San Sebastian Main Competition: Cristi Puiu, Noah Pritzker, Joachim Lafosse, Robin Campillo Make the Cut

San Sebastian Main Competition: Cristi Puiu, Noah Pritzker, Joachim Lafosse, Robin Campillo Make the Cut

July 7, 2023

A bevy of established auteurs – Joachim Lafosse, Cristi Puiu, Robin Campillo and Martín Rejtman – rub shoulders with the fast-rising figures of Maria Alche and Benjamín Naishtat and new U.S. discovery Raven Jackson among a first batch of directors contending in main competition at September’s San Sebastian Film Festival. 

Also in the mix, announced Friday, is U.S. writer-director Noah Pritzker (“Quitters”) whose “Ex-Husbands” headlines “After Hours” co-stars Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette. 

Always open to a broader gamut of movies than many other “A” festivals, the first features confirmed for San Sebastian on Friday include four comedies with a change of register to lighter comedy for both Naishtat and Alche, who triumphed at 2017’s San Sebastián with “Rojo” and “A Family Submerged,” best director and Horizontes winners respectively. 

The biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world – which means ever more as Spanish-language titles hit big viewerships on streaming platforms – San Sebastian will announce its Spanish titles on July 17, which look set to include some of the most awaited national titles of the year, film and TV, and one or two surprises. 

The San Sebastian Festival runs Sept. 22-30. 

Details of the first main competition “Sección Oficial” movies are below:   

“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” (Raven Jackson, U.S.)

Produced by Barry Jenkins, the debut feature of poet, photographer and filmmaker Raven Jackson, a lyrical exploration of the life down the decades of a Black woman in Mississipi. “The arrival of an arresting new talent in Raven Jackson, at the very least as the creator of the kind of cinema you do not watch as much as touch and smell and taste,” Variety wrote of “All Dirt Roads” off its Sundance world premiere.

“Ex-Husbands,” (Noah Pritzker,” U.S.)

Griffin Dunne (“This Is Us”) stars with his “After Hours” co-star Rosanna Arquette (“Pulp Fiction”) along with Miles Heizer (“13 Reasons Why”), James Norton (“Little Women”) and Eisa Davis (“Mare of Easttown”) in the ensemble cast of comedy “Ex-Husbands,” from U.S. writer-director Noah Pritzker (“Quitters”). Dunne plays a father overwhelmed by life – impending divorce, his father’s maybe final illness – who takes a getaway to Tulum.  

“MMXX,” (Cristi Puiu, Romania) 

The latest from Puiu, whose “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” won a Cannes Un Certain Regard Award in 2005, and is considered a foundation stone of Romania’s New Wave. An ensemble drama turning on a therapist, her younger brother and her husband and a police inspector of organized crime, all obsessed by personal issues But, says the synopsis, they stand “at the crossroads of history.” From Puiu, whose 2020 Berlinale Encounters opener “Malmkrog” took the strand’s best director award.

“The Practice,” (“La Práctica,” Martín Rejtman, Argentina, Chile, Brazil)

An Argentine yoga teacher living in Chile separates, loses his flat, injures his knee, gives up yoga, goes to the gym, and, typical for Rejtman, adapts to circumstance, sometimes absurd.   “It’s a comedy about the yoga world. It’s been over 20 years since I started practicing yoga so I’m pretty sure that unconsciously I’ve been preparing myself to do this film for more than two decades,” Rejtman told Variety.

“Puan,” (Maria Alche, Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina, Italy, Germany, France, Brazil)

A tale of farcical academic rivalry set at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Buenos Aires, known as “Puan,” which builds to a state of the nation take on an Argentinian “society that may finally be starting to acknowledge its own place in the world,” says Naishtat. Luxbox announced world sales rights just before Cannes. “Rojo” also took actor (Dario Grandinetti) and cinematography (Pedro Sotero) at San Sebastián, sparking a rave Variety review.

“Red Island,” (L’Ile Rouge,” Robin Campillo, France, Belgium)

Thrust into the limelight by 2017’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” a Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, Campillo’s “Red Island,” inspired by Campillo’s personal memories, was released in France late May by Memento Distribution to some warm reviews though more limited box office. San Sebastián offers an international platform. A coming of age story set in 1960-70 Madagascar at one of the last French military bases abroad, “Red Island” turns on an eight-year-old, a fan of comic book hero “Fantômette” who gradually wakes up to the ambiguities of adult life and the realisation of that childhood and France’s colonial era are both ending. Playtime sells.  

“A Silence,” (“Un Silence,” Joachim Lafosse, Belgium, France, Luxembourg)

The latest exploration of imploding family dynamics from Lafosse, one of Belgium’s best-known auteurs, whose 2021 Cannes competition contender “Restless” sparked rave reviews. Here, Lafosse turns to the theme of abuse, with Emmanuelle Devos as Astrid, the wife of a renowned lawyer (Daniel Auteuil) who has kept her silence for 25 years. Best performance award potential, if those in “A Silence” are on a par to “Restless.” Sold by Les Films du Losange.

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