Alicia Vikander provides touch of glamor at San Sebastian film festival

But director of Spanish event, which starts Friday, admits he cannot compete with Venice red carpet

Rocío García

The day before the opening of the San Sebastian Film Festival is the moment when event director José Luis Rebordinos is allowed to savor a martini. At the Maria Cristina Hotel, where he receives festival guests, Rebordinos, who is celebrating his seventh year as director, reflects on some of the hot topics of the moment, and not just the Donostia Zinemaldia, as the event is known in the Basque language. 

Final preparations for the festival at the Victoria Eugenia Theater in San Sebastian.
Final preparations for the festival at the Victoria Eugenia Theater in San Sebastian.J.H.J.

Female quota. Only four of the 25 films in the Official Selection category are directed by women. “We're never going to have quotas, at least as long as I'm the director. It seems to me an act of pure paternalism and chauvinism. Of course we are concerned about the absence of women, but what we have to do is analyze the reasons behind that,” says Rebordinos. “It is very telling that we have the same number of male and female students attending the student encounters, but then in the New Directors category the female presence falls to 35% and in the Official Selection category it drops to 15%. Our job is to study the reason for the lack of women in the professional cinema industry. The management team of this festival is made up of four women and three men.”

New platforms. For the first time, the Official Selection includes a television series, although it will not be competing, La peste (The Plague), by Alberto Rodríguez. In addition, a production by Movistar Televisión, (Vergüenza, or Shame, by Juan Cavestany and Álvaro Fernández Armero) will be presented in the “Zabaltegi-Tabakalera” category. There will also be a showing of the Netflix film, Fe de Etarras, or Faith of the Etarras, directed by Borja Cobeaga.

Cinema will never die, no matter platform it may be on José Luis Rebordinos

“I agree with what Cannes director, Thierry Fremaux, says – that festivals have to be a snapshot of what is happening in the audiovisual world. We can no longer talk about a single cinema, but of many cinemas. Television, including in Spain, has great strength and its platforms are making very interesting cinema. The audiovisual industry is in a state of transformation and the debate has only just begun. Our obligation as a festival is to give space to that debate. You have to be optimistic. Cinema will never die, no matter platform it may be on.”

Controversy over Fe de Etarras.Cobeaga’s film is a black comedy about an ETA commander who has been criticized by organizations that represent victims of terrorism and police officers. “I can understand why it bothers them or why they don’t like it, but the fact that everyone wants to say what’s right or what’s wrong is worrying to me,” says Rebordinos. “The victims’ associations have all my support, affection, and respect but that’s where it ends. The victims have no right to tell everyone else what we can do or cannot do. What is unusual is that an association of civil guards and civil servants filed a complaint against this film. We have every right to laugh at the fascist and murderous group, ETA. Without forgetting anything, we are living in a different time now and we have to act taking into account future generations.”

Limited Hollywood presence. “Hollywood has not turned its back on us. We are counting on the presence of Glenn Close, Alicia Vikander, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James Franco,” Rebordinos said. “We are at a mid to high level of Hollywood fame.

San Sebastian cannot take on the same number of stars that Venice can José Luis Rebordinos

The pressure that this festival faces in terms of glamor is brutal because it is a public contest. Venice has become the place where American cinema presents its Oscar contestants and that affects us. San Sebastian cannot take on the same number of stars that Venice can.”

Catalonia.Catalonia’s problem makes me sad, but I do not think it affects the San Sebastian Film Festival. It is very sad that we are where we are and that we have not found a way to reach agreements,” says Rebordinos. “Cinema is a place of debate where everything can be discussed, but always through the movies.”

His future as a director. The 65th edition of the contest is Rebordinos’ seventh year the helm. “I'm reflecting a lot these days. I am committed to my four-year project and I am going to fulfill it with my board of directors,” says Rebordinos, who is 56 years old. “What I can assure you, is that my turning 60 will mark a radical change. I can be in transition for a few years, but at 63 I'll leave the front line of the festival.”

English version by Debora Almeida.

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