The director of the San Sebastian International Film Festival talks about how the festival is adapting to a tough climate in Spain, including new offerings such as the European Latin American Forum.

Amidst a complicated situation for Spanish cinema, José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian international Film Festival, has reasonable hopes to expect an important edition for the 60th anniversary of the Festival. Hit hard by Toronto’s growth, San Sebastián wants to reinforce its industry profile and the biggest news for next September will be the launch of an European Latin America Co-Production Forum. 

“San Sebastián has always had an important industry factor,” Rebordinos tells Screen. “We have had a great success with the Cine en Construcción section but it was a little bit too dispersed. We needed a unity for the industry activities and a strong event as it will be this Co-Production Forum (Sept 27-28). We are having fundamental support from the Secretary of Industry of the Basque Country Government and the support of FAPAE, Ibermedia and every important player. A lot of important producers from both sides of the Atlantic will be present. This is an strategic bet for the future and we have high hopes that it will keep growing and will be a key factor in three or four years”. The Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía (IMCINE), Proimágenes Colombia, Cinema do Brasil and  the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales de Argentina (INCAA) are also on board.”

The Industry Club is the name that branches the three business sections: the new Co Production Forum, Cine en Construcción, to help finance almost finished Latin American films (occuring twice per year, in San Sebastián and Toulouse), and Cine en Movimiento, for finishing productions that come from Magreb, African countries with Portuguese language and Arab nations in developement. Rebordinos notes that very important international figures and 150 professionals will be present at the Forum, which will present up to 20 European and Latin American projects.

The Festival also co-organises a session uniting Brazilian and Basque producers and the Documentary Co-Production Forum Lau Haizetara.

Cine en Construcción’s success is was visible in this year’s Cannes edition: the Colombian coproduction with Brazil and France La Playa DC, by Juan Andres Arango (Un Certain Regard); Villegas, Argentinian (with Holland and France) film by Gonzalo Tobal (Official Selection/Séances Specials); Argentinian (co-production with Spain and Brazil) Infancia Clandestina, by Benjamin Avila, in Directors Fortnight; and La Sirga, by William Vega, Colombia. France, Mexico film also in the Quinzaine. The San Sebastian festival will celebreate 10 years of Cine en Construccion. There also will be a retrospective of recent American comedies by Judd Apatow or Trey Parker and another one devoted to Geroges Franju.

This is the second edition for Rebordinos, who was part of the board of the Festival for 15 years and director of the Terror Week in San Sebastian prior to his appointment, and he expects the new style of the direction to be more evident without breaking with the festival’s rich history. “There are two clear lines. Give strength to the industry activities and go deeper into the Spanish and Latin American film connection. We are going to have very good Spanish films this year. We are working also to have an important presence of US productions and France is always a very important territory for San Sebastián”.

Last year, the Festival was home to the international premiere of the now huge box office hit Intouchables: “We had a great feeling for this film and we are very proud to have had it. We are going to be more open to genre films, documentaries and animation”.

“Our ties with Latin American just get closer”, says Rebordinos, who will soon announce an important partnership with a relevant Latin American market. “We want that San Sebastian has everyday a greater presence in the continent. This association will give us more visibility there and will reinforce the industry activity”.

When Rebordinos talks about industry, he believes in creating San Sebastian as an important summit for production: “It makes no sense for us to create a sales market like there is in Cannes or Berlin. We have to be faithful with our tradition and work in the path that has created Cine en Construcción helping finishing films”.

For the 60th edition, another important new initative will be the reinforcement of the New Directors section that will no longer depend on Zabaltegi and will be fully competitive this year. “We are very proud of our role as talent searchers and we will celebrate that important talents as Danny Boyle, Tsai Ming Liang, Isabel Coixet or Laurent Cantet debuted at the Festival”. 

The budget cuts on ICAA have not affected this years contribution to the Festival (€1 million) but Rebordinos is busy searching new sponsors. In the last days, the Festival has signed a deal with energy corporation Gas Natural Fenosa that has injected $382,000 in the Festival and will be the new official sponsor along with TVE. “We will announce in the next weeks more sponsors not that significant but very important. Cinema has a lot of positive values that a brand can associate with and we are working hard on that”.