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Thirteen filmmakers from Argentina, Denmark, Spain, Japan, Kosovo, Mexico, Rumania, Russia, Switzerland and Vietnam will be competing for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award


The director of the San Sebastián Festival, José Luis Rebordinos, and the director of Kutxabank in the Donostia area, Gerardo Cangas, have revealed today at a press conference the titles of thirteen first or second films by European, Asian and Latin American directors that will be competing for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award.

This year in New Directors, the section that aims to make new filmmakers better known, that is, new ways of thinking about and making cinema, personal and family conflicts are addressed on a remote Russian farm, in 19th-century Vietnam, Yugoslavia at the start of the 1990s or modern Switzerland. These are some of the settings that the thirteen filmmakers that have been selected this year travel to. Eight of them will present their first films and the other five their second works.

Koldo Almandoz (San Sebastián, 1973) has had an intense career in the world of short films, linked to the Kimuak programme and to the San Sebastián Festival, which programmed his first short, Razielen itzulera (The Return of Raziel), in 1997 in Zabaltegi, the section in which two decades later he presented his first full-length film, Sipo Phantasma (Ghost Ship), after premiering it in Rotterdam. Oreina (The Deer) is his second feature film.

Elías León Siminiani (Santander, Spain, 1971), nominated for a Goya for Mapa (Map), is now presenting Apuntes para una película de atracos (Notes for a Heist Film). For her part, Nataliia Meshchaninova (Krasnodar, Russia, 1982), who competed in Rotterdam with her first full-length film, Kombinat ‘Nadezhda’ / The Hope Factory, focuses on the vet on a farm in Serdtse Mira / Core of the World. And after Ama Doren / Hold my hand, Ismet Sijarina in Nëntor i ftohtë / Cold November returns to the War in the Balkans, in this case to its background, when Kosovo’s autonomy was suppressed.

Hadrian Marcu (Brăila, Rumanía, 1976) will be presenting Un om la locul lui / A Decent Man, about a man who is torn by an emotional conflict, that was selected last year in the first Glocal in Progress, the industry activity at the Festival aimed at European films in non-hegemonic languages. It stars Bodgan Dumitrache, who won the Silver Shell for best actor last year for his performance in Pororoca.

The selection also includes the first film by Francisco Marise (La Plata, Argentina, 1985), Para la Guerra (To War), coproduced by the filmmaker, Javier Rebollo, who also takes part in the editing process, and the first film by Hiroshi Okuyama (Japan, 1996), the award-winning music video director, who makes his debut with Boku wa Iesu-sama ga kirai / Jesus.

The short by Inés María Barrionuevo (Córdoba, Argentina, 1980), La quietud (2012), competed in the official section at Locarno, and her first feature film, Atlántida (2014), was selected at the Berlinale in the Generation 14plus section. In Julia y el zorro (Julia and the Fox) she deals with a woman and her twelve-year-old daughter who are going through a mourning process. The director, producer and actress Lila Avilés (Mexico, 1982), after working in theatre and presenting shorts at international festivals, in her first full-length film, entitled La camarista (The Chambermaid), describes the everyday life of one of the  so-called ‘chambermaids’. 

After winning awards in his short-film career (with films like Teneriffa), Hannes Baumgartner (Männedorf, Switzerland, 1983) has been inspired in his first feature film Der läufer / Midnight Runner, by the true story of an athlete who starts to commit robberies and lead a double life.

Snow, the graduation film by Laurits Flensted-Jensen (Aarhus, Denmark, 1985), was selected at Rotterdam and was chosen as best documentary short by the Danish Academy. His fictional short Melon Rainbow was once again programmed at the Dutch festival and won the most important award at Odense. Neon Heart is his first full-length film.

After taking part in the Short Film Corner at Cannes with Grasshopper, the Vietnamese director Ash Mayfair (Ho Chi Minh City, 1985) is presenting her feature-film debut at San Sebastián with The Third Wife, whose screenplay was chosen by Spike Lee as the winner of his Spike Lee Film Production Fund Award in 2014.

The short film Luisa no está en casa (Luisa is not Home) by Celia Rico Clavellino (Seville, 1982) was chosen in the Short Film Corner at Cannes and at Venice and won the Gaudí award for best short. Her first full-length film, Viaje al cuarto de una madre (Journey to a Mother’s Room), whose screenplay took part in the Berlinale Talents Script Station Lab, stars Lola Dueñas and Anna Castillo. 

The remaining titles making up the New Directors section will be announced in the coming weeks. This section, forming part of the Festival’s commitment to upcoming film talents, is a platform that lends visibility to their films. The last three winners of the Kutxabank-New Directors Award have been released in Spain: Le nouveau / The New Kid (2015), Park (2016) and Le semeur / The Sower (2017).

The Kutxabank-New Directors Award, to be decided by an international jury, comes with €50,000 for the film’s director and distributor in Spain. Kutxabank’s sponsorship of the New Directors section comes as part of a wider participation, under which the financial institution continues to occupy its place this year as the Film Festival’s Official Collaborator.

The films screened in this section will also compete for the Youth Award, to be decided by a jury of 300 students between the ages of 18 and 25.

Apuntes para una película de atracos (Notes for a heist film) 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 him 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.

Boku wa Iesu-sama ga kirai / JESUS Hiroshi Okuyama (Japan)

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.

DER LÄUFER / MIDNIGHT RUNNER Hannes Baumgartner (Switzerland )

Jonas Widmer is one of the best runners in Switzerland and his focus is to attend the Olympic games. 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. After a true story.

Julia y el zorro (Julia and the fox) Ines María Barrionuevo (Argentina)

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. The days go gloomily by. Grief has made Julia quiet and cool with her daughter. 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

La Camarista (The Chambermaid) Lila AVILÉS (Mexico - USA)

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 grueling schedule. In keeping with this goal, she also enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program.

Nëntor i ftohtë / Cold November Ismet Sijarina (Kosovo - Albania - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

In the beginning of the ’90s, Yugoslavian Government cancelled the autonomy of Kosovo, dissolved its Parliament and closed down the National Television. Whole institutional life was reorganized by new authorities, while the majority of citizens responded with peaceful demonstrations. During this evil 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 welfare for his family.

Neon Heart Laurits Flensted-Jensen (Denmark)

Neon Heart is 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.

Oreina (The Deer) Koldo Almandoz (Spain)

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.

PARA LA GUERRA (TO WAR) Francisco Marise (Cuba - Argentina - Spain)

Para la guerra explores 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, this special forces veteran who tries to find his colleagues from the commando that survived their last mission 30 years ago.

Serdtse Mira / Core of the World Nataliia Meshchaninova (Russia - Lithuania)

Egor is a veterinarian on a rural farm which doubles as a hunting dog training center. 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.

The Third Wife Ash Mayfair (Vietnam)

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 tantalizing 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.

Un om la locul lui / A Decent Man Hadrian Marcu (Romania)

Petru is a drilling engineer living in a community of oil industry workers. Petru 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 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 with Sonia. He feels guilt-ridden but also responsible for the upcoming baby. Participant in the first edition of Glocal in Progress.

Viaje al cuarto de una madre (Journey to a mother’s room) Celia Rico Clavellino (Spain- France)

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 that they share starts to fall apart

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