The international competition at San Sebastian features 10 hotly anticipated world premieres. The jury is headed by Claire Denis, the director of Beau Travail and Stars At Noon will be joined by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing; Colombian producer, moviemaker and writer Cristina Gallego; French photographer Brigitte Lacombe; Hungarian producer Robert Lantos; Spanish actress Vicky Luengo; and German director Christian Petzold.
A Journey In Spring (Tai)
Dir: Peng Tzu-Hui, Wang Ping-Wen
This Taiwanese production is directed by Peng Tzu-Hui and Wang Ping-Wen, and tells the story of an old man living in an old house on the urban fringe of Taipei whose wife suddenly dies.He decides to put her body in an old freezer. According to the directors, the film “depicts the life experience of losing a loved one. We want to invite the audience to slow down and observe the changing life and the passing of time”. They decided to shoot in super 16mm as they were “looking for a tender image, a poetic way to show life is imperfect and incomplete”.
Contact: Being Film And Art Co
A Silence (Bel-Fr)
Dir. Joachim Lafosse
Joachim Lafosse won the Silver Shell in San Sebastian for best director in 2015 for The White Knights and he had After Love (2016) and The Restless (2021) in the Pearls section after they premiered in Cannes. Now he is back in competition with A Silence, whose title refers to how a woman played by Emmanuelle Devos, has kept quiet about family abuses for which her children are now seeking justice. Daniel Auteuil co-stars as her lawyer husban Lafosse says he “wanted to try and show why and how it is that those around an incestuous father find it so difficult to break the silence. I also wanted to show how a crime has consequences for several generations”. The challenge of the film, the director adds, was “to show the course and effects of shame.”
Contact: Les Films du Losange
Dance First (UK) (out of competition)
Dir: James Marsh
With a title inspired by Samuel Beckett’s famous quote ‘Dance First, think later. It’s the natural order’, this film traces the life of the Irish literary giant played by Gabriel Byrne in his later years. Fionn O’Shea and Caleb Johnston-Miller play Beckett in earlier stages of his life. The film also stars Maxine Peake and Aidan Gillan. It has its world premiere as the closing film of San Sebastian. Director James Marsh, whose credits includeThe Theory Of Everything, previously won a special mention of the Fipresci critics jury in San Sebastián’s Pearls section with Wisconsin Death Trip.
Contact: Film Constellation
Dir. Noah Pritzker
As the title hints, divorce runs in the Pearce family. Griffin Dunne plays Peter Pearce, a New York dentist whose father (Richard Benjamin) announces his wish to divorce his mother well into his mature years. He then finds out his own wife – played by Rosana Arquette, who co-starred with Dunne in After Hours — also wants to put an end to their 35-year marriage. And things on the love front seem rocky for his son (James Norton) too. Noah Pritzker weaves together the stories of the men in his second feature, following Quitters (2015). The uS filmmaker refers to this quote by Philip Roth to explain the character played by Dunne: “‘A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die […].’ This is certainly the case for Peter, who remains on his own coming of age journey as he approaches 70”.
Dir. Isabella Eklöf
Kalak is the second feature by Swedish filmmaker Isabella Eklöf after Holiday which screened at Sundance in 2018. With a cast led by Emil Johnsen, it tells the story of man on the run from himself after being sexually abused by his father. Living in Greenland, he yearns to be a part of the open, collectivist culture and become a Kalak; a ‘dirty Greenlander’. As a screenwriter, Eklöf’s work includes Border, co-written with Ali Abassi and John Ajvide Lindqvist, which went on to win the top prize at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section in 2018 and an Oscar nomination.
Contact: Totem Films
Dirs: María Alché, Benjamín Naishtat
One of the two Argentinian films in competition, Puan sees Marcelo Subiotto and Leonardo Sbaraglia playing two university professors arguing over a top position at the Public University of Buenos Aires who embark in a philosophical duel while the country spirals into chaos. The film is a return to San Sebastian for co-directors María Alché — who won the festival’s Horizontes Latinos award for her first feature, A Family Submerged in 2018 — and Benjamín Naishtat who won the Silver Shell for best director the same year for Rojo.
Sultana’s Dream (Sp-Ger)
Dir: Isabel Herguera
Isabel Herguera’s animation feature debut follows a Spanish artist living in India, who stumbles on a science fiction story about Ladyland — a utopian world where women rule the country while men live in seclusion and are responsible for household chores. The film, which uses hand-drawn, 2D, digital and watercolour animation techniques, is based on a 1905 short story by Bangladeshi writer Begum Rokeya Hossain. The book, says Herguera, “fell into my hands by chance, while I was sheltering from the rain in a bookstore in India”.
Contact Square Eyes
The Practice (Arg-Chile-Port-Ger)
Dir: Martín Rejtman
The main character in Martín Rejtman’s comedy, a yoga teacher in crisis played by Esteban Bigliardi, sees his world crumble after a separation from his wife and yoga studio partner. A San Sebastian regular, Rejtman was last at the festival in 2020 when his project Riders won the Eurimages Development Co-production Award at the Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum. A key figure in the new wave of Argentinian filmmakers, Rejtman’s 2014 feature Two Shots Fired that was selected in competition in Locarno in 2014 and then played the Horizontes Latinos section in San Sebastian.
Contact: Visit Films
The Successor (France)
Dir: Xavier Legrand
Xavier Legrand’s first feature Custody won the Silver Lion for best director, and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best debut film at the Venice Film Festival in 2017, the audience award for best European film at San Sebastián and four César awards including best film. The French director now comes to SSIF competition with The Successor, which focuses on a man in his 30s who has to deal with the death of his estranged father and discovers he may have inherited much worse than his father’s weak heart.
Contact: MK2 Films
Un Amor (Spain)
Dir Isabel Coixet
Isabel Coixet’s latest film is based on the acclaimed Spanish novel Un Amor by Sara Mesa, which deals with the story of a woman trying to start anew in a small mountain village. “I really liked how it explores the complexities of female desire,” explains Cosset of the source novel. It stars Laia Costa, whose credits include Victoria and Lullaby, and Hovik Keuchkerian, best known for Riot Police. Coixet’s first feature, Too Old To Die Young, screened in New Directors at the festtval in 1989. “Experience helps you develop an instinct to create a safe environment for actors to give their best,” says Coixet.” In the case of Laia Costa, I loved her work in Foodie Love [the HBO series directed by Coixet] and I never thought of another actress for Un Amor.”