While San Sebastian director Mikel Olaciregui admits it can be difficult to attract major US buyers so soon after Toronto, the festival remains a busy sales event, with almost 100 international buyers scheduled to attend in 2007. These include Lionsgate, HBO, Warner Bros, DeA Planeta and Rezo Films.
"San Sebastian is one of the best-organised film festivals, and is of much value for us looking to create relationships with Spanish-speaking directors and producers who are looking for distribution in the US either theatrically or direct to DVD," says Arturo Chavez, Lionsgate's director of Spanish-language programming.
Chavez says he will be paying particular attention to Mexican films in the Horizontes Latinos section, including Jonas Cuaron's Ano Una, Sergio Tovar Velarde's Aurora Boreal and Sebastian Silva's Grandmother's Trip.
HBO's manager of film programming, Roberto Buso-Garcia, also extols the virtues of the festival. "San Sebastian is an excellent place to see the new and best films from Spain and Latin America," he says. "It's also becoming a good meeting point to spend some more time with the sales agents and producers of these films, outside of the busier American and international markets."
Several deals were initiated at last year's event, including for Golden Shell-winner Half Moon from Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi, which sold to Golem Distribution (Spain), Providence Filmes (Brazil), ICA Projects (UK) and Cinemien (Netherlands, Belgium). Nick Broomfield's festival opener Ghosts secured a UK deal with Tartan Films after its world premiere in official selection. Sven Taddicken's Zabaltegi New Directors entry Emma's Bliss was sold by The Match Factory to Wanda Vision (Spain), Providence Filmes (Brazil), Eeap (Eastern Europe) and to the UK's Peccadillo Pictures ahead of its screening at the festival.
A slew of US rights deals were also clinched off the back of a film's performance at San Sebastian. Lionsgate picked up Filmax's The Backwooods, starring Gary Oldman, following its premiere in the New Directors section, and Peace Arch picked up San Sebastian award-winner Delirious, by Tom DiCillo.
The signs look promising for this year. "People from New Line and HBO do come here, and the number of other big US buyers is increasing year on year," says Olaciregui.