Sixteen films will compete in the official selection at the 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival, taking place September 21 – 30 in the Basque resort city in northern Spain. Nine films, including Cannes best-director winner “Babel” by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Sundance hit “Little Miss Sunshine” by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris will screen in the festival’s “Nine Pearls” section, spotlighting prominent films that have screened in the world festival circuit. Also slated in the section is the collection of stories from prominent directors around the world in “Paris, je t’aime,” which opened the Un Certain Regard in Cannes earlier this year. The event’s opening and closing films are yet to be announced.
Tom DiCillo‘s (“Living in Oblivion“) “Delirious” starring Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi is part of the small U.S. contingent competing in San Sebastian’s official selection. The film follows the story of a luckless photographer who tries to snap celebs, and is hired a struggling wannabe actor to help him out, which leads to jealousy and vengeance. From the U.S., U.K. and Hungary comes director Agnieszka Holland‘s “Copying Beethoven,” which will screen at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Ed Harris and Diane Kruger, the film is set after the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The conservatoire sends a young musical talent to help him, and the two form a passionate artistic and emotional bond. “Kurt & Courtney” director Nick Broomfield joins the competition with his latest, “Ghosts,” the true story of 23 illegal Chinese immigrants who died on the north coast of England while cockle picking. In Bahman Ghobadi‘s “Half Moon” (Iran/Iraq/Austria/France), Mamo, a prominent Kurdish musician, travels to Iraqi Kurdistan with many of his sons to play in a concert following the fall of Saddam Hussein, but runs into controversy when he tries to have a female singer accompany him.
South Korean director Im Sang-soo‘s “The Old Garden” will screen in competition. Set in the ’80s under a dictatorship, the story revolves around spy intrigue from the communist north involving a boy who leaves his girlfriend to sign up with a group of militants, but is arrested immediately and farcical trial and condemned to life in prison. From Spain and Mexico is Antonio Chavarrias‘ “The Lives of Celia,” a murder drama involving the found body of a young woman in a working-class city in Catalonia after a street dance the night before. Suspicion turns to the director of a social center separating from his partner, and a woman who learns her husband has been sleeping with her younger sister.
Lars von Trier‘s “The Boss of It All” will have its international premiere out of competition in the official selection. In the film, a company boss invents a non-existent chairman to serve as a front when he takes some unwelcome decisions. While putting the business up for sale, the front man negotiates with potential buyers, which puts his personal morals to the test. This marks a departure from von Trier’s American trilogy, with “Manderlay” its most recent installment.
American Aaron J. Wiederspahn‘s “The Sensation of Sight” is one of eighteen films screening in the Zabaltegi-New Directors section. The film centers on an introverted English teacher suffering from guilt after recently witnessing a tragedy. In order to find closure and redemption, he leaves everything behind to become a door-to-door salesman. Sean Ellis‘ “Cashback” (U.K.) follows the story of Ben who is dumped by his girlfriend and develops insomnia. In order to pass the long hours, he takes on a late shift at the local supermarket, and meets a curious group of characters who have all developed their own “art” in dealing with the boredom of the graveyard shift.
French director/producer Barbet Schroeder (“Reversal of Fortune”) will be the subject of the festival’s Contemporary Retrospective, while German director Ernst Lubitsch (“Ninotchka”) will be the focus of the Classic Retrospective. The festival will also host its 5th International Film School Meetings, a two-day intensive program that allows students to present a selection of their work.
[For more information and a more complete line up, visit the festival’s website.]