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Eleven first and second films to compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award

All of the films in the section will compete for a prize of 50,000 euros


Eleven productions from nineteen countries will compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award at the San Sebastian Festival, whose 71st edition will run from 22 to 30 September. Of the total selected movies, seven are first works, while the rest are the second films by their authors, as announced today to the press by the director of the San Sebastian Festival, José Luis Rebordinos, and the director of Kutxabank’s network in Gipuzkoa, Marta Madinabeitia.

Figuring among those competing with their second full-length films is the actor, director and screenwriter Liang Ming (Yichun, China. 1984), whose feature debut, Wisdom Tooth (2020), garnered acclaim at several international festivals. The moviemaker will open New Directors with Xiao Yao You / Carefree Days, the adaptation of Ban Yu’s homonymous novel following a young patient as she tries to find her place in the world.

Also to show his second film is Daichi Murase (Shigaraki, Japan. 1997), who, having directed several shorts and the feature-length Roll (2020), will now bring Kiri no Fuchi / Beyond the Fog, which will be the closing film of the New Directors section. The filmmaker proposes the intimate portrait of a family who have been running a boarding house in a remote mountain village for generations. 

With his debut, À l’ouest de Pluton / West of Pluto (2008), Henry Bernadet (Quebec City, Canada.  1977) participated in various international festivals including Rotterdam and Zurich. Now, in Les Rayons Gamma / Gamma Rays he brings the audience a generational portrait of a group of youngsters who live in Montreal.

In addition, New Directors will also include a second film of Spanish production, La estrella azul / The Blue Star, already announced, by Javier Macipe (Zaragoza, 1987). The movie takes a fictional approach to the story of the musician from Zaragoza Mauricio Aznar, founder of bands such as Golden Zippes, Más Birras and Almagato. His first movie, Los inconvenientes de no ser Dios (2014), earned Macipe the best debut film award at Zaragoza Film Festival. He has also directed fiction shorts including Gastos incluidos (2019) and Os meninos do rio (2014), both finalists at the Goyas.  

The other moviemakers included in the selection will compete with their debut films. Filmmaker Farhad Delaram (Teheran, Iran. 1988) will therefore participate in New Directors with his first inroads to the world of feature films, Ashil / Achilles, about a young moviemaker who works in a hospital and whose life changes after meeting a mysterious young girl.  

The first work from Askhat Kuchinhirekov (Almaty, Kazakhstan. 1982) is entitled Bauryna salu, the name given to an ancient nomad tradition whereby the firstborn child is handed over to the grandparents for them to look after it instead of its parents. Prior to moving behind the camera, Kuchinhirekov has worked as an actor and assistant director on titles including Tulpan (2008) and Aika (2019), by Sergei Dvortsevoy, which won the Un Certain Regard Award and Best Actress Award at Cannes, respectively.

Taylor Russell, Ewan McGregor and Ellen Burstyn star in Mother, Couch!, the debut film from Niclas Larsson (Malmö, Sweden. 1990). The film begins when three estranged siblings are brought together when their mother refuses to move from a couch in a furniture store.

A former screenwriter and editor, Ilia Malakhova (Saint Petersburg, Russia. 1973) now makes her feature film debut with Hi, mom, focused on the figure of Kira, a 38 year-old woman who has never recovered from her mother’s disappearance and who lives in the same house as her younger sister and her daughters.

Juan Sebastián Quebrada (Medellín, Colombia. 1987), who presented his graduation film Días extraños (2015) at Bacifi and his short film La casa del árbol (2017) at Toronto Festival, now shows his feature film debut, El otro hijo / The Other Son, which participated in the Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum while at the project stage in 2020. The Colombian moviemaker follows the steps of a young boy as he tries to find the strength he needs to keep living after the death of his brother.

With previous experience as an assistant director and novelist, moviemaker Diwa Shah (Nainital, India. 1995) debuts with Bahadur the Brave, a film set during the early days of the pandemic in an Indian village on the border with Nepal, where a Nepali immigrant tries to find the money to cure his sick son.

Last Shadow at First Light, also present in the selection, comes in the shape of the feature film debut from Nicole Midori Woodford (Singapore,1986), narrating the trip to Japan by a young girl who, tormented by repeated apparitions, sets out to find her missing mother. Her previous short films have participated in festivals including Busan, Clermont-Ferrand and Tokyo.

These eleven films compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award, coming with 50,000 euros to be divided equally between the director and the distributor of the film in Spain. The Kutxabank-New Directors Award is sponsored by Kutxabank, an official Festival collaborator. The Kutxabank-New Directors Award Jury has the task of viewing and deciding the winning film. Films in the New Directors section are also candidates for the TCM Youth Award, decided by a jury of 150 students between the ages of 18 and 25.

While New Directors is the example of San Sebastian Festival’s pledge to new talents, it is not alone; first and second movies are also programmed in almost all sections, and first works are screened in Nest, the competitive section for shorts by students from film schools all over the world. The Festival also heads, together with Tabakalera and the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola, the programme under which support goes to innovative audiovisual projects, Ikusmira Berriak, with its artist residencies programme.


Clients who have a Young Kutxabank Card will obtain a 50% discount on the purchase of tickets (except for Galas and Official Selection season tickets). Also, to reflect Kutxabank’s support of the Basque language, young clients can buy tickets for screenings in Basque or with Basque subtitles at the price of 1 euro (except in the Kursaal 1 sessions). Kutxabank will also distribute almost 1,000 tickets among its clients.

Xiao yao you / Carefree Days

Liang Ming (China)

Country(ies) of production: China

Cast: Lu Xing Chen, Li Xue Qin, Li Cong Xi, Ai Li Ya

[size=80]Opening Night Film[/size]

In Northeast China, Shenyang is a city decaying. Xu Lingling is a 25 year old girl suffering from uremia and her life has collapsed. In the height of her illness, her dissolute father has returned, with her best friend Tan Na and former classmate Zhao Dongyang, to take care of her. Though her life is suffering, facing the issues of family affection, love and friendship, she feels she still deserves to live. One day, Xu Lingling decided to for a trip, with Tan Na and Zhao Dongyang, they hit the road.

Kiri no Fuchi / Beyond the Fog

Daichi Murase (Japan)

Country(ies) of production: Japan

Cast: Shuri Miyake, Masaki Miura, Shinzo Hotta, Asami Mizukawa

[size=80]Closing Night Film[/size]

A quiet hamlet hidden in the remote mountains village of Japan. In this hamlet once lively with hikers and shops, we meet Ihika, a 12-year-old born into a family that has run an inn for generations. Her father has been living apart for a few years. Saki, Ihika’s mother who married into this family, has been managing the inn with Shige, her father-in-law. One day, Shige disappears. As the inn’s survival is threatened, a time of change is coming to for Ihika’s family.

Ashil / Achilles


Country(ies) of production: Germany - Iran - France

Cast: Mirsaeed Molavian, Behdokht Valian, Roya Afshar, Neda Aghighi

A young filmmaker who now works in a hospital takes a mental patient out for a short ride to later find out who she really is. Now he has to decide whether to run away with her or take her back to the hospital.

Bahadur the Brave

Diwa Shah (India)

Country(ies) of production: India

Cast: Rupesh Lama, Rahul Mukhia

A nationwide lock-down is imposed in India during the coronavirus pandemic. While all Nepalese migrant labourers are boarding the vans to leave for their country, Hansi sees this as an opportunity to earn more money for his ailing son in the emerging labour crises. His brother-in-law, Dil Bahadur, offers him illegal work in a godown.

Bauryna salu

Askhat Kuchinhirekov (Kazakhstan)

Country(ies) of production: Kazakhstan

Cast: Yersultan Yermanov

Following an old nomadic tradition ’bauryna salu’, a boy Yersultan, was given after his birth to be raised by his grandmother. He grew up with a resentment and a disconnection from his parents. When he turns 12, his grandmother dies and he has to move back with his family which he barely knows. Yersultan’s coming of age process coincides with an unbearable transformation and an attempt to restore the relationship between him and his parents, especially his father.

El otro hijo / The Other Son

Juan Sebastián Quebrada (Colombia)

Country(ies) of production: Colombia - France - Argentina

Cast: Miguel González, Ilona Almansa, Jenny Navarrete

Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum 2020 

Federico and his brother Simon live their teenage years to the fullest, until the day Simon dies by falling from a balcony at a party. While his family falls to pieces before his eyes, Federico tries to live a normal life during his final weeks of school. Unable to mourn, he starts to grow closer to Laura, his dead brother’s girlfriend and seems to find comfort in her.

Hi, mom

Ilia Malakhova (Russia)

Country(ies) of production: Russia

Cast: Daria Saveleva, Aglaya Tarasova, Anna Osipova

Kira is 36. She works at the Pulkovo Airport call centre and lives with her younger sister Vera and her daughters. A couple years ago, their mother kicked the sisters out of the house and later disappeared. It’s time for Kira to accept that her mother is dead and move on: get the death certificate, claim her inheritance and start living separately from her sister and nieces. A new life awaits her. But Kira does not want to change anything and dreams only of her mother coming back.

La estrella azul / The Blue Star

Javier Macipe (Spain)

Country(ies) of production: Spain - Argentina

Cast: Pepe Lorente, Cuti Carabajal, Bruna Cusí, Marc Rodriguez, Mariela Carabajal, Noelia Verenice Díaz

The 90s. A famous Spanish rock star travels around Latin America in the endeavour to reconnect with his vocation. There he meets an old musician down on his luck, prompting the birth of an unlikely duo with every chance of becoming an epic commercial failure.

Last Shadow at First Light

Nicole Midori Woodford (Singapore)

Country(ies) of production: Singapore - Japan - Slovenia - Philippines - Indonesia

Cast: Masatoshi Nagase, Mihaya Shirata, Mariko Tsutsui, Peter Yu

Ami, haunted by recurring apparitions, embarks on a journey from Singapore to Japan in search of her missing mother. Amidst the transforming landscapes, Ami’s dreams, hauntings and lost mother unveil their true form. 

Les Rayons Gamma / Gamma Rays

Henry Bernadet (Canada)

Country(ies) of production: Canada

Cast: Chaimaa Zinedine, Chris Kanyembuga, Yassine Jabrane, Hani Laroum, Océane Garçon-Gravel

Abdel’s quiet life is upended by the arrival of his extraverted cousin, who’s staying for the summer. Fatima craves a more stable life since she’s starting a new job as a supermarket cashier. Toussaint, while fishing, finds a bottle washed up on the shore, and there’s a message inside. Straddling the line between fiction and documentary, Les Rayons Gamma / Gamma Rays is a dramedy filmed with young, non-professional actors from immigrant communities.

Mother, Couch!

Niclas Larsson (Sweden)

Country(ies) of production: USA - Denmark -Sweden

Cast: Taylor Russell, Ewan McGregor, Ellen Burstyn

Taylor Russell, Ewan McGregor and Ellen Burstyn star in this story of three estranged children who are brought together when their mother refuses to move from a couch in a furniture store.


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