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60th San Sebastián International Film Festival, 2012

Dead Man
FIPRESCI Prize: "The Dead Man And Being Happy"
(Javier Rebollo)

The festival of San Sebastián has always entertained particular relations to the cinemas of Latin America. For Latin American filmmakers it has been — and still is — a door to European culture and markets (including the possibility of initiating co-productions). In the last years of Mikel Olaciregui and particularly now, under the new head José Luis Rebordinos, this image has been changing.

The official selection included films of a certain popularity — whether because of their subject (the tsunami, Arab life in Israel, the corruption of bankers), or due to their stars (Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Penélope Cruz, Ben Affleck). This selection, well interspersed with films of a cultural and filmic ambition (François Ozon, Carlos Sorin, Lasse Hallström, Fernando Trueba)puts San Sebastián in the company of the major European festivals of Cannes, Berlin and Venice, even if more producers need to be convinced to premiere films here, and even if not each film kept its promises.

A loose cooperation with the festival of Toronto may have a certain attraction — as it happened this year with François Ozon's In the House (Dans la maison) which was shown first in Toronto (to cover the market aspect) and then in San Sebastián (to cover the cultural aspect), a wonderfully successful film which would have done well in any other competition. Here, and not only here, the festival managed to go where it wants to go to.

The sidebars "Horizontes Latinos" and "Zabaltegi" lost importance in favor of "Nuevos Directores — New Directors", a highly interesting section featuring mostly world premieres. In this focus on young cinema (worldwide) the festival may indeed have its own original perspective — none of the other major events in Europe foster young cinema in such a prominent place.

Dustin Hoffman (whose homage to old musicians Quartet closed the festival) and Oliver Stone were honored with "Special 60th Anniversary Donostia Awards". At the closing ceremony, a short summary of all special awards was shown: indeed an astonishing and attractive 'guestbook' of personalities who have written the history of cinema.

In San Sebastián, the history of cinema traditionally plays a big role. The retrospectives are famous, being shown in the cinemas "Principe" which almost face the sea, in a small place which is with its coffee shops a meeting point of film lovers. This year the retrospectives were dedicated to Georges Franju (1912-1987), a long overdue acknowledgement, and to "Very Funny Things. New American Comedy" (covering the period from the ‘80s to today). Only reservation could be found: that there was a regular festival full of new movies going on, preventing you from spending days and nights with the history of cinema. Both retrospectives were accompanied by special publications, a service which cannot be praised enough, in particular in Spain with its problematic financial situation (which without doubt also affects the festival).

The retrospective view included the 1948 film Vida en sombras by Llorenc Llobet-Gracia (1911-1976), restored by the Spanish and the Catalan Cinematheques. Llorenc Llobet-Gracia was an amateur filmmaker. Vida en sombras, his only long feature film, tells the fictitious (but partly autobiographical) life story of an operator and later director (in the movie named Carlos Durán), who lives to see the development of cinema from the Lumières to Hitchcock's Rebecca of 1940. Vida en sombras is an early 'film on film', filled with a remarkable love for cinema. The film will tour through festivals (an English subtitled print is available.)

Because of a general strike in the Basque region, the festival was (almost) closed for one day — and reached a bigger public than in the previous year. (Klaus Eder)

San Sebastián International Film Festival (Spain, September 21-29, 2012, Grand Prix of FIPRESCI — Best Film of the Year 2012. At the televised opening ceremony on September 21, FIPRESCI's Grand Prix was presented to the film Love (Amour) by Michael Haneke, selected by critics from all over the world as best film of the year. Klaus Eder handed the trophy over to actor Ramon Agirre. Read more.

FIPRESCI Prize: The Dead Man And Being Happy (El muerto y ser feliz) by Javier Rebollo (Spain, Argentina, France, 2012). Jury: Klaus Eder, Germany, president (, Pamela Bienzóbas, Chile (Mabuse), Pamela Pianezza, France (Palmarès magazine), Paulo Pecora, Argentina (Telam), José Enrique Monterde, Spain (Cahiers du cinéma España). Motivation: "For its audacity and the risks it takes in order to reflect on the expressive possibilities of cinema, narration and genre / Por su audacia y riesgo puestos en función de una reflexión sobre las posibilidades expresivas del cine, la narración y los géneros." Sales: Urban Distribution (14, rue du 18 Aout, F 93100 Montreuil, France), Tel: +33 48 70 73 76, Fax: +33 1 49 72 04 21, web:, e-mail:


Spanish Cinema in Donostia. José Enrique Monterde overviews the Spanish films showcased in San Sebastián and ask where did the economic crisis go? arrow.
Javier Rebollo's The Dead Man and Being Happy: Harmonic Dissonance. Pamela Biénzobas
reviews the FIPRESCI winner. arrow.




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San Sebastián 2012

bullet. Index
bullet. Fipresci Grand Prix: Love
bullet. Spanish Cinema
bullet. Harmonic Dissonance