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Festival In Focus: San Sebastian Ramps Up Industry Components For 70th Edition

The San Sebastian International Film Festival has long been one of the Spanish-speaking world’s most prominent film festivals and as the 70th edition of the festival is nearly underway, the much-loved European event has looked to beef up its industry components in a bid to attract a wider pool of delegates, notably from North America.

This year will see the launch of the new San Sebastian Festival Creative Investors’ Conference, which is co-organized with CAA Media Finance. The two-day conference, which runs September 19-20, will see a host of top global industry execs from companies such as 30West, A24, Anonymous Content, Focus Features, MUBI, Neon, Netflix and Wild Bunch International among others, touch down in the Basque Country.

“Something we’ve had in mind for some years now is to improve and enlarge our industry activities,” festival director José Luis Rebordinos tells Deadline, who says the initiative was organised out of Spain’s post-pandemic Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, which aims to position Spain as a top destination for film and television production. With box office in Spain still struggling to recover in the wake of the pandemic, many Spanish producers have had to turn to co-production finance models in order to get their projects off of the ground.

“There was an opportunity here where we could use some of this money to create these new activities,” he says. “So we knew we wanted to reach the North American and U.S. private investors and put them in a room with Spanish producers.”

The Creative Investors’ Conference, which is part of Spanish Screenings XXL, will see as host of bigger-budget Spanish movies pitched to international investors and execs throughout the two day event. Titles pitched include co-productions such as Baltasar Kormákur’s Whalemen (At the Ends of the Earth), Gerardo Herrero’s Raqa and Asier Altuna’s Amama.

San Sebastian Film Festival
San Sebastian Film Festival

A24’s Piers Wenger, Focus Features Kiska Higgs, 30West’s Trevor Groth, Wild Bunch International’s Vincent Maraval, Neon’s Tom Quinn, Picture Perfect Enterainment’s Patrick Wachsberger, Christine Vashon’s Killer Films and Elysian Film Group’s Danny Perkins are among those expected to attend the event. CAA’s Roeg Sutherland, Benjamin Kramer and Sarah Schweitzman will also attend the conference and moderate sessions along with conference co-curator and San Sebastian Festival consultant Wendy Mitchell.

The conference, which will only be open to San Sebastian industry badgeholders, includes keynote talks, in-depth case studies of top Spanish productions, panel discussions about industry trends, technology innovations for storytellers and opportunities created by the rise of the platforms. A private event will invite students from leading Spanish film schools to meet the influential representatives of the international industry.

Elsewhere, San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America co-production forum is still going strong. Currently in its 11th year, the forum’s fosters the development of audiovisual projects while encouraging collaboration between professionals and promote an opening out towards new international markets. Both fiction and non-fiction works in development from Europe and Latin America are encouraged to enter.

Since its inception, the forum has selected 148 projects, 71 of which have already been released and 41 have been selected for major international film festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance, Locarno and San Sebastian. Recent projects from the forum include Pablo Aguero’s Goya award-winning title Akelarre and Maite Alberdi’s El Agente Topo (The Mole Agent), which was nominated for Best Documentary Oscar in 2021.

While the industry strand of San Sebastian this year remains a big focus for the festival, Rebordinos stresses that he’s keen to keep the festival’s industry activities at a manageable level so that delegates don’t find themselves in a situation where their schedules are too jam-packed to enjoy the city and see multiple movies.

“We are not a very big city and there is limited infrastructure so we want to keep these activities here but we also want San Sebastian to become a place to enjoy as well as work,” he says. “We want to offer attendees a place where human relationships can be natural and people can meet in an organic way.”

He adds, “We don’t want to be a very big festival, we want to be a really good festival.”

The San Sebastian International Film Festival takes place September 16-24.

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