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July 28, 2010 3:38 AM
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Acclaimed Directors Line Up Upcoming San Sebastian Film Festival

A scene from Peter Mullan's "Neds." [Image courtesy of SSIFF]

A bevvy of notable directors, including John Sayles, Peter Mullan, Naomi Kawase and Raúl Ruiz, will screen their latest works at the 58th the San Sebastian Internation Film Festival (SSIFF), which runs September 17 - 25. The international roster of directors will be in competition for the Golden Shell prize.

Fresh off her milestone as the first woman to win the Special Jury Prize in Cannes in 2007 for "The Mourning Forest," Japanese director Naomi Kawase will present "Genpin." Kawase's drama follows an obstetrician who struggles with the relationship between childbirth and death. Acclaimed British director, screenwriter and actor Peter Mullan, who picked up the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his previous film "The Magdalene Sisters," will unveil his third feature, "Neds," at the festival. The Glasgow set character study tracks a young boy about to start secondary school, who becomes immersed in the city's underbelly gang culture: the Neds (Non-Educated Delinquents).

In addition, the 58th edition of the festival will mark the return of many filmmakers whose works screened in previous years. Most notably, John Sayles, to whom SSIFF dedicated a retrospective in 1994, will revisit the festival with his latest, "Amigo." This is Sayles' fourth time participating a the festival. Veteran filmmaker Raúl Ruiz, who competed at SSIFF with "Fado majeur et mineur" in 1994, will be returning this year with "Mysteries of Lisbon." And Moroccan director Daoud Aoulad-Syad, will compete with "The Mosque," following his last appearance at SSIFF in 2004 when he presented "Tarfaya."

Below is a list of SSIFF's offical selection thus far. The Festival promises to unveil the complete list shortly:
[Synopses provided by SSIFF]

"Aita"
Spain
Director: José María de Orbe
Cast: Luis Pescador, Mikel Goenaga
An old abandoned house, the caretaker who looks after it, the village priest, spaces, sounds, lights and shadows, the passing of time. An intimate yet collective story unfolds in the darkest corners of the house. Cinema takes the shape of a ghost within the fiction of the film. Contender for the Kutxa-New Directors Award.

"Amigo"
USA-Philippines
Director: John Sayles
Cast: Joel Torre, Garret Dillahunt, Chris Cooper, DJ Qualls, Rio Locsin, Ronnie Lazaro, Bembol Roco
Amigo centers on Rafael Dacanay, cabeza of the barrio of San Isidro in a rice-growing area of Luzon, Philippines. His brother Simón, head of the local guerilla band, has forced the surrender of the Spanish guardia civil outpost and charged Rafael with the task of imprisoning the guardia Captain and the baryo's Spanish friar, Padre Hidalgo, in the name of the revolutionary government. But when the American troops chasing General Aguinaldo arrive, the Spanish officer and Padre Hidalgo are freed, and a garrison under the command of Lieutenant Ike Compton is left to 'protect' the barrio. The American occupation policy now changes from 'hearts and minds' to 'concentration' (what was called 'hamletting' during the Vietnam war) and Rafael has to answer to both the Americans and the Filipino patriots, with deadly consequences.

"Cerro Bayo"
Argentina
Director: Victoria Galardi
Cast: Adriana Barraza, Inés Efron, Verónica Llinás, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Guillermo Arengo
The ski season is approaching in a Patagonian village at the foot of Mount Bayo. However, the local peace and quiet is put to the test when Juana Keller, matriarch of a peculiar family, tries to commit suicide. While she lies in a coma, her daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren see their lives changed by the incident, as the best and worst awaken in each one of them. Amorosa Soledad, Galardi’s earlier movie, codirected with Martín Carranza, was screened as part of Films in Progress 13, participated in Zabaltegi-New Directors 2008 and carried off the Gaztea Youth Award. It will compete for this year’s Kutxa-New Directors Award.

"Elisa K"
Spain
Directors: Judith Colell and Jordi Cadena
Cast: Aina Clotet, Clàudia Pons, Lydia Zimmermann, Hans Richter, Jordi Gràcia, Pep Sais, Ramon Madaula, Mari Pau Pigem, Nausicaa Bonnin
Elisa, who’ll be eleven this summer, loves her new dress with its blue bows.
But things are a hairsbreadth from losing all importance. Her father’s friend has made her cry, followed by the comment: “If you stop crying I’ll give you a silver bracelet.” No-one realises what’s happened. Elisa’s a bit odd and that’s it. Until 14 years, 4 months and a few days later when her mother calls her, frightened, saying: “Help me, I’ve just remembered something awful.” Third feature from Judith Colell, who participated with 53 Días de Invierno (53 Winter Days) in Zabaltegi-New Directors in 2006 and her first as co-director with Jordi Cadena, the moviemaker who presented Los Papeles de Aspern in the Official Selection at San Sebastian in 1991.

"Genpin"
Japan
Director: Naomi Kawase
Cast: Tadashi Yoshimura
The title, Genpin, was overlaid on the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “The valley spirit never dies. It is named the mysterious woman (genpin).”
In the film, the obstetrician Tadashi Yoshimura reflects on the relationship between childbirth and death, and observes, more as a human being than a doctor, that to deny death is to deny life.
Life born into this world, life that ends at the moment of birth, life that ends before birth. Lives do not cease as a solitary life, but are carried on by the species, and continue.
Through the flux of the Japanese seasons, Naomi Kawase entered the circle of the women giving birth at the Yoshimura Clinic and the world of Dr. Yoshimura, who has spent 40 years on the path of natural childbirth, and wove the footage she shot with her own 16mm camera into this film.

"The Great Vasquez"
Spain
Director: Oscar Aibar
Cast: Santiago Segura, Mercè Llorens, Álex Angulo, Enrique Villén, Jesús Guzmán, Manolo Solo, Itziar Aizpuru, Albert Vidal, Pep Sais
Barcelona, in the ‘60s. It’s springtime, and Vázquez is having a ball to himself. His characters – the Gilda Sisters, Anacleto, the Cebolleta Family... – are a huge success in the comics published by Bruguera. Meanwhile, Spain’s top cartoonist gets what he wants when he wants, paying nothing for it, artfully dodging anyone he owes money to, tricking and cheating his bosses and marrying gaily, collecting one family after another. Until a dull accountant at his publishing house decides it’s time for him to toe the line like everyone else. It won’t be an easy task: for the brilliant cartoonist life’s a party to gatecrash if you’ve not been invited.

A scene from Oscar Aibar's "The Great Vasquez." [Image courtesy of SSIFF]

"Home for Christmas"
Norway-Sweden
Director: Bent Hamer
Cast: Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Fridtjof Såheim, Nina Andresen Borud, Reidar Sørensen, Ingunn Beate Øyen, Joachim Calmeyer a.o.
In the small fictional Norwegian town Skogli, a puzzle of characters intersects with each other in different stories. These characters represent a wide range of ages and social classes, blending humour and tragedy, tenderness and desperation; but always open for forgiveness and hope. The stories bring forward the theme of living together in all aspects and it explores love at any age and in all its phases, from giving birth to dying.
"Home for Christmas" is a modern Christmas Carol based on a selection of short stories from the Norwegian author Levi Henriksen’s collection ”Only Soft Presents Under the Tree” (Bare mjuke pakker under treet).

"The Mosque"
Morocco-France
Director: Daouad Aoulad-Syad
Cast: Abdelhadi Touhrach, Bouchra Hraich, Mustapha Tahah, Naceur Oujri, Salem Dabella
For the filming of my last movie "Waiting for Pasolini", sets were built on land leased from local villagers. Among the sets, a mosque was built on the land of Moha, a villager who also appears in the movie.
At the end of filming, the filming team leaves the village. Villagers demolish all the sets, with the exceptions of the mosque. This mosque became a real place of prayer for the whole village. For Moha this is a real disaster.

"Mysteries of Lisbon"
Portugal
Director: Raúl Ruiz
Cast: Adriano Luz, Maria João Bastos, Ricardo Pereira, Clotilde Hesme, Léa Seydoux
"I was fourteen, and I didn't know who I was at all..."
Mysteries of Lisbon plunges us into a veritable whirlwind of adventures and escapades, coincidences and revelations, sentiments and violent passions, vengeance, love affairs, all wrapped in a rhapsodic voyage that takes us from Portugal to France, Italy, and as far as Brazil.
In this Lisbon of intrigue and hidden identities, we encounter a series of characters all somewhat linked to the destiny of Pedro da Silva, orphan in a boarding school. Father Dinis, a descendent of the aristocratic libertines, later becomes a hero who defends justice, a countess maddened by her jealousy and set on her vengeance, a prosperous businessman who had mysteriously made his fortune as a bloodthirsty pirate; these and many more all cross in a story set in the 19th century and all searching for the true identity of our main character.

"Neds"
UK–France-Italy
Director: Peter Mullan
Cast: Steven Robertson, Martin Bell, Marcus Nash
If you want a Ned, I’ll give you a fucking Ned!
Glasgow, 1973. On the brink of adolescence, young John McGill’s about to start secondary school. He’s a bright boy, a sensitive boy, eager to learn, but the cards are stacked high against him. The McGill family’s dirt poor, his hated father’s a drunken bully. His teachers – punishing John for the ‘sins’ of his older brother Benny – are down on him from the start. John’s on his own.
And then there’s the gangs. The Neds. Non-Educated Delinquents. The bad boys with weapons and attitude: cheap drugs, glam rock, fumbling sex, the violence and the camaraderie of the streets. Local monsters. Local Heroes. Benny’s fearsome reputation buys John protection, and then a way in. Scared, resentful, full of rage, John makes his decision. If no-one else will give him a chance: fuck them.
John takes to the savage life of the streets with a vengeance. But as his rage and frustration spin him further and further out of control, he is left facing a blank wall. No future. With one extraordinary chance of redemption. Peter Mullan’s previous film, "The Magdalene Sisters," won the Golden Shell at Venice in 2002.

"Black Bread"
Spain
Director: Agustí Villaronga
Cast: Francesc Colomer, Marina Comas, Nora Navas, Roger Casamajor, Laia Marull, Eduard Fernández, Sergi López.
In the harsh years of post-war rural Catalonia, Andreu, a youngster relegated to the losers’ side, comes across the bodies of a man and his son in the woods. When the authorities want to pin the blame on his father, the boy decides to try and help him, setting out to find out who killed them. The experience teaches Andreu moral awareness in a world of adults nourished by lies. To survive, he betrays his own roots, eventually finding the monster deep inside himself. Agustí Villaronga has already participated at San Sebastian with "In a Glass Cage," Zabaltegi-New Directors, 1986) and "Aro Tolbukhin" (Official Selection, 2002).

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