Under festival director Jose Luis Rebordinos, San Sebastian is growing in size and stature for its 2013 edition (Sept 20-28). Juan Sarda reports.

San Sebastian has been enjoying a new prominence since Jose Luis Rebordinos took over as the festival’s head in 2010. That renewed spirit is in evidence as the festival moves into its 61st edition (September 20-28), boasting a higher-profile selection of films, increased industry activities, stronger ties with Latin America, audience development and a growing presence of US stars and productions.

The ‘Toronto connection’ is also working well, as San Sebastian is now open to showing films that previously debuted at Toronto, which closes five days before San Sebastian opens. “It has been very good to change our policy and not oblige films to be world premieres,” says Rebordinos. “We are achieving a great status as the entrance door in Europe for films that have previously gone to Canada. Last year we saw the great success of Argo and this year we are happy to have high-profile projects such as Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot or Bertrand Tavernier’s Quai d’Orsay.”

Surprisingly for an auteur-driven festival, the director also expects a “fun programme” with more comedies than ever - including the opening night European premiere of Juan Jose Campanella’s animated feature Foosball (aka Futbolin) [pictured].

For Rebordinos, the industry boost might be the key to the success of the “new” San Sebastian: “I am confident that a strong industry activity is the most important goal for any festival right now,” he says. The creation of the Industry Club, a new umbrella for all the professional activities, has been the landmark of a deep transformation of the festival’s business ambitions.

‘A strong industry activity is the most important goal for any festival right now’

Jose Luis Rebordinos, San Sebastian Film Festival

The Co-Production Forum, an event that unites producers from Europe and Latin America to discuss 16 projects, is the most important activity for industry. Last year, more than 500 professionals attended and the numbers are expected to grow in 2013. “This is a long-time bet and we are working hard to be the most important place for Latin American productions in Europe,” Rebordinos says.

Rising stars of Latin American cinema such as Ecuador’s Sebastian Cordero Espinosa, Peru’s Adrian Saba, Chile’s Fernando Guzzoni and Spain’s Pedro Aguilera Londaiz and Ana Diez will search for new backers. For the first time this year, the Co-Production Forum will run concurrently with the popular Films in Progress section, which screens unfinished films that seek final financing. Last year, Sebastian Lelio’s Chilean feature Gloria triumphed there, going on to success at the Berlinale.

San Sebastian also provides a top platform for new Spanish films. Last year kickstarted the likes of JA Bayona’s The Impossible and Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves. In 2013, all eyes will be on Alex de la Iglesia’s comedy Witching And Bitching. The film’s star, Carmen Maura, will also receive a Donostia award to recognise her career in film.

After going to Toronto, Manuel Martin Cuenca will show Cannibal, a hotly anticipated thriller about a serial killer, and David Trueba will screen Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed. Also in competition, Blancanieves editor Fernando Franco will premiere his directorial debut, Wounded. The official section will also include films by Roger Michell (Le Weekend), Jasmila Zbanic (For Those Who Can Tell No Tales) or Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club).

Rebordinos is confident this year’s selection is stronger than ever. The New Directors section has been given greater importance by being a part of the Zabaltegi programme since 2012. The Culinary Cinema section created last year is also growing, and this year introduces the new Savage Cinema section for adventure and sports films.