San Sebastian Film Festival: Day Four

Journalists and their cough-ins, Marimbas From Hell and Black Bread

by Amber Wilkinson

One thing I'm starting to notice at press screenings is the toll nicotine is taking on the assembled throng. Particularly during films that aren't in Spanish - so are double subtitled - there's a constant chorus of hacking hacks, with the crowd not so much expectant as expectorant. Still, they are nothing if not appreciative and almost every screening is met by at least moderate applause.

Somehow I only caught two films today - not quite sure how that happened - and they were both vastly different. The first is a Guatemalan documentary - Marimbas From Hell - which tells of the unlikely hook up between a traditional marimba player and a heavy metal band. That description, however, barely scratches the surface of a film which is more a reflection of life on the breadline in a country where extortion and crime seem to be as common as breathing.

It is peppered with absurdist humour - such as the sight of one of the heavy metal band in a Hannah Montana T-shirt, or the lead's singer's revelation that he used to be a satanist but is now an evangelist. The only thing is that some of the sections, rightly or wrongly, feel somewhat staged - while I'm not sure they were 'acted out' for the camera as such, it's clear that the subjects are frequently 'aware' of Julio Hernandez Cordon's presence.

Staginess is also a problem from Black Bread (Pa Negre), a film examining the tough life experienced by those on the losing side in post-civil war Catalonia. Agustí Villaronga is certainly aiming for big themes here - including the loss of childhood innocence and the way in which neighbours can be brought to fight against one another - but everything feels far to chocolate boxy and polished to really be believable.

There is also a sense of muddled themes, as subplots are layered on thick but are too insufficiently explored to give any real satisfaction. Perhaps the film's biggest difficulty, however, is that it is mostly seen through the eyes of a child. While Francesc Colomer does his best and certainly shows talent as an actor, he fails to really carry the audience with him in crucial emotional scenes, though one suspect the fault here lies with script and direction rather than the young actor. Ultimately, despite vaunting ambitions, this film fails to leave a significant mark.

Share this with others on...
News

Making filmmaking fun Harrison Xu and Ivan Leung on Extremely Unique Dynamic

'I've been lucky that I've been able to combine TV and film' Barry Ward on his career, prestige and working on the big and small screen

Audacious filmmaking David Hinton on Made In England: The Films Of Powell And Pressburger

Audiard on a crazy musical spree in Mexico Director on changing identity, democracy and drug cartels

Shaking Sean Baker lifts the Palme d’Or Sex work comedy Anora triumphs in Cannes with rewards for India, Iran and Mexican drug cartel musical

Black Dog pounces on Un Certain Regard top accolade Jury prize and acting award for asylum-seeker tale The Story of Souleymane

More news and features

We're bringing you all the excitement of the world's most celebrated film festival direct from Cannes, as well as covering Inside Out in Toronto.



We're looking forward to the Muslim International Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, Docs Ireland and the Fantasia International Film Festival.



We've recently covered Fantaspoa, Queer East, Visions du Réel, New Directors/New Films, the Overlook Film Festival, BFI Flare, the Glasgow Short Film Festival and SXSW.



Read our full for more.


Visit our festivals section.

Interact

More competitions coming soon.