Running Sept. 18-26, and aiming to maintain an on-site format and all its main sections, 2020’s 68th San Sebastian Film Festival takes place in extraordinary times. The impact of COVID-19 will play out throughout the festival, for bad and for good. Here are some high-lights of an extraordinary edition of the biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world:.
Cannes Festival head Thierry Fremaux and San Sebastian director José Luis Rebordinos will take the stage at the festival’s inaugural ceremony to pay joint homage to all the festivals that have soldiered on during COVID-19 turmoil.
In June, the Cannes Film Festival canceled its on-site edition but announced an Official Selection. Eight of those, dubbed Cannes label, screen at San Sebastian.
“Thierry presents the screening of a classic film at San Sebastian and comes every year to San Sebastian’s Elias Querejeta Film School to talk about Cannes and film festivals, and we partner on a section at Cannes’ Ventana Sur,” says Rebordinos, who also works with the Producers Network of the Cannes Market. “Cannes and San Sebastian already have a very good relationship, and this year even more.”
Will the Cannes Label Experiment Work?
Along with Toronto, San Sebastian will suggest whether the daring Cannes label experiment really works. If the titles had world premiered at Cannes, San Sebastian would not be able to include them in its main competitions (Official Selection and New Directors), Rebordinos says. As it is, Official Selection titles give San Sebastian its two highest-profile contenders — François Ozon’s “Summer of 85” and Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” — and one of the fest’s biggest buzz titles, Georgian Dea Kulumbegashvili’s “Beginning.” “The Cannes label was at the center of our strategy for Naomi Kawase and François Ozon,” says Playtime’s François Yon. “Thus our presence in festivals such as Toronto and San Sebastian, whic made room for our selected films.” Whether the label can help a film sell is another matter. In a tough art film market, titles have to stand on their own merit, says a sales agent.
Stars at a Premium
Viggo Mortensen will receive this year’s Donostia Award and present his directorial debut, “Falling.” At least one Hollywood icon may also make San Sebastian. Beyond that, U.S. star presence, rendered impossible by travel bans, looks like one big San Sebastian COVID-19 downside.
San Sebastian: 2020’s Toronto?
Given international travel bans, Toronto will have little on-site industry presence and few can travel to San Sebastian from Latin America. A significant number of sales agents and producers, especially from France, were considering taking meetings usually held at Toronto at San Sebastian instead. It depends on if more countries impose U.K.-style post-travel quarantine on visitors to Spain, Rebordinos says. However, with San Sebastian shaping up as the most European of editions in decades. Many industry executives would certainly love to roll into the festival if they can. “San Sebastian has no equivalent in terms of guest hosting and audience enthusiasm,” Yon says.
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