÃO PAULO MIRANDA MARIA (BRAZIL – FRANCE)
Cast: Antonio Pitanga, Ana Flavia Cavalcanti, Sam Louwyck
Modern day Brazil, but lost in time. Cristovam, a native Black man from the rural North, moves to a former Austrian colony in the South to work in a milk factory. Confronted with xenophobic conservative people, he feels isolated and estranged from the white world. He discovers an abandoned house, filled with objects and memorabilia reminding him of his origins. He settles in, reconnecting with his roots. As if this memory house were alive, more objects start to appear. Slowly, Cristovam begins a metamorphosis. Debut film and European Distributors and exhibitors Award in Films in Progress 37 Toulouse.
GRIGORY KOLOMYTSEV (RUSSIA)
Cast: Platon Kuzmich, Said Gamzatov, Karina Alexandrova, Serafim Cherkinsky, Tatiana Knyazeva
Nine year-old Andrey lives on the outskirts of a small village near the sea. His mother wants to put him into an orphanage. Andrey is scared by the perspective and understands that his life will drastically change. One stormy day he finds a dog on the beach and decides that it is the mystical beast known as Chupacabra, a goat vampire, which will make a miracle. Debut film developed at the Ikusmira Berriak residencies program.
KIM MI-JO (SOUTH KOREA)
Cast: Jeong Ae-hwa
O-bok is a 61-year-old woman and has been running a seafood store in a fish market for decades. One day, O-bok has her first meeting with her daughter In-ae’s future parents-in-law. That night, she gets raped by Gi-taek. O-bok at first pretends that nothing happened and tries to go about her life as usual. A while later, she tells In-ae about the rape. The police calls in Gi-taek to investigate, and the story of the incident begins to spread around the market. Debut film.
SLOW SINGING (GĒ SHĒNG YUÁN HÉ MÀN BÀN PĀI)
XINGYI DONG (CHINA)
Cast: Lu Sheng Jun Sheng
It tells us the story about the protagonist Junsheng, shortly after he is released from prison. After returning home, an estrangement occurs between him and his hometown，the place he has left for years, but he believes that he is still the toughest young man in the village. After various sufferings, he finds that the seemingly slow half-beat gap is an unbridgeable gap. Debut film.
DEATH KNELL (HIL KANPAIAK)
IMANOL RAYO (SPAIN)
Cast: Itziar Ituño, Eneko Sagardoy, Yon González, Asier Hernández, Iñigo Aranburu, Dorleta Urretabizkaia, Josean Bengoetxea, Kandido Uranga, Patricia López Arnaiz, Andrés Gertrúdix, Itxaso Arana
A skeleton is found buried at the Garizmendi farmhouse. Fermín and Karmen call their son Néstor, who reports the matter to the authorities. But, when the agents turn up, the bones are gone. Suddenly, the bell on the nearby chapel begins to peal. This bad omen announces the coming of tragic events and reopens old wounds within the family. Second feature film by its director.
I NEVER CRY (JAK NAJDALEJ STĄD)
PIOTR DOMALEWSKI (POLAND – IRELAND)
Cast: Zofia Stafiej, Kinga Preis, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Dawid Tulej
Ola must travel to Ireland to bring her father’s body back to Poland after he died working on a construction site. But never mind her dad, Ola wants to know if he saved money for the car he had promised. Dealing with foreign bureaucracy in her own streetwise way, Ola will get to know her father. Second feature film by its director.
LAST DAYS OF SPRING (LA ÚLTIMA PRIMAVERA)
ISABEL LAMBERTI (NETHERLANDS – SPAIN)
Cast: David Gabarre Jiménez, Agustina Mendoza Gabarre, David Gabarre Mendoza, Ángelo Gabarre Mendoza, María Duro Rego, David Gabarre Duro, Isabel Gabarre Mendoza, Angelines Gabarre Mendoza, Alejandro Gabarre Mendoza
The Spanish family Gabarre-Mendoza is celebrating the birthday of their grandson, when they are interrupted by a police inspection. In La Cañada Real, a shanty town just outside Madrid, tensions between the officials and the inhabitants arise since the land has been sold and the different families are forced to leave their self-build homes. While mother of the house Augustina turns from a full of laughter mother into a woman tormented with fear, father David a hardworking scavenger tries to find a solution but fails the bureaucratic system. Meanwhile the younger members in the family, the adolescent Davíd Jr, daughter-in-law and teenage mother Maria and the young Alejandro struggle in their own way with their lives in between places. Debut film.
BEN SHARROCK (UK)
Cast: Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansah, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kais Nashif
Omar is a promising young musician. Separated from his Syrian family, he is stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request. Due to the plaster-cast on his arm, he cannot play his oud and instead wanders the epic landscapes searching for answers to a complex past and daunting future. He may be stuck, but he is not alone. Omar and his new flatmates attend outrageously misjudged cultural awareness classes, binge the ‘Friends’ boxset, debating whether Ross and Rachel were on a break and Freddie Mercury-obsessed Farhad tries to convince Omar to participate in the local open mic night. Second feature film by its director.
ALONG THE SEA (UMIBE NO KANOJOTACHI)
AKIO FUJIMOTO (JAPAN – VIETNAM)
Cast: Hoang Phuong, Anh Huynh Tuyet, Nhu Quynh
Phuong, An, and Nhu are Vietnamese women in their early 20s. The three become illegal residents in Japan after escaping from their workplace as technical trainees. An contacts a broker to help introduce them to find work. The broker takes them to the fisherman’s ice-covered hut where they can stay in exchange for labor. They are happy to find work while also doubling their salary. As they start their work, Phuong suddenly falls stricken with severe pain. An and Nhu worriedly take Phuong to a hospital, but they are rejected admission for not having a ID card. Second feature film by its director.