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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



Rebels with a cause: fest honchos advocate for cinema during the opening gala


“It’s time to return to the cinema”

José Luis Rebordinos, at the opening gala of San Sebastian Festival’s 68th edition, said: “We have an unequivocal engagement to show films before a physical audience in film theatres”

Thierry Frémaux: “Cinema will never die”

Woody Allen: “I hope you like the film as much as we liked living and shooting it in San Sebastian”

Rifkin’s Festival, the new romantic comedy from Woody Allen, opened San Sebastian Festival’s 68th edition at a gala largely focussed on two subjects: distance, a key concept in times of pandemic, and the need to return to the film theatres. From today, and until Saturday 26, the city will host the screening of 142 titles including feature films, shorts, medium-length movies and series, as well as a good number of industry activities combining online and physical formats.

Actors Elena Anaya and Gina Gershon, the female protagonists of Rifkin’s Festival, participated, with the producer Jaume Roures, in the gala held at the Kursaal, while Woody Allen, who received the Donostia Award en 2004, made an appearance by means of a video recorded in Central Park (New York).  

Shot last year in the “pretty and photogenic” San Sebastian, the film is set against the backdrop of the actual Festival. “It’s the only thing I knew about the city and that’s why I started to write a story set there”, he said about an event he has known since presenting Melinda and Melinda (2004) and to which he returned with Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Having stated his regret at being unable to travel to San Sebastian because of the pandemic, his wish is for the audience to enjoy his new film: “I hope you like it as much as we liked living and shooting it in San Sebastian”. 


José Luis Rebordinos, the Festival director, has confirmed San Sebastian’s “commitment” to the film industry in the belief that “festivals are necessary as meeting places at which to exchange experiences”. He also reaffirmed the “unequivocal engagement to show films before a physical audience in film theatres, the best places to watch movies”. “It’s time for us all to return to the cinema”, he proclaimed.  

Rebordinos also expressed “solidarity with the festivals that have been able to take place with a great deal of effort, working in a new territory for all of us”. Amongst those cancelled due to Covid-19 are that of Cannes, whose director, Thierry Frémaux, participated in the gala.

In his speech, the director of the Festival de Cannes voiced his thanks for the support of San Sebastian Festival which, in this edition, will screen 17 of the titles that had been programmed for the French event. "2020 marks 125 years since the Lumière Brothers invented the cinematograph and the movie theatres. Today the threat looms over the movie theaters, the future is also on the platforms, but what the Lumière Brothers wanted was what you are all going to do here toghether: to watch a film on the big screen and share the emotions of a film. Cinema will never die”, said Frémaux.

For his part, the filmmaker Luca Guadagnino took the floor alongside the other members of the Official Selection Jury he presides: Joe Alwyn, Marisa Fernández Armenteros, Michel Franco and Lena Mossum. In his words, in a year when we are all obliged to stay apart and isolate, there’s nothing better than to celebrate “the collective and shared experience” of the cinema, which must “light up our imagination with daring, critical and unrestful visions”.


Live music and dance played the star role in a ceremony which its creators, the choreographer Jon Maya and the writer Harkaitz Cano, had defined hours earlier as “emotional, playful, bright, dynamic and plural”. Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Miren Gaztañaga, Inma Cuevas and Eneko Sagardoy therefore shared the presenting work at an event where flowers were ubiquitous in a nod to those sported by Willem Dafoe on the official Festival poster.  

Precisely, the song Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, the folk hymn immortalised by Pete Seeger, was the leitmotiv of a gala which also had space for rock music with Queen’s version of the Bicycle Race and a posthumous reference to the musician from San Sebastian Rafael Berrio and his song No pienso bajar más al centro, serving to accompany images of San Sebastian’s outskirts, places that don’t appear in Rifkin’s Festival.   

There was also Balkan music and even jazz from New Orleans, combined with the ezpatadantza, the traditional Basque sword dance performed by the members of the Kukai company to the sound of music played by the quintet headed by Luis María Moreno Urretabizcaya, aka Pirata. Vignettes of humour and poetry also had their place, and Jon Maya, director of the gala and of Kukai, danced an emotional aurresku in honour of José María Riba, a key figure in the history of Zinemaldia since joining its organisation in 1980.  






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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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