No clear favorite had yet emerged in the official competition at the halfway mark of the 48th edition of the San Sebastian International Film Festival, running from September 21-30.
Local buzz favoured Basque Country native Alex de la Iglesia's opening night film Common Wealth (La Comunidad), which scored a home-run among Spanish critics, but the film failed to wow international festival attendees.
Swedish title Before The Storm (Fore Stormen), Elie Chouraqui's Harrison's Flowers and Kathryn Bigelow's The Weight Of Water all received strong reviews, while Salvador Garcia Ruiz's The Other Side (El Otro Barrio), Mexican-Spanish women's road movie Without A Trace (Sin Dejar Huella) and Francisco Lombardi's Tinta Roja elicited mixed reactions.
Tellingly, some of the best received titles at the festival were screening out of competition in the Festivals' Top section of Zabaltegi (Open Zone), a line-up compiled of films which have previously screened at other festivals. Critics and festival-goers alike were raving about Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inarruri's Amores Perros, popular at Cannes and acquired by Lion's Gate at the Toronto Film Festival.
Indeed, as the last major competitive event of the season and following straight on the heels of Venice and Toronto, San Sebastian faces a difficult task in attracting unpremiered films and accompanying talent, despite the growing popularity of this seaside fest. Incoming festival director Mikel Olaciregui - who replaces outgoing director Diego Galan in January - suggests that San Sebastian has created a niche in its competition section for lesser-known directors and somewhat riskier material.
Proving Olaciregui's point, competition title Paria was pulled out of the festival's official line-up on Monday following a surprise announcement by the film's director Nicolas Klotz that the "authorities of French cinema" aimed to censor his portrayal of "extreme poverty and exclusion." A statement released by Klotz suggested that the move was due to an intentional slow-down at the film's production laboratory. Klotz and the film's Spanish distributor Alta Films said they hoped to reschedule the screening of Paria for later during the festival.
No major deals had been announced midway through the festival, but that is not unusual for San Sebastian, a medium-sized event with no market. Local companies instead use the event to announce new projects and unveil details of previously announced accords and projects. Digital satellite TV platform Via Digital, for instance, announced the re-signing of an output accord with Lauren Films, among 14 other local distributors. The announcement represented a major push for Via into independent cinema, with more than 100 titles forming part of the various package deals.
Michael Caine received the festival's prestigious Donostia award on Saturday night, and Robert De Niro was expected in on Friday to receive a Donostia in a ceremony hosted by actor Javier Bardem.