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Blogging from San Sebastian September 17-25, 2021

Coverage Recap of 61st edition. Photo gallery 2013 Recap of 63rd edition, video I Recap of 64th edition, video I Recap of 65th edition, video / Recap of 66th edition /Recap of 68th edition, video



Kiyoshi Kurosawa to open Perlak with 'Wife of a Spy'



Maite Alberdi, Michel Franco, Eliza Hittman, Phyllida Lloyd, Maïwenn and Susanna Nicchiarelli join others to compete for the City of Donostia / San Sebastian Audience Award

Perlak will also screen the debut films by Yoon Dan-bi and Florian Zeller

Among the nine titles in the section are works selected by festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Deauville and Sundance

Wife of a Spy, by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, will open the Perlak section, which at the San Sebastian Festival’s 68th edition will consist of nine titles selected for international festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Deauville and Sundance. The section will also unite other filmmakers with varying degrees of experience, such as Maite Alberdi, Michel Franco, Eliza Hittman, Phyllida Lloyd, Maïwenn and Susanna Nicchiarelli, who will compete for the City of Donostia / San Sebastian Audience Award alongside first-timers like Yoon Dan-bi and Florian Zeller.

The film to open the Perlak section will screen in the official competition of the upcoming Venice Mostra. The veteran Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Kobe, 1955) will compete with Wife of a Spy, a drama of epic hues starring Aoi Yu and Takahashi Issey opening on the eve of World War II. The Nippon moviemaker is a regular at festivals including Cannes and Venice, although he has also participated in San Sebastian with titles such as Tokyo Sonata (Perlak, 2008), Shokuzai / Penance (Zabaltegi-Specials, 2012) and Akarui Mirai / Bright Future, as well as in the retrospectives New independent Japanese cinema 2000-2015 and Japan in Black.

Michel Franco (Mexico City, 1979) will return to San Sebastian after competing at the Italian festival with the film Nuevo orden / New Order, where a social uprising unleashes a violent coup d’état seen through a sympathetic young girl and the servants who work for her wealthy family. The Mexican filmmaker, screenwriter and producer is a regular at the Festival de Cannes and also at Horizontes Latinos, where he screened Daniel y Ana (Daniel & Ana, 2009), Después de Lucía (After Lucia, 2012), Chronic (2015) and Las hijas de abril (April’s Daughter,2017).

Another of the titles to premiere at the Mostra in its competition before screening at San Sebastian is Miss Marx, about the passionate and tragic love story of Eleanor, Karl Marx’s daughter, one of the first women to women to link the themes of feminism and socialism. The filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli (Rome, 1975) has taken her life to the big screen after receiving several accolades for Cosmonaut (2009), La scoperta dell’alba / Discovery of Dawn (2012) and Nico, 1988 (2017), winner of the Best Film Award in the Orizzonti section at Venice.

Furthermore, San Sebastian will screen ADN / DNA, the fifth feature film from Maïwenn (Les Lilas, 1976), immediately after its premiere at Deauville Festival, where it was programmed as part of the selection for Cannes 2020, which cancelled its last edition due to the pandemic. The French actress and filmmaker, who won the Jury Prize at the festival in her country with Polisse (2011), directs and stars in this film jointly written with Mathieu Demy about a woman who suffers an identity crisis when her grandfather dies. Rounding off the cast are Fanny Ardant and Louis Garrel, among other actors.

Among the feature films already premiered at earlier competitions are Herself, by the British helmer Phyllida Lloyd (Bristol, 1957), maker of titles including Mamma Mia! (2008) and The Iron Lady (2011). Screened at the last Sundance Festival, this drama narrates the vicissitudes of a young single mother played by the co-screenwriter and actress Clare Dunne, whose character escapes from her husband and fights back against a broken housing system.  

Never Rarely Sometimes Always, third movie from the American Eliza Hittman (New York, 1979), won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Jury Grand Prize at the last Berlin Festival. The latest work from the director who nabbed the Best Directing Award at Sundance with Beach Rats (2017), is described as an intimate portrait of two adolescents from rural Pennsylvania forced by an unintended pregnancy to embark on an unexpected journey. 

Also coming from Sundance, specifically from the world documentary competition, is the already announced El agente topo / The Mole Agent, which in its project phase won the EFADs-CAACI Award at the Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum in 2017. Its author, the Chilean Maite Alberdi (Santiago, 1983), brings the tale of an 83 year-old widower who infiltrates a home for the elderly as a spy.

For his part, the novelist and playwright Florian Zeller (Paris, 1979) debuts behind the camera with The Father, an adaptation of the play of the same name in which an elderly man refuses each of the nurses his daughter tries to impose on him. The veteran Anthony Hopkins, Donostia Award in 1998, and Olivia Colman, winner of the Best Actress Oscar for The Favourite  (2018), head the cast of this film also screened at Sundance and programmed for Toronto.

The second first film and the last one to feature in Perlak is Nam-mae wui Yeo-reum-bam / Moving On, by the young South Korean Yoon Dan-bi (Gwangju, 1990), which had its premiere at the Busan Festival, bagging four awards. It also landed best film in the Bright Future section of Rotterdam Festival with the tale of two siblings who move into their grandfather’s house in summer when their father goes broke.

Perlak is a selection of the year’s best feature films, screening for the first time in Spain and acclaimed by the critics and/or winners of awards at other international festivals. These works compete for the City of Donostia / San Sebastian Audience Award, coming with two prizes: one for best film (EUR 50,000) and another for best European film (EUR 20,000).   




WIfe of a Spy

Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Japan)

Cast: Yu Aoi, Issey Takahashi

Opening Night Film

Japan, 1940. The night before the outbreak of World War II, local merchant Yusaku Fukuhara senses that things are moving in a disturbing direction. He leaves his wife Satoko at home and travels to Manchuria with his nephew. There, Yusaku is the chance witness of a barbaric act and decides to take steps to reveal it to the world. After an initial misunderstanding, his wife, when she discovers her husband’s true intentions, will do the unthinkable to guarantee his well-being and his happiness.






Maïwenn (France)

Cast: , Fanny Ardant, Louis Garrel, Dylan Robert, Marine Vacth, Caroline Chaniolleau, Alain Françon, Florent Lacger, Henri-Noël Tabary, Omar Marwan, Maïwenn

Neige, a divorced mother of three, regularly visits her Algerian grandfather in the nursing home where he lives. She loves and respects this pillar of the family who raised her and above all protected her from toxic parents. Relationships between the various family members are difficult, and rife with bitterness and resentment... Luckily Neige can count on the good-humoured support of her ex, François. The death of the grandfather unleashes a family storm and triggers a profound identity crisis in Neige. From now on, she will want to know and understand her DNA.





El agente topo / The Mole Agent

Maite Alberdi (Chile - USA - Germany - Netherlands - Spain)

Cast: Sergio Chamy, Rómulo Aitken, Marta Olivares, Berta Ureta, Zoila González

Rómulo is a private eye. When he’s hired to investigate the home for the elderly of which his mother is a resident, Rómulo decides to train Sergio (83 years of age), who has never worked as a detective, to live in the home for a while as an undercover agent. Once infiltrated, finding it seriously difficult to assume his role as a mole and hide his adorable and affectionate personality, he gradually becomes, more than a spy, an ally for his endearing companions. Premiered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the Sundance Festival. EFADs-CAACI Award at the Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum in 2017.






Phyllida Lloyd (Ireland)

Cast: Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter, Conleth Hill, Cathy Belton, Ericka Roe, Rebecca O'Mara, Liz Fitzgibbon, Molly McCann, Sean Duggan

Sandra, on the surface of it, is a young mum struggling to provide her two young daughters with a warm, safe, happy home to grow up in. Beneath the surface, Sandra has a steely determination to change their lives for the better and when it becomes clear that the local council won’t provide that home, she decides to build it herself from scratch. With very little income to speak of and no savings, Sandra must use all her ingenuity to make her ambitious dream a reality. At the same time, she must escape the grip of her possessive ex-husband and keep him away from her and her girls. The lionhearted Sandra draws together a community of friends to support her and lend a helping hand and it is the kindness and generosity of these people and the love of her young daughters that help rebuild her own strength and sense of self.






© by Emanuela Scarpa © Vivo film, Tarantula

Miss Marx

Susanna Nicchiarelli (Italy - Belgium)

Cast: Romola Garai, Patrick Kennedy, John Gordon Sinclair, Felicity Montagu

Bright, intelligent, passionate and free, Eleanor is Karl Marx's youngest daughter. Among the first women to link the themes of feminism and socialism, she takes part in the workers' battles and fights for women's rights and the abolition of child labour. In 1883 she meets Edward Aveling and her life is crushed by a passionate but tragic love story.





Nam-mae wui Yeo-reum-bam / Moving on

Yoon Dan-bi (South Korea)

Cast: Choi Jung-un , Yang Heung-ju , Park Hyeon-yeong , Park Seung-jun, Kim Sang-dong

Okju and Dongju move into their grandpa's house during their summer vacation after their father goes broke. While young Dongju adapts well to his new home, Okju rather feels awkward in this new environment. Shortly afterwards, their soon-to-be-divorced aunt also moves in, and Okju finds that the more time she spends with her family, the more the house and her grandpa start to grow on her. However, when her grandpa falls ill, her father and aunt decide to send him to the sanatorium and to sell the house.





Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Eliza Hittman (USA)

Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Sharon van Etten, Théodore Pellerin

Aged 17, Autumn looks at herself in the mirror and realises her body is changing. Worried, she goes to a crisis centre for young women where her worst fear is confirmed: she’s pregnant. Neither the local services nor the leaflets given to her at the health centre – designed to encourage young girls to give up their new-born babies in adoption – answer her questions. Not only that, but being underage, the state she lives in demands her parents’ permission before they can give her a legal abortion. Desperate, her only options are the alternative methods to which women have always turned. Despite Autumn telling nobody about her problem, her cousin and best friend Skylar, who sees her every day at college and in the shop where they work as check-out assistants, soon understands her situation, offering her immediate and unconditional support. With the address of a Brooklyn clinic in her pocket, the cousins take an early-morning bus to New York.   





Nuevo orden / New Order

Michel Franco (Mexico - France)

Cast: Naian González Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica del Carmen, Darío Yazbek, Roberto Medina, Patricia Bernal, Lisa Owen, Enrique Singer, Eligio Meléndez, Gustavo Sánchez Parra

A lavish upper-class wedding goes awry in an unexpected uprising of class warfare that gives way to a violent coup d'etat, seen through the eyes of the sympathetic young bride and the servants who work for her wealthy family.





The Father

Florian Zeller (UK)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Potts, Olivia Williams

Anthony, a man of almost 80 years of age, lives alone in his London flat and refuses each of the nurses his daughter Anne tries to impose on him. But the need is increasingly pressing for her as she has decided to move to Paris and live with a man she has just met. It soon becomes obvious that Anthony’s perception of reality is growing more confused.



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About SanSebastian

Barreda de Biurrun Inés

Blogging from the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival
Reporting by Inés Barreda de Biurrun and Bruno Chatelin.

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