Organizers at the San Sebastián Film Festival have sent a blunt message to attendees: Follow the strict Covid-19 safety protocols or you’ll be forced to leave. U.S.-born French director Eugène Green has been expelled from the 2020 festival after reportedly refusing to put on a face mask after being asked to do so five times by San Sebastián staff members. The incident occurred during the September 23 evening screening of Green’s new film, “Atarrabi & Mikelats.” The movie is also a selection of this year’s New York Film Festival.
San Sebastián referred to the incident as “unpleasant” in an official statement (via Variety), adding, “The director of the film, Eugène Green, was asked up to five times by the Festival staff to put on the mask and to put it on correctly. Finally, due to his lack of cooperation, the Festival management asked him to leave the theater. Two Basque Police agents informed him that an administrative complaint will be processed, for which he could receive a fine.”
“The Festival has suspended the accreditation of Eugène Green,” San Sebastián continued, “who has lost his status as a guest of the Festival, for his lack of respect for the measures agreed with the health authorities and for the Festival staff and for putting the health of the spectators and the film crew at risk during and after the screening.”
While the majority of film festivals around the world have either canceled (Cannes, SXSW, Telluride) or opted for virtual and/or drive-in editions this year amid the pandemic (TIFF, NYFF), San Sebastián followed in the footsteps of the Venice Film Festival by holding a physical event in 2020. The festival released a 200-page document before the event kicked off detailing significant safety measures being undertaken to keep San Sebastián safe, from pre-booked tickets for all screenings to a 10-person cap on gatherings. All public venues at the festival have social-distancing markers and theater capacity has been reduced by at last 60%. Each screening is followed by a 90-minute break so that theaters can be properly sanitized.
The move is necessary as Spain is currently in the middle of a strong resurgence of Covid-19 after a difficult first wave in March and April.
“Atarrabi & Mikelats” is Green’s follow-up to projects such as 2017’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” and 2016’s “The Son of Joseph,” a Berlin Film Festival world premiere. Green has won prizes at the London Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, and Gijón International Film Festival.