A total of 19 films will compete for the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Award in San Sebastian Festival’s most open competitive section, which this year sees the participation of filmmakers Philippe Garrel, Hong Sang-soo and Peter Strickland, among others.
Outstanding among the Spanish premieres arriving from Berlin Festival is that of the revered South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo (Seoul, 1960) who brings the winning film of the Silver Bear for Best Director, Domangchin yeoja / The Woman Who Ran, where a woman takes advantage of her husband being away on business to visit three old girlfriends. Sang-soo previously participated in San Sebastian with Dangsinjasingwa dangsinui geot/Yourself and Yours (Official Selection, Silver Shell for Best Director, 2016) and Geu-hu/The Day After (Zabaltegi-Tabakalera, 2017).
Philippe Garrel (Paris, 1948), a key figure of French cinema in recent decades, will return to San Sebastian with the film he presented in the Official Selection at the last Berlinale. La sel des larmes/The Salt of Tears narrates a young provincial man’s exploits with several women in Paris. The French movie maker, to whom the Festival dedicated a retrospective in 2007, Getting to know Philippe Garrel, also presented L’amant d’un jour / Lover for a Day (Zabaltegi-Tabakalera, 2017) and La frontière de l’aube (Zabaltegi-Specials, 2008).
Also included in the German competition was Rizi/Days, by Tsai Ming-Liang (Kuching, 1957), honoured with the Teddy Jury Prize for this film about two men who share each other’s loneliness. Winner of accolades on several occasions in Venice, where he won the Golden Lion for A qing wan sui (Vive l’amour, 1994) and the Special Grand Jury Prize for Jaio You (Stray Dogs, 2013), the Malaysian director living in Taiwan showed his first film, Qing shao nian nuo zha (Rebels of the Neon God, 1993), in Zabaltegi-New Directors.
Los conductos, following the adventures of a man escaping from the clutches of a religious sect, earned the Colombian Camilo Restrepo (Medellin, 1975) the GWFF Best First Feature Award of the Berlin Festival. It premiered in the Encounters section, where the Portuguese director Catarina Vasconcelos (Lisbon, 1986) carried off the Fipresci Prize with her debut A metamorfose dos pássaros/The Metamorphosis of Birds, recreating her own family past. The Trouble with Being Born, second work from the Austrian Sandra Wollner (Leoben, 1983) won the Encounters Special Jury Prize with a film starring a girl-android, while the Chinese filmmaker Song Fang (Nanjing, 1978) won the CICAE Art Cinema Award in the Forum section at the last Berlin Festival with her second film Ping Jing/The Calming, about the tribulations of a thirty something-year-old documentary-maker.
With experience at festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice, Nicolás Pereda (Mexico City, 1982) will present, prior to its screening in Toronto, the international premiere of Fauna, a comedy on how violence has infiltrated Mexico’s popular imagery. Worthy of note amongst the filmmaker’s other works are Perpetuum Mobile (2009), which competed in Horizontes Latinos after having been selected for Films in Progress, and Verano de Goliat (Summer of Goliath, 2011), included in the season 4+1: Contemporary Mexican cinema.
A year after competing in the Festival’s Official Selection with A Dark-Dark Man (2019), the Kazakh director Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Djezkazgan, 1982) will return after participating in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Mostra with Zheltaya koshka / Yellow Cat, a film which will have its Spanish premiere in San Sebastian about two lovers who want to shake off their criminal past and open a movie theatre.
Also, Juan Cavestany (Madrid, 1967) will participate in Zabaltegi-Tabakalera with the world premiere of Un efecto óptico/An Optical Illusion/Interval, where Pepón Nieto and Carmen Machi find themselves trapped in a time loop.
2020 San Sebastian Festival – Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Competition Films
A METAMORFOSE DOS PÁSSAROS / THE METAMORPHOSIS OF BIRDS CATARINA VASCONCELOS (PORTUGAL)
Cast: Manuel Rosa, João Móra, Ana Vasconcelos, Henrique Vasconcelos, Inês Melo Campos, José Manuel Mendes, João Pedro Mamede, Cláudia Varejão, Henrique Serpa de Vasconcelos Serpa de Vasconcelos, Catarina Vasconcelos
Beatriz married Henrique on the day of her 21st birthday. Henrique, a naval officer, would spend long periods at sea. Ashore, Beatriz, who learned everything from the verticality of plants, took great care of the roots of their six children. The oldest son, Jacinto (Hyacinth), my father, dreamed he could be a bird. One day, suddenly, Beatriz died. My mom didn’t die suddenly, but she too died when I was 17 years-old. On that day, me and my father met in the loss of our mothers and our relationship was no longer just that of father and daughter.
AUTOFICCIÓN / AUTOFICTION
LAIDA LERTXUNDI (USA – SPAIN -NEW ZEALAND)
Borrowing its name from the title of a literary genre, the film recognises the indeterminacy of both fiction and of the being. Film noir elements are reduced to inexpressive gestures under the bright Californian sunlight. Field recordings made in New Zealand can be heard while the women talk to one another about motherhood, abortion, break-ups and anxiety. A civil rights demonstration moves slowly along a street. The bodies appear in states of weariness, injured or relaxed, while the songs of Irma Thomas and Goldberg evoke the passing of time and an uncertain future.
PETER STRICKLAND (HUNGARY – UK)
Cast: Dalma Wéninger, Máté Váth, Juli Jakab, Márton Kristóf
The repeated rituals of an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) online performer and her viewers.
CORRESPONDENCIA / CORRESPONDENCE
CARLA SIMÓN, DOMINGA SOTOMAYOR (SPAIN – CHILE)
Visual correspondence between Carla Simón and Dominga Sotomayor in which they share little pieces of their lives and what has led them to tell the stories they tell on the big screen and to become the creators they are today. Reflections on the cinema, the family, inheritance and motherhood that intermingle with realities which at times change the filmmakers’ perception of the world.
DOMANGCHIN YEOJA / THE WOMAN WHO RAN
HONG SANG-SOO (SOUTH KOREA)
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Seo Youngh-wa, Song Seon-mi, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Eun-mi
While her husband is on a business trip, Gamhee meets three of her friends. She visits the first two at their homes, and the third she encounters by chance at a theater. While they make friendly conversation, as always, several currents flow independently above and below the surface of the sea.
NAÏLA GUIGUET (FRANCE)
Cast: Dustin Muchuvitz, Félix Maritaud, Raya Martigny, Juan Corrales, Lucie Borleteau, Erwan Fale
In an abandoned warehouse, a crowd is dancing as one to 145 BPM techno music. Among them is Dustin, a young transgender man, and his group: Felix, Raya and Juan. As the night draws on, collective hysteria morphs into sweet melancholy, and euphoria into yearning for tenderness.
NICOLÁS PEREDA (CANADA – MEXICO)
Cast: Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez, Luisa Pardo
Luisa and Gabino visit their parents in a mining town in northern Mexico after years without seeing them. Their relationship with one another and with their parents is distant, full of small and tedious disputes. To make the situation more bearable, Gabino comes up with a parallel reality where he is a detective searching for a missing workers’ leader, only to find himself caught in the nets of the local narcos.
HUAN LE SHI GUANG / HAVING A GOOD TIME
BELL ZHONG (CHINA)
Cast: Zezhi Long, Yongzhong Chen, Luna Kwok
Chao always wanders in the random streets of the city doing nothing. He has a home where his father is obsessed with women and drinking under the neon lights; his mother left the family a long time ago. Chao’s father unintentionally tells him a story about his mother’s past: how the two of them met, a mysterious hot spring and a mysterious woman. Out of curiosity, Chao decides to explore the secret about his mother, about his father’s lover or, ultimately, his own desire or yearning for love.
I AM AFRAID TO FORGET YOUR FACE
SAMEH ALAA (EGYPT – FRANCE – BELGIUM – QATAR)
Cast: Seif Hemeda, Nourhan Ahmed
After being separated for 82 days, Adam travels down a rough road to be reunited with the one he loves, whatever it takes.
LE SEL DES LARMES / THE SALT OF TEARS
PHILIPPE GARREL (FRANCE – SWITZERLAND)
Cast: Logann Antuofermo, Oulaya Amamra, André Wilms, Louise Chevillotte, Souheila Yacoub
A young man’s first female conquests and the deep love he feels for his father. The story of Luc, a young man from the provinces, who visits Paris to sit his arts and craft college entrance exam. In the street he meets Djemila, with whom he enjoys a brief romance. Returning to his father’s house, he begins a relationship with his childhood friend Geneviève, while Djemila longs to see him again. When Luc is accepted by the college he leaves once more for Paris, leaving Geneviève and the baby she is carrying behind him…
CAMILO RESTREPO (FRANCE – COLOMBIA – BRAZIL)
Cast: Luis Felipe Lozano, Fernando Úsaga Higuíta
Medellin, Colombia. Pinky is on the run. He has just extricated himself from the grip of a religious sect. He finds a place to squat and a job in a t-shirt factory. Misled by his own faith, he questions everything. But as he tries to put the pieces of his broken life back together, violent memories return to haunt him, and they want revenge.
NOCHE PERPETUA / PERPETUAL NIGHT
PEDRO PERALTA (PORTUGAL – FRANCE)
Cast: Paz Couso, Matilde Couso de Arccos
Castuera, Spain, April 1939. During the night, two Falangist guards appear at the door of the home in which Paz is taking refuge with her family. They request her presence at the police station. Paz immediately understands the fatality of this visit. With no chance to escape, she asks to breastfeed her new-born daughter one last time.
PING JING / THE CALMING
SONG FANG (CHINA)
Cast: QI Xi, Ye Yuzhu, Song Dijin
Lin is a documentary director in her early thirties. One winter, she breaks up with her long-term boyfriend and suffers an emotional crisis. During a festival visit to Tokyo, she makes a side-trip to Niigata, in central Japan. Strolling in the snow-covered town, she tries to confront her inner agony. After returning to Beijing, she moves to a new place and starts to live alone. During the Chinese New Year, she visits her parents in Nanjing and learns that her father is ill. She takes time to stay with them and doesn’t tell them about the break-up. In spring, Lin travels to Hong Kong for the film festival and pays a visit to an old friend who has moved there. She takes long walks on Hong Kong’s outlying islands, hoping to ease her doubts and inner pain. Back home after the trip, she is struck down by an illness. In the days that she spends alone on her sickbed, she begins to recover her physical and mental energy.
RIZI / DAYS
TSAI MING-LIANG (TAIWAN)
Cast: Lee Kang-Sheng, Anong Houngheuangsy
Beset by the pain of illness and treatment, Kang finds himself living the life of a drifter. He meets Non in a foreign land. They find consolation in each other before parting ways and carrying on with their days.
LEONARDO VAN DIJL (BELGIUM)
Cast: Sofie Decleir, Charlotte Verwimp
Stephanie smiles as she’s applauded by the crowd. The 11-year-old gymnast has just won her first international title. She’s overwhelmed by the attention; everybody wants to have their picture taken with her and all express their high hopes. The more recognition she gets, the more she realizes that the game has only just begun.
THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN
SANDRA WOLLNER (AUSTRIA)
Cast: Lena Watson, Dominik Warta, Ingrid Burkhard, Jana McKinno
Elli is an android and lives with a man she calls her father. She can recall memories of vacations and anything else he programs her to remember. During the day they drift through the summer and at night he takes her to bed. Designed to resemble one of his memories, she seems very much alive, sometimes, she even seems to dream, and yet she remains a machine, a container for those memories that mean everything to him and nothing to her. These reminiscences seem to have a hold on him, indeed, they have developed a life of their own. One night she sets off into the woods, following a fading echo. She gets lost in the thicket and is found by someone else who takes her in, giving her new memories and a new identity. The story of a machine and the ghosts we all carry within us.
UN EFECTO ÓPTICO / AN OPTICAL ILLUSION / INTERVAL
JUAN CAVESTANY (SPAIN)
Cast: Carmen Machi, Pepón Nieto
A couple from Burgos, Alfredo and Teresa, travel to New York where they intend to “switch off” and do all of the things listed in the guidebook. But the moment they land they start to notice signs, some subtle and others rather less so, that in fact they’re not in the city sold to them by the travel agency. So where are they?
YA NO DUERMO
MARINA PALACIO BURGUEÑO (SPAIN)
Cast: Jesús Palacio Erauskin, Miguel Burgueño Herrero
Ya no duermo is a family-made movie showing us Miguel and his Uncle Kechus, who want to shoot a film about vampires. In that endeavour to create something together, reality and fiction alternate, in a game which also shows the particular relationship established between boy and adult.
ZHELTAYA KOSHKA / YELLOW CAT
ADILKHAN YERZHANOV (KAZAKHSTAN – FRANCE)
Cast: Azamat Nigmanov, Kamila Nugmanova, Sanjar Madi
Ex-con Kermek and his beloved Eva want to leave behind their crime-infested lives on the Kazakh steppes. He has a dream: to build a movie theatre in the mountains. Will Kermek’s love of Alain Delon be strong enough to keep them out of the violent clutches of the mafia?