Gracia Querejeta was born in Madrid into a film family. Her father, Elias, has produced more than 40 films and has taken an active role in supporting Gracia's own film career, including her latest work, Seven Billiards Tables, which makes its world premiere at San Sebastian this week.

Querejeta is no novice on the festival circuit, and especially not in San Sebastian where two of her previous film, the English-language Robert Rylands' Last Journey (1996) and more recently By My Side Again (1999) have appeared in competition. The latter won a cinematography award and a special mention from the festival. The director's most recent feature, Hector, about a young boy coping with the loss of his mother, screened in competition at the Montreal World Film Festival and the Malaga Spanish Film Festival in 2004, and picked up a number of local awards.

As a result, Querejeta knows what to expect and how to handle the coming week. "I have learnt from a very young age when you go to a festival you have to use it and exploit it as a platform for your film," she says.

Querejeta started out as an actor, starring in Emilio Martinez Lazaro's Golden Bear-winner What Max Said at the age of 14, before deciding to become a director and making a series of award-winning shorts. "Then Elias told me it was time to write a screenplay for a feature (Una Estacion De Paso), and he offered to be a co-writer. So we started writing," explains Querejeta. "I normally start with a simple synopsis."

Seven Billiards Tables stars Maribel Verdu as a young woman who, with her son, takes over her late father's billiards hall in an attempt to turn her life around.

"(Co-writer) Manuel Gutierrez Aragon and I pushed the characters into a very dramatic situation, but at the same time wanted to add a little humour to balance out the drama," Querejeta explains.

The $4m drama was put together by Elias Querejeta Producciones with financial backing from local TV broadcasters. Querejeta is hopeful the film can drum up some publicity at the festival ahead of its release in Spain straight after the festival, on October 5.