Monday night's applause-filled screening of Spanish director Fernando Leon de Aranoa's competition entry Mondays In The Sun (Los Lunes Al Sol) marked the halfway point of Spain's San Sebastian International Film Festival, which runs September 19 to 28.
But in some ways the screening represented a climax for the festival, even if it was to turn out to be premature. The Javier Bardem-starring Mondays was one of the hottest competition buzz titles so far, unanimously expected to walk away on Saturday night with at least one top award. As if to drive the point home, Dennis Hopper - who received his lifetime Donostia award on Monday night - and Julian Schnabel, who introduced the award, screamed out "We love you, Javier Bardem!" as they left the stage just minutes before the screening of Mondays.
Other films inspiring animated conversations at late-night receptions so far this week have included Danish Dogme title Open Hearts (Elsker Dig For Evigt), Argentinean drama Common Places (Lugares Comunes) and Niki Caro's magical tale Whale Rider.
Still, the overwhelmingly positive reception and positioning of Mondays - including a packed press conference, largely unseen with other competition titles - reflects San Sebastian's profile as a hotbed for Spanish and Latin American films and talent.
Most agree that this year's event has been one of the busiest in recent memory - especially compared with last year, which was hit by cancellations following September 11.
Spanish companies typically use San Sebastian as a platform for industry announcements. Key events over the first weekend included the unveiling of a film and, significantly, TV co-production agreement between MediaPro and the Almodovar brothers' El Deseo. In addition, cash-rich companies, Grupo Planeta and De Agostini also presented their joint media venture DeA Planeta.(Screen International, Sept 20)
The two announcements revealed some interesting things about the current state of the Spanish industry. Despite continuing market constrictions and a slump in production and acquisitions, the sector appears to be rallying. In addition, both announcements reveal a new focus on made-for-TV movies, a largely unexploited field in Spain.
However, the initial reassurance and enthusiasm generated by these new deals was to be dampened during a press conference given by Spanish producers' association FAPAE. Further reductions in public funding as well as increasing confusion about the role of the broadcast media left many observers somewhat deflated - even though the news was not unexpected.
Meanwhile, two other major announcements by non-Spanish companies included Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International's decision to distribute Mexican box office hit The Crime Of Father Amaro (El Crimen Del Padre Amaro) outside North America and Mexico, and Sony Pictures Classics' pick-up of North American and Australian rights to Thai film The Legend Of Suriyothai. San Sebastian also serves as a marketplace for closing deals begun on films screened at festivals leading up to this one.