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Stories to be told in San Sebastian Fest competition

The following films will compete for the San Sebastian honors in competition in the only Festival in Spain to hold the International Federation of Film Producers Association's top-level "non-specialised competitive" category. The Festival will celebrate its 53rd year between September 15 and 24, at a moment of tremendous popularity and excellent image. The entire city participates in its Festival as it fills with visitors attracted by the movies, the Festival atmosphere, the local food and tourist attractions. Queues of people are often to be seen waiting to enter the over 650 screenings offering every spectator the film of his or her choice. During these ten days in September, San Sebastian becomes the capital of the film industry with artists, journalists and professionals from all over the world.

7 VIRGENES (7 Virgins)
For a few hours Tano gets out of the reformatory that he has been placed in to attend his brother José's wedding. This is the time to meet up again with his best friend Richi, with his girlfriend Patri, with his nonagenarian grandmother who lives at home, with the members of his neighbourhood gang... The prospect of going back to the reformatory casts a shadow over everything. Another impressive performance by the unforgettable actor in El bola, in the latest film by the director of El factor Pilgrim and El traje, which were both premiered in Zabaltegi.

A full retrospective of prolific British director Michael Winterbottom's work was also organised at San Sebastián, while he competed last year with Nine Songs, winner of the award for best photography. He's back this year with A Cock and Bull Story, another look at classic English literature after Jude and The Claim, both based on books by Thomas Hardy. This time Winterbottom's reference is Laurence Sterne's anarchic and until now considered inadaptable novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, converted into an amusing comedy faithfully reflecting the spirit of the work: a celebration of the marvellous and unfathomable chaos of life. A choral movie captained by actor Steve Coogan, already directed by Winterbottom in 24 Hour Party People (2002).

Hur Jin-ho, director of Christmas in August (1998) and of One Fine Spring Day (2001), both winners of prizes at various festivals and acclaimed by international critics, competes for the first time at San Sebastián with a delightful love story shunning all melodramatic topics and focussing on the characters' intimate drama with enormous sensitivity and delicacy. A traffic accident causes a young boy's death and leaves the other two occupants of the car in a deep coma. The spouses of the injured passengers -played by Bae Yong-joon and Sohn Ye-jin - discover that their respective partners were lovers. Meeting at the hospital, they join forces to face a problematic future.

Simon Staho is a very young director with two films to his credit, Vildspoor (Wildside) and Dag og Nat (Day and Night), both of which were premiered in Zabaltegi, (the latter was shown here last year), and in both of them he already showed an outstanding personal touch. With his third full-length film, which uses the same narrative format as before, he confirms his extraordinary talent for portraying a deranged character, who through selfishness merely becomes trapped in a situation that has no way out. Staho displays remarkable virtuosity in the way he handles the production and directs his actors.

A married university lecturer has a relationship with a young girl who is a member of a group of anti-globalisation activists. In an attack on an arms factory the activists kill a policeman by running over him. They all refuse to reveal who was driving the van when it ran over him.
The latest film by the director of Inheritance, that won the Jury Award for Best Script at the San Sebastian Film Festival two years ago, it raises highly topical issues and doesn't dodge controversial solutions.

Nueve reinas (Nine Queens) clearly demonstrated that Fabián Bielinsky is a director with his own character in Argentinean cinema. With the inestimable collaboration of actor Ricardo Darín, he has on this occasion turned to Patagonia to make a film noir starring an odd taxidermist, solitary and epileptic, convinced that the perfect crime is possible. The movie's director explains its title, saying that "The aura is that moment just before the epileptic seizure takes place when a strange illumination occurs where past and present melt into one another to cause tremendous confusion".

She works for an insurance company, she's married and is the mother of a little girl. He's a vet; he lives with his mother and can't stand a solitary routine. An accident at the vet's surgery brings these two characters together and an ambiguous mysterious relationship develops between them. The director of Nettoyage à sec, among other films, achieves an intense atmosphere of suspense mainly due to the magnificent work by the two actors in the leading roles.

(Enlightened by Fire)
Two men, who fought against the British army in the Falklands when they were young, meet again after twenty years. Both of them recall the hell they went through much to their regret in an absurd war. The first fictional film that deals openly with a historical episode that Argentine society would rather forget about, and which made a clean sweep in last year's Films in Progress section.

(Not Here to Be Loved)
Competing for the Altadis-New Directors Award and the Montblanc Award for New Screenwriters.
Jean-Claude is a legal secretary, who hands out notifications and informs people of seizure orders. He is divorced, has an elderly father shut away in an old-people's home and plans the same mediocre future for his son. At the dance academy opposite his office Jean-Claude meets Françoise. A magnificent study of lonely people who discover a ray of hope thanks to the sensual captivating rhythm of the tango, in which three actors in a state of grace achieve a free-flowing conspiratorial kind of communication with the audience.

(A Dog's Life for Juanita Narboni)
A version of the acclaimed novel of the same name by Ángel Vázquez (1929-1980) in which the monologue by its main character takes a caustic look at life in the mythical city of Tangiers, its years of splendour and decline, and his own personal loneliness. Mariola Fuentes plays this complex character with great verve, photographed by José Luis Alcaine, another distinguished figure from Tangiers.

Manuel Martín Cuenca was one of Zabaltegi's revelations on his presentation two years ago of La flaqueza del bolchevique, subsequent winner of several awards at various festivals. His new film Malas temporadas, with a screenplay by Alejandro Hernández, "tells familiar, simple, stories with sensitivity and strength, made of real emotions", in the words of its director: "This is a movie about second chances and hope.... Hard times are only the prelude to something better". At the head of the ample cast are Javier Cámara, Leonor Watling and Nathalie Poza.

The competition opens with one of the most eagerly awaited Spanish films of the year. In the most complex ambitious film in his career, Montxo Armendáriz has managed to maintain the constant themes in his work as a filmmaker to faithfully reflect the spirit behind the very famous novel by Bernardo Atxaga. Three stories that interweave in time and branch out into numerous characters provide an accurate portrait of the lives of some of the residents of Obaba.

Competing for the Altadis-New Directors Award and the Montblanc Award for New Screenwriters.
A confirmed bachelor earns his living by reciting texts at all the funerals held in his village. He lives with his sister, a brother-in-law who is hardly ever there, a grandfather who is determined to commit suicide and two nephews: a boy who is a nuisance and a deaf and dumb girl. A film with a strong local flavour in the best traditions of Balkan cinema that starts with situations full of gags and then soon turns into a terrible drama. The second full-length film by a Slovene director, whose debut film won awards at numerous festivals.

An adaptation of "In Evil Hour", one of Gabriel García Márquez's least-known novels, in which two rival families are fighting for power with the self-interested mediation of representatives of the curia, the municipal government and the judiciary. Any option is acceptable to impose your own ideas on others, even though the territory you control is restricted to a poverty-stricken village. The latest film by Ruy Guerra, a historic figure in Brazilian cinema, who presented his project last year in Films in Progress.

Summer in Berlin:
two young women, who are friends and neighbours, try to enjoy life despite their numerous problems. One of them is mother of a child and has a problem or two with drink; the other is a determined young woman who looks after old people and is looking for a man to share her life with. The light-hearted restrained tone and the special affection it shows its two main characters, cannot hide the sadness in this portrayal of a Berlin that looks unfamiliar yet at the same time feels close.

Competing for the Altadis-New Directors Award and the Montblanc Award for New Screenwriters.
An in-depth portrait of a group of residents in a working-class district: the young girl whose boyfriend has emigrated to America; the young man who is secretly in love with her; the abandoned mother whose lover can't make up his mind to ask for a divorce; the children that get passed around and can't get over it. It's a choral film that benefits from a rigorous script, a sound production and a solid cast. After many years away from San Sebastian, Czech cinema returns to the competition with a film full of attractive elements.

Stories built up around the train that links Paris with Lisbon on a journey that lasts for ages: a French xenophobic racist taxi driver and his Portuguese wife who glimpses a rewarding encounter; an African who struggles to make ends meet selling watches; a couple of youngsters who collect signatures to demand a change in the route of the train lines; two brothers who aren't speaking to each other.. A multiracial multilingual film in which the directors display a surprising degree of maturity.

A couple of junkies and their little daughter live in a house that's falling apart. The woman suddenly dies and father and daughter move to a decrepit mansion in the countryside. When the father dies the girl builds an imaginary world for herself full of strange characters. Just like in Terry Gilliam's other films, in this "tideland" the amazing display of special effects that the director deploys to reflect the full range of his boundless imagination are more important than the twists and turns in the plot.

The director of Xizhao (The Shower) returns to San Sebastián after having won the 1999 Silver Shell for Best Director with Xizhao (The Shower). In Sunflower he sets a family's life against a backdrop of 30 years, from the hard times of the Cultural Revolution to the economic boom of today's China. Traditions survive alongside radical social changes causing more than a few contradictions. Starring among others the actress Joan Chen, winner of several awards for her film as a director, Tian Yu/Xiu Xiu (1998).
Bruno Chatelin

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