Photo by Fabrizio Maltese/EF Press/fabriziomaltese.com.
To call it by its full name, the Festival Internacional de cine de Donostia-San Sebastián has been underway just one full day, but what an eventful day it's been. 73-year-old filmmaker Felipe Cazals opened the Official Selection with Chicogrande, depicting Pancho Villa's retreat after a failed invasion of New Mexico. And as the AFP reports, Cazals pulls no punches when it comes to addressing Mexico's relationship with the US.
"With the Americans we will always be neighbours, sometimes we will be partners but we will never be friends, and if you don't think so just look at what is happening in Arizona.... It is one thing to be an undocumented Mexican, another to be a member of Al Qaeda or a drug trafficker. But to be persecuted for nothing more than the color of your skin because you don't have papers, that is pure fascism."
And an award's already been presented. The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) has presented its Grand Prix 2010 to Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer; again, the AFP has the full story. One more from the AFP: On Monday, Julia Roberts will be presented with a lifetime achievement award.
As reviews begin to come in, I'll be making note of them here. The festival runs through September 25.
Update, 9/22: So how's the fest going? Mario Balarezo del Caz posts a "Progress Report" at Ioncinema.
Updates, 9/24: "Mexico's centenary celebrations would be wise to distance themselves from vet helmer Felipe Cazals's ham-fisted Pancho Villa pic, Chicogrande," advises Variety's Jay Weissberg.
Also: "The border between Bulgaria and Romania seems more permeable after Shelter, Dragomir Sholev's chamber piece, co-scripted by the standard-bearer of new Romanian cinema, Razvan Radulescu. Largely shot in long takes that also seem to derive from Bulgaria's Balkan neighbor (perhaps by way of Elephant), the pic fleshes out its theme — that family intimacy is no guarantee of mutual understanding — via a 12-year-old in need of a sound spanking." Just to clarify here: "Radostin (Kaloyan Siriiski) isn't the only one in need of a good thrashing: Even the most non-violent viewers are likely to harbor similar urges toward nearly every character, and occasionally the cameraman."
"The traumatic consequences of childhood sexual abuse are examined in excessively stylish fashion by writer-directors Judith Colell and Jordi Cadena in the frustratingly pretentious Elisa K.," writes Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. "The cinematic equivalent of those so-called 'misery memoirs,' which have proved such a literary goldmine in recent years, this Catalan-language production, itself adapted from a book, will doubtless receive plenty of festival exposure thanks largely to the seriousness of its topic and a showy central performance by Aina Clotet."
Update, 9/25: As the AFP reports, Peter Mullan's Neds (roundup) has won the Golden Shell for best film and its lead, "he young Scottish newcomer Connor McCarron," has won best actor. Best director goes to Raúl Ruiz for Mysteries of Lisbon (roundup). "Spain's Nora Navas won the best actress prize for her part in Pa negre, a drama by Catalan director Agusti Villaronga set during the Spanish civil war of 1936-39."
Updates, 9/27: "An exquisitely high-art variation on the haunted-house movie, Basque/Catalan co-production Father is the kind of ultra-rarefied, snail-paced fare that will bedazzle cinephiles and highbrow critics while leaving others bemused and baffled," writes Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. "Second feature from 52-year-old writer-director Jose Maria de Orbe, shot on DV by Jimmy Gimferrer, rightly won the Best Cinematography award at San Sebastian where it world-premiered in the main competition, a commendably unorthodox selection."
Tim Robey has a whirlwind overview of several of the best films he caught at the festival in the Telegraph.