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San Sebastian: ’Underground,’ ‘The Sower’ ‘Killing Jesus,’ ‘Princesita’ Make New Directors Cut

Variety logo Variety 7/18/2017 John Hopewell
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MADRID — Daniel Palacio’s “Underground,” Marine Francen’s “The Sower,” Laura Mora’s “Killing Jesus” and Marialy Rivas’ “Princesita” are among 13 first titles announced by Spain’s San Sebastian Festival for its New Directors section, the biggest sidebar at the Spanish-speaking world’s highest-profile film event.

Sponsored by the Basque Country’s Kutxabank, New Directors carries a €50,000 ($57,600) cash prize for the director and Spanish distributor of the winning film. It also serves to highlight some outstanding debuts or second films of the year: Pedro Almodovar, Olivier Assayas, Danny Boyle, Walter Salles, Nicolas Winding Refn and Laurent Cantet have seen early titles in its line-up.

Inevitably, the films also say something also about the zeitgeist, captured often by disaffected directors seeking to make their mark with bold visions of youth and its discontents.

Produced by Cannes Competition regular Brillante Mendoza, for instance, Daniel Palacio’s Philippines-set “Underground” weighs in as a grounded cemetery-set young family drama come grave heist thriller that recalls Luis Buñuel’s “Land Without Bread” in its near surreal social squalor.

Produced by Les Films du Worso (“Timbuktu,” “Stranger by the Lake”) “The Sower,” Francen’s debut, is a love story set in a lower Alps hamlet in 1852 as Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops round up all its men, free-thinking Republicans, leaving the women alone. As the years wear on, their finding a man to sire children becomes not just an emotional but economic necessity. Celluloid Dreams handles international sales.

In general, multiple films describe young characters attempting to break free from family or social expectation, the pressure to conform, or a brutally repressive historical context.

A high-profile Spanish-language pick-up at Cannes, made by Latido Films, “Killing Jesus” zeroes in on a red hot issue in post-conflict Colombia: the desire for vengeance. Inspired by real events in director Mora’s life, it turns on a 22-woman whose father is assassinated before her eyes. She tracks down his assassin, determined to kill him.

“‘Killing Jesus’ asks if victims’ revenge solves personal situations. In the end, it doesn’t solve anything at all,” Diego Ramirez, at 64-A Films, “Killing Jesus’” lead producer, said at Cannes.

Produced by Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain’s Fabula, and one of the most-awaited Chilean films of the year, “Princesita” marks Rivas’ follow-up to Sundance winner “Young & Wild.”

Seen in rough-cut at San Sebastian in 2015, it charts once more a girl’s rebellion against her deeply religious upbringing. But this is more violent: the girl in question is an 11-year-old, chosen to carry her sect leader’s child.

In “Ravens,” an increasingly psychotic father tries to force his young son to take over the failing family farm. Sold by Celluloid Dreams, it marks the feature debut of Sweden’s Jens Assur, winner of a Clement Ferrand Grand Prix and Tribeca Fest best short film award for 2006’s “A Dog in Ruanda,” and the 2012 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award.

Co-written by Rebecca Zlotowski (“Planetarium”), one of France’s most admired young women directors, “The Price of Success” details a a stand-up comedian battle to make it, despite the opposition of his family. Tahar Rahim (”A Prophet”), Roschdy Zem (”Days of Glory”) and Maiwenn (“Polisse”) head a first-class cast.

In such a social context, coming of age is a wrenching affair. “Blue My Mind,” a drama fantasy from actress-turned-director Lisa Bruehlmann, turns on a 15-year-old girl suffering the full wrenching force of bodily change as she struggles to fit in.

If there are families or institutions, they are disintegrating.

“Cargo,” from Belgium’s Gilles Coulier, weighs in as a family drama is which three brothers battle each other, as they struggle to save their family’s fishing business.

Produced by Taiwan’s Swallow Wing Films, “A Fish Out of Water” charts the emotional distress of family break-up as a kid, just starting kindergarten, asks his separating parents to find his past-life parents.

In the “Seeds of Violence,” a young soldier anonymously reports his commanding officer for violence, suspects his brother-in-law has beaten his sister.

Directed by China’s Wang Feifei, “From Where We’ve Fallen” is an ensemble drama of a society broken apart by infidelity, greed, exploitation and rancor.

And the past is being swept away. In “Tigre,” a geographical allegory directed by Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra, a woman returns to her family home on a island in Argentina’s Tigre Delta to discover that “everything has changed,” a short synopsis runs. Drainage machines are reshaping the island, and the sea water is rising.

Also selected for New Directors, “Alberto Garcia-Alex. La Linea de la Sombra” is a documentary take on the Spanish portrait photographer, a chronicler of modern Spain, its artists, rockers, bikes and outcasts.

Further New Directors titles will be announced in the run-up to the Festival. The 65th San Sebastian Festival runs this year at the slightly later dates of Sept. 22-30.

2017 65TH SAN SEBASTIAN NEW DIRECTORS SECTION

“Alberto García-Alix, La línea de la sombra,” (Nicolás Combarro, Spain)

“A Fish out of Water,” (Lai Kuo-an, Taiwan)

“Blue My Mind,”  (Lisa Bruehlmann, Switzerland)

“Cargo,” (Gilles Coulier , Belgium, Netherlands, France)

“From Where We’ve Fallen,” (Wang Feifei, China)

“Matar a Jesús,”  (Laura Mora, Colombia, Argentina)

“The Price of Success,” (Teddy Lussi-Modeste, France)

“Princesita,”  (Marialy Rivas, Chile, Spain, Argentina)

“Ravens,” (Jens Assur, Sweden)

“The Sower,” (Marine Francen, Francia)

“The Seeds of Violence,” (Lim Tae-Gue, South Korea)

“Tigre,” (Silvina Schnicer Schlieman, Ulises Porra Guardiola, Argentina)

“Underground,” (Daniel Palacio, Philippines)

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