San Sebastian announces first New Directors titles

A look at the 13 up-and-coming directors selected.

by Amber Wilkinson

Ash Mayfair's The Third Wife
Ash Mayfair's The Third Wife Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

San Sebastian Film Festival has announced 13 titles in its New Directors section, including Elías León Siminiani's Notes For A Heist Film, Lila Avilés’ The Chambermaid and Journey To A Mother's Room by Celia Rico.

The section of the Basque Country film festival has become fertile ground for rising talent in recent years, with many of the films here going on to screen elsewhere on the festival circuit, such as Ben Sharrock's Pikadero, which went on to win the Michael Powell Award at Edinburgh Film Festival. Films in this section, in addition to being eligible for the €50,000 (£44,000) international jury prize, also compete for the Youth Award, selected by a 'jury' of 300 students between the ages of 18 and 25, further emphasising the festival's dedication to younger talent and younger audiences.

Of the films selected this year, nine are first films with four directed by second-timers.

Other notable inclusions are Basque filmmaker Koldo Almandoz, who brings his second feature The Deer and Romanian director Hadrian Marcu, whose A Decent Man was selected in the festival's first Glocal in Progress section last year, aimed at European films in non-hegemonic languages, and stars last year's Silver Shell winner Bogdan Dumitrache (Pororoca). Vietnamese filmmaker Ash Mayfair brings The Third Wife, the screenplay for which won the Spike Lee Film Production Fund Award in 2014.

The remaining titles in the section will be announced in the coming weeks.

The full list of titles is below (Descriptions provided by the festival):

The Chambermaid/La Camarista (Lila Avilés, Mexico, US; Cast: Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez) - Eve is a young chambermaid working in one of the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City, an exclusive glass tower inhabited by guests so wealthy she can only imagine their lives through intimate fantasies of the belongings they've left behind. Long, laborious shifts prevent Eve from caring for her child while she helps guests with their own children, but she believes her situation will improve if she gets promoted to work at executive-level suites, for which she accepts a gruelling schedule. In keeping with this goal, she also enrols in the hotel's adult education program.

Cold November/Nëntor i Ftohtë (Ismet Sijarina, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia; Cast: Kushtrim Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Emir Hadzihafizbegovic, Fatmir Spahiu, Majlinda Kosumovic, Bislim Mucaj, Lum Veseli, Aurita Agushi) - In the beginning of the Nineties, the Yugoslavian government cancelled the autonomy of Kosovo, dissolved its Parliament and closed down the national television station. Institutional life was reorganised by new authorities, while the majority of citizens responded with peaceful demonstrations. During this time, Fadili who is working as an archivist has to choose between two options, being aware that both of them are wrong. In this way, he involuntarily and unwillingly, 'swallows' the shame, endures the pressure coming from all sides and deals with the bad reputation for just one reason: to provide for his family.

Core Of The World/Serdtse Mira (Natalia Meschaninova, Russia; Cast: Stepan Devonin, Dmitriy Podnozov, Jana Sekste) - Egor is a veterinarian on a rural farm which doubles as a hunting dog training centre. He is a grown man, but deep inside he is a child who has been hurt and abandoned by everyone, including his own mother. All he wants is to care for the animals and to feel part of the close-knit family he works for. When animal rights activists invade this fragile microcosm, throwing off its delicate balance, Egor's world begins to crumble... or so it seems.

A Decent Man/Un Om La Locul Lui (Hadrian Marcu, Romania; Cast: Bogdan Dumitrache, Ada Gales, Madalina Constantin, Iulian Postelnicu, Adrian Titieni) - Petru is a drilling engineer living in a community of oil industry workers. He is quite conflicted. On one hand he is about to get married to his pregnant girlfriend Laura, on the other he is involved with the wife of one of his colleagues, Sonia, who has had a serious work-related accident. His new life seems to begin while she feels hers is ending. Everything is thrown into chaos when Laura finds out about his relationship.

The Deer/Oreina (Koldo Almandoz, Spain; Cast: Laulad Ahmed, Patxi Bisquert, Ramón Agirre, Iraia Elías, Erika Olaizola) - Khalil is a rootless young man who lives on the edge of town, where the industrial estates merge into the river and the marshes. Khalil gets by as best he can and spends his time with an old poacher, who shares a house on the riverbank with a brother who he hasn't spoken to in years. On the banks of the marshes, the tides mark the time for love and heartbreak, friendship and revenge.

Jesus/Boku Wa Iesu-Sama Ga Kirai (Hiroshi Okuyama, Japan; Cast: Yura Sato, Riki Okuma) - Yura is a young boy whose family leaves Tokyo to live with his grandmother in the snowy countryside. Not only must he fit in at a new school, but it's a Christian one. At first he is puzzled when he and his classmates are called to ‘worship’, but he gradually adjusts to his new environment. One day, in the middle of a prayer, he sees a very small Jesus appear before him. Each wish Yura makes to Jesus comes true, and he starts to have faith in the power of the Lord.

Journey To A Mother’s Room/Viaje Al Cuarto De Una Madre (Celia Rico, Spain, France; Cast: Lola Dueñas, Anna Castillo, Pedro Casablanc) - Leonor wants to leave home, but she doesn’t dare to tell her mother. Estrella doesn’t want her to leave but is unable to keep her by her side either. Mother and daughter will have to face this new stage in life in which the world they share starts to fall apart.

Julia And The Fox/Julia Y El Zorro (Inés María Barrionuevo. Argentina; Cast: Umbra Colombo, Pablo Limarzi, Victoria Castelo Arzubialde) - Julia, an ex-actress, and her daughter Emma move into a mansion in a village in Córdoba, Argentina. It is winter and Julia needs to fix up the house so she can sell it. Quite a while has gone by since the death of her husband and Emma’s father, but they are still in mourning. One night Julia meets Gaspar, a life-long friend of hers. Gaspar tries to convince Julia to take part in a theatre competition. Julia, Emma and Gaspar find a way to rebuild their lives by starting a rather uncertain project to form a new type of family.

Midnight Runner/Der Laufer (Hannes Baumgartner, Switzerland; Cast: Max Hubacher, Annina Euling, Luna Wedler, Sylvie Rohrer, Christophe Sermet, Saladin Dellers) - Jonas Widmer is one of the best runners in Switzerland and his focus is to attend the Olympics. Besides the sport, Jonas is a successful cook and plans to move in with his girlfriend Simone. But Jonas perfect life gets disturbed by the increasing memories of his late brother. He starts a tragic double life by robbing young women at night. Bae a true story.

Neon Heart (Laurits Flensted-Jensen, Denmark; Cast: Victoria Carmen Sonne, Niklas Herskind, Noah Skovgaard Skands) - A story about three people chasing life and each other. Laura is on her way to a porn film casting. Niklas is trying to take care of two men with Down’s syndrome, and Frederik is out to gain respect as a hooligan. In glimpses and fragments of past and present, we follow the three characters on a journey full of taboos and desires. With a cast of mainly non-actors in authentic environments, Neon Heart confronts its audience with a world we would rather not look at.

Notes For A Heist Film/Apuntes Para Una Pelicula De Atracos (León Siminiani, Spain) - Elías is a film director who dreamed of making a heist movie. During the summer of 2013 he reads a news story about the arrest of 'The Vallecas Robin Hood', the leader of 'the sewers gang'. He then feels that he has found the opportunity to make his dream come true. He sends a letter to the prison where he is serving his sentence. Against all odds, Elías receives a reply three weeks later. Robin Hood agrees for him to come and visit him in prison. Documentary.

The Third Wife (Ash Mayfair, Vietnam; Cast: Trần Nữ Yên Khê, Mai Thu Hường, Nguyễn Phương Trà My, Nguyễn Như Quỳnh) - In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May becomes the third wife of wealthy landowner Hung. Soon she learns that she can only gain status by asserting herself as a woman who can give birth to a male child. May's hope to change her status turns into a real and tantalising possibility when she gets pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, May finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are few and far between.

To War/Para La Guerra (Francisco Marisé, Argentina, Spain) - Documentary exploring the memory and loneliness of a Cuban former internationalist soldier by observing his body and (extra)ordinary gestures. This is a bloodless war film without any shooting; a film about a wound that 'Sledgehammer', ' El Rayado', Andrés, has, a special forces veteran who tries to find his colleagues from the commando who survived their last mission 30 years ago.

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