Woody Allen was the undeniable star of the opening weekendof the 52nd annual edition of Spain's San Sebastian International Film Festival(Sept 17-25).
That is saying a lot, considering other visitors includedthe always-polemic Oliver Stone, M. Night Shyamalan presenting The Village, Michael Winterbottom accompanying his controversialNine Songs, and local hero PedroAlmodovar, in town to present Allen with the festival's lifetime DonostiaAward, among others.
The world premiere of Allen's Melinda & Melinda won rave reviews across the board, with one criticsaying the film was reason enough to attend the festival. Other competitiontitles also received strong reviews, especially Susanne Bier's Brothers(Brodre).
At a packed pressconference, Allen confirmed his interest in shooting a film in Spain. Hislongtime Spanish distributor Antonio Llorens has long been rumoured to betrying to pull together financing for the director to come and shoot a comedyabout a North American couple travelling in Spain.
At the Friday night inaugural ceremony, Allen joked thatthose who didn't like Melinda & Melinda need not worry because he had "just finished another film, shotin London."
Spain's new Socialist culture minister presented DPJavier Aguirresarobe with the national film prize, now to be awarded annuallyin San Sebastian, and restated her administration's promise to defend"cultural exception" and raise the ministry's budget.
There was a good amount of now-expected George Bush-bashingover the weekend as well. Allen called the possible re-election of the U.S.president an "automatic tragedy." Oliver Stone, whose LookingFor Fidel showed at the festival, said:"I know this: in history, George Bush will be known as one of the badguys."
Stone also lashed out against MediaPro, the Spanishco-producer of Fidel predecessor Comandante,against whom he has an ongoing lawsuit in Spanish courts concerning theinclusion of unauthorized material on the DVD.
Meanwhile, the coastal city was packed with festival-goersover the weekend and the organization ran smoothly. The Maria Cristina hotelreclaimed its position as the festival's social hub after lastyear's unfortunately timed workers' strike.