A swathe of films from last week's Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival (Sept 18-28) will invade the Spanish box office over the next month, but to what extent they will benefit from buzz and media coverage coming out of the event remains to be seen.

Certainly one of the most interesting cases to watch will be Julio Medem's controversial Basque documentary, La Pelota Vasca, La Piel Contra La Piedra, which opens in cinemas across Spain this Friday.

Of the six San Sebastian titles released this weekend, only The Italian Job and Veronica Guerin made it into the local top ten, in first and ninth positions respectively.

Local productions November (Noviembre), which won a youth award at the festival, and The Galindez File (El Misterio Galindez) ranked 15th and 18th respectively.

Post-San Sebastian releases expected out in October include Open Range, Suite Havana, Take My Eyes (Te Doy Mis Ojos), The Flower Of Evil (La Fleur Du Mal), The Weakness Of The Bolshevik (La Flaqueza Del Bolchevique) and In The City (En La Ciudad).

Medem's La Pelota Vasca stirred up as much attention as any title at the festival following accusations - even before its September 21 screening in a non-competitive sidebar section - that it proffered a biased and unjust portrait of the highly charged issue of Basque separatism.

Will the embroilment affect the film's exhibition or box office potential' "The polemic has created even more expectation," said the film's distributor, Golem Distribucion chief Pedro Zaratiegui. "So far no exhibitor has put up any barriers to screening it. On the contrary, there is more demand.

"Friday's national release will spread an initial 30 copies throughout Basque Country, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. The number of prints could go up, depending on audience reaction: "We are trying to come to terms with expectations without losing sight of the reality of the market for documentaries," Zaratiegui added.

Indeed, the film's generally warm reception at the festival may owe partly to support for San Sebastian native Medem and a response against politicians who reportedly asked the festival to consider pulling the title from its line-up.

It remains to be seen as well whether La Pelota Vasca will have a life outside of Spain. With 70 interviewees crammed into just 115 minutes of film, it may be too loaded with information and local references for audiences unfamiliar with the issue. No international sales agent is yet attached. Sogepaq handled Medem's last feature film, Sex And Lucia (Lucia Y El Sexo).

Following its local theatrical premiere, the documentary and a three-part series will screen on Basque broadcaster ETB and national pay channel Canal Plus. A five-hour DVD set will be available by Christmas. Medem also plans to begin shooting related fiction film, Aitor, La Piel Contra La Piedra, in May 2004.