San Sebastian director details “personal obsession” to enhance industry days.

José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastián Film Festival, has revealed his “personal obsession” with establishing its industry strand a landmark event for the sector.

His statement of intent follows the launch of its industry days on Friday and marks the start of San Sebastian’s Films in Progress section. The strand will feature six unfinished Latin American films seeking finance that will be showcased to international players.

Also launching is the festival’s Co-Production Forum, where 16 projects are introduced to a wide range of producers, sales agents and distributors.

For the first time, both strands have been launched on the same day in a bid to give them a higher profile and an estimated 1,180 industry members have requested accreditation - a boost of more than 10% on 2012.

Bridge to South America

Both industry strands aim to provide a bridge between Europe and Latin America.

Films in Progress, which launched yesterday, continues to build momentum year-on-year.  Previous titles to find success include this year’s Berlinale hit Gloria.

Productions in the strand aim to fund the last aspects of production and and is sponsored by major industry companies such as Daniel Goldstein, Deluxe and Dolby production services.

Jorge Moreno, CEO of Nephilim Producciones, which acts as the Spanish partner to unify all the services provided, said: “This is a great way to gain visibility in South America.

“We also think we help to get quality films finished. It’s a fact that every year South American projects see this section as a great window to be introduced to international players”. 

Chilean director Jorge Yacoman is screening his first feature, The Comfort in the Distance, at Films in Progress and has a “full agenda” of meetings. The film is the story of a young boy who comes from a wealthy family but chooses homelessness when he falls ill.

Yacoman said: “In my country, there is a need to tell stories, which is why we are seeing so many good films originating in Chile. Like mine, many are low budget because we don’t want to go through the eternal process of securing a big financier.”

Producer Romina Perazzo of Words and Facts Films added: “This is a guerrilla film. This is our first festival, we have only worked with private funds and we estimate a budget of $215,000”.

Argentina: traditional partner

Ignacio Rey, CEO of Argentina’s Sudestada, is introducing La Salada, directed by Juan Martín Hsu. The film is about a market in Buenos Aires where three immigrations generations coexist.

“The film is spoken in four languages and is directed by the descendant of a Chinese immigrant,” said Rey. “It’s a reflection of this world and those characters.”

For Rey, making it into Films of Progress was a priority. “It isn’t just about winning but also gaining as many contacts as we can,” he added.

Argentina is a traditional production partner with Spain but the model is changing as the economic downturn hits the latter.

“The normal situation has reversed with Spanish producers coming to South America for money,” explained Rey. “For years, Argentina relied on Spain but things are changing.”

Other titles shown in Films in Progress include:

  • History of Fear, by Argentina director Benjamín Naishat, about chaos in a private district;
  • Delivery, by Colombian Martín Mejía, about ordinary lives and struggles in a remote village;
  • Pantanal, by Argentina’s Andrew Sala, a road movie about a man who travels to Brazil to reconcile with his lost brother;
  • To Kill a Man, by Alejandro Fernández Almendras, a revenge thriller. 


Returning for a second year is the Co-Production Forum.

A total of 16 projects will be introduced in pitches and both private and informal meetings.

Juan Gordon from Morena Films (Che, White Elephant) has a long record of collaborating with South America and has scheduled meetings with the producers of “a comedy and a thriller - one in Colombia and another in Peru”.

“We are looking for projects that can connect with Spanish audiences and this a great window of opportunities,” he said.

However, Gordon has some complaints about the current mechanics of co-production.

“It’s complicated because Spanish law insists a film has a minimum budget of $2m to co-produce. Budget is not as important as the film’s capacity of generating interest from a Spanish audience. This is something that must be changed”. 

New projects

Spanish director Pedro Aguilera, who debuted at Cannes with The Influence (2007), is introducing his new project, Pass This On, along with his producer Jorge Manrique.

“We are meeting people that we have been in contact with for months. This is a great chance to see them in person”, he said.

For Aguilera, shooting in South America makes financial sense. He explained: “It’s a place that is going through great transformation and has great vitality.

“Also, the film is about a man who travels to meet his sister so this concept of heading abroad is essential to the story. I am sure European directors can offer a new vision of the continent as Woody Allen did with Barcelona.”

The art house film will be shot in both English and Spanish. “It’s an auteur-driven film but we are attempting to generate global interest,” Aguilera added. “A lot of films set there are centred on social issues but we’re seeing interest for projects that focus on other subjects.”

Edgard Tenenbaum, a French producer on The Motorcycle Diaries, is introducing The Companion.

The Cuban film, directed by Pavel Giroud, tells of a successful boxer who fails a drug test and serves his sentence in a military ruled centre for HIV positive patients.

“I was fascinated with the story and there are not that many films that deal with the reality of life in Cuba,” said Tenenbaum, who added that the feature has a budget less than $1m and a co-production deal in Panama.

A further 14 projects will be introduced including:

  • Fernando Guzzoni’s No One’s Boy (Argentina);
  • Antonio Cuadri’s Concha Connection (Spain);
  • Sebastián Cordero’s Such Life in the Tropics (Equador);
  • Matías Rojas’ In the Shade of Trees (Chile).

Pierre Menahem, head of sales of MPM Films, is visiting the festival to sell three films, including For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, playing in competition.

Speaking about the two industry strands, Menahem acknowledges that South America is a hot place in world cinema. “There is a lot of talent there. In France in particular there is a great interest in some new authors,” he said.

“There is a particular tone, between humour and sadness, to speak about social issues that audiences appreciate.”