San Sebastian International Film Festival

All the Spanish Films (and There are Many) that You Can Watch in this Edition

09/18/2019 · By Daniel Mesa
San Sebastian Festival Venue

A new edition of the San Sebastian International Film Festival (SSIFF) kick starts on Friday 20th. Spanish cinema has an outstanding presence in this year’s program, one of the most eclectic to date with thrillers, science fiction films, TV series, and documentaries. These are the films you can’t miss.

From September 20-28, San Sebastián will become the international epicenter of cinema. The festival’s 67th edition is supporting Spanish cinema with a total of fourteen entries in all the festival’s sections, although only three of them will compete in the Official Selection for the Concha de Oro award: The Endless Trench, While at War, and A Thief’s Daughter.

The honorary Donostia Award goes this year for Penelope Cruz (1974), a recognition that will join an outstanding list including an Oscar for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), three Goya awards, a BAFTA, and an Honorary Caesar award. Here are all the Spanish films featured on the festival.

  • While at war, by Alejandro Amenábar Official selection

Amenábar competes for the first time in San Sebastian with a film focusing on the last months in the life of Miguel de Unamuno —starting at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War—, a role played by three-times Goya Award winner Karra Elejalde. While at War is not a typical biopic but the reenactment of a historical event that spilled rivers of ink: the day the Bilbao-born writer forever turned his back on Franco’s government in the face of the bloody consequences of the conflict and the imprisonment of some of his colleagues.

  • The Endless Trench, by Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and Jose Mari Goenaga Official selection

The directors of Handia and Loreak compete in the festival with this drama film based on real events occurred during the Spanish Civil War. The film stars Belén Cuesta and Antonio de la Torre as Higinio and Rosa, a freshly–married couple whose lives are seriously threatened when the war breaks out. Helped by his wife, Higinio digs a hole into their own home as a provisional hiding place, where both will remain for 30 years.

  • A thief’s daughter, by Belén Funes Official selection

Funes draws inspiration from her award-wining debut short film Sara a la fuga to tell an intimate and heartbreaking story starring Eduard Fernández and Greta Fernández, father and daughter in real life. Sara wants to form a family with her young brother and the father of her child. But she will have to make a dramatic decision when her father reappears after his release from prison.

  • Seventeen, by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo Official selection (Not in competition)

The new film by the director of Primos ​​follows lonely Héctor (Biel Montoro), a teenager who has spent two years at a juvenile detention center. His life takes an unexpected turn when he decides to undergo dog therapy. Héctor creates a very strong bond with a dog called Oveja, which gets adopted by a family. Two months before completing his stay at the centre, Héctor escapes to look for it. A tender adventure for both animal lovers and for the most skeptical. Other cast members include Nacho Sánchez, Iñigo Aranburu and Kandido Uranga.

  • The innocence, by Lucía Alemany — New directors

Lis is a young woman who dreams of becoming a circus artist, even if she knows that to do it she will have to fight her side against her parents. It's summer and Lis —played by the very young first-timer Carmen Arrufat— spends her days playing in the street with her friends and flirting with her boyfriend, a few years older than herself. This has caused constant gossip from her neighbors, which forces her to keep their relationship secret. Towards the end of summer, an event will turn Lis’ life upside down.

  • Jordi’s letters (Documentary), by Maider Fernández Iriarte New directors

Jordi is 51 years old man who suffers from cerebral palsy. However, he doesn’t consider himself to be ill. Although he can’t speak, he tries to communicate using his letter chart. At 21, he felt God talking to him for the first time. But today, after moving from his parent’s house and into a home, he no longer feels God and his absence makes him feel empty. A non-fiction film about the love to God by filmmaker and educator Fernández Iriarte.

  • The prosecutor, the president and the spy (TV Series), by Justin Webster — Zabaltegi-Tabakalera award

The director of the award-winning docs Muerte en León and El fin de ETA returns with a new documentary series about Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. During his investigation of the terrorist bombing against the AMIA building (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association), Nisman accuses Argentine president, Cristina Fernández, of conspiring with Iran. Four days later, Nisman is found dead in his bathroom with a single shot to his head, unleashing all kinds of conspiracy theories around the world as to whether it was suicide or murder.

  • The golden legend (Short Film), by Ion de Sosa and Chema García Ibarra — Zabaltegi-Tabakalera award

The directors of Sueñan los androides return with a short film halfway between traditional cinema and science fiction, a genre that has become their trademark. The short film revolves around a day in the municipal swimming pool of Montánchez (Cáceres). While people swim and sunbathe, up in heaven Our Lady of Consolation is keeping a watchful eye. Everything can happen.

  • Lursaguak / scenes of life (Short Film), by Izibene Oñederra — Zabaltegi-Tabakalera award

Izibene Oñederra is the creator and producer of her own handmade animated films. For her third time in the festival she presents a short film exploring the concept of culture, which, as Hélène Cixous would say, “is being undermined by millions of moles of a species never seen before.” We’re overwhelmed by curiosity!

  • Urpean Lurra (Medium-length film), by Maddi Barber — Zabaltegi-Tabakalera award

Barber immerses viewers quite literally into the havoc caused by the building of the Itoiz dam two decades ago, flooding seven villages and three natural reserves on Pyrenean hillside in Navarra. The ecologist group Solidari@s with Itoiz registered on video the fight against its construction. Today, those who were there dream of the land lying beneath the water. Their voices come together in this documentary to tell the individual and collective mourning still suffered today.

  • Fire will come, by Oliver Laxe — Perlak award

Winner of the Un Certain Regard section’s Jury Prize and best sound creation at Cannes, Laxe's second film is featured in the Perlak section along with Cannes Palm d’Or winner (Parasite, by Bong Joon-ho) and Berlin’s Silver Bear winner for best actor and best actress (So long, my son, by Wang Xiaoshuai). The film tells the story of Amador, who returns home from jail after serving time for having caused a fire. There, in an isolated village in the Serra dos Ancares, in Lugo, he lives peacefully with his mother, Benedict, his dog Luna and their three cows until a violent fire razes the area to the ground.

  • Turu, the wacky hen (Animation), by Víctor Monigote and Eduardo Gondell Velodrome

Turuleca is no ordinary hen. Her rather strange appearance is met with mockery from the other hens, until one day, Isabel, a former music teacher, takes her to live on her farm, where she lives happily in harmony. There Turuleca will discover her amazing secret talent. One of the festival’s best proposals for children.

  • Perfect Life (TV Series), by Leticia Dolera Velodrome

Actress and director Leticia Dolera returns in style with a TV series starring Celia Freijeiro, Aixa Villagrán, Font García, Manuel Burque and Dolera herself. The eight-episode series revolves around the lives of three women pushing 40 in full existential crisis.

  • Adiós, by Paco Cabezas — RTVE Gala

After his role in Carne de Neón, Mario Casas repeats with the international Sevilla-born director in this thriller alongside Natalia de Molina, Ruth Díaz and Calos Bardem. Juan (Mario Casas), a third-degree prisoner and family man, is allowed to attend her daughter's First Communion in Seville. But the accidental death of the girl uncovers a whole network of corruption and drug trafficking.