Early September’s Venice Festival celebrated the restart of cinema theater attendance. Opening six days after Venice ended, as second-wave COVID- 19 forced parts of Madrid back into semi-lockdown, 2020’s on-site San Sebastian Festival, normally a convivial, festive event, was a more sober affair as the festival politely but firmly enforced sanitary protocols and Europe’s industry calibrated the cost of the pandemic.
More bullishly, industry leaders - Netflix, Warner Bros., Atresmedia Cine - talked up the fundamentals of Spanish-language production, TV and film, which remain strong. Following, five takeaways from San Sebastian, which wraps with a prize gala tomorrow Saturday night.
Levying the Streamers: An $0.5 BillionDollar Question for Europe
COVID-19 cost Europe’s film and TV sectors €10 billion ($12 billion) just for 2020, the European Audiovisual Observatory’s Gilles Fontaine announced at this year’s San Sebastian European Film Forum. E.U. film pre-finance, worth just under €2.0 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2019, would plunge to just over €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in 2021, the major hit coming from imploding cinema theater distribution he added, going on to say that he doubted whether streaming platforms, at their current rate of investment in European movies, would take up that slack. So maybe they should be forced to. At the Film Forum, Alvaro Longoria president of
the European Producers Club, a lobby of Europe’s biggest independent film producers, called on European Union governments to ensure that global OTT services are obliged to invest at least 25% of their European Union turnover in European works. His demand met with widespread support.
Late Fest Biz
Deals and deal announcements, did go down, many towards the end of the festival taking in the Basque cinema, emerging as one of Spain’s most vibrant film industries:
*Paris-based Pyramide Production will co-produce Helena Bengoetxea’s documentary Matryoshkas. Girls of War, teaming with Basque Country’s Haruru Filmak and Sincro Producción. It plumbs into the lives of five now 90-something women who fled northern Spain during the Civil War and live in exile in the USSR and finally in Cuba. Sincro’s David Berraondo, Pyramide’s Isabelle Neuvialle and Haruru’s Rubén Marcilla produce.
*Barton Films, the top Basque Country distributor, is handling distribution rights to Alberto Vázquez toon feature project Unicorn Wars, from Spain’s Abano Producións and UniKo and France’s Autour de Minuit and Schmuby. France’s Charades sells the film worldwide, scheduled for a 2022 release.
*Barton will also distribute the feature film documentary The Century of Galdós, by co-writer-director and producer Miguel Ángel Calvo Buttini at Salto del Eje. A co-production with Spanish pubcaster RTVE, Galdós is sold by Onza Distribución outside Spain.
*Producer Leire Apellániz, a leading light in the resurgence of Basque Cinema, has joined forces via her San Sebastian-based company Señor & Señora with France’s La Fábrica Nocturna to produce Pablo Hernando’s One Whale, an eco drama toplining Ingrid García-Johnson, Ramón Barea and Eneko Sagardoy, ready for delivery by next year.
*This time via Apellániz & de Sosa outfit, Apellániz re-teams with Marina Perales’ La Fábrica Nocturna in Sacred Spirit a Ufology story written and directed by Chema García Ibarra. Spain’s Jaibo Films also co-produces.
*Limoges-based Leitmotiv Production is teaming with Vitoria’s Sonora Estudios to co-produce Iban Ayesta Aldanondo’s creative documentary Nomadic Loves, about transhumance, a millennia-old way of life that still lives on.
*In other late festival news, involving companies outside the Basque Country, Marta Nieto, star of Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Oscar-nominated Mother, will headline Tres from another Spanish Academy Award nominee, Juanjo Giménez (TimeCode).
*Daniel Birman Ripstein at Mexico City-based Alameda Films has inked with sales agent Urban Films for the Mexican remake rights to Josué Ramolorenas psychological thriller Bajo la rosa, whose U.S. redo rights were optioned last year by Chris Hemsworth’s Thematic Entertainment.
*A Contracorriente Films’ Adolfo Blanco confirmed to Variety an acquisition deal with The Match Factory on Michel Franco’s dystopian social thriller New Order, winner of Venice’s Grand Jury Prize.
What Was Missing
With just a score or more of filmmakers arriving from Latin America, on site industry attendance came in at 776 delegates 50% of a normal year. The online pitches and industry prizes served to highlight a clutch
of titles - Benjamin Naishtat’s Pobre Pibes, Manuel Nieto’s The Employer and the Employee, for example - now being circled by sales agents. What was missing were the chance meetings which serve as a vital source of rapid market intelligence and wordof- mouth that serve to build buzz on titles and are essential to a full-on film business. “The market was very quiet, obviously San Sebastian wasn’t the same as usual without the cocktails and restaurants where we bump into many buyers. But we still managed to see a lot of people, the work-inprogress were great,” said Samuel Blanc, at The Party Film Sales.
All attendees will be praying for a full on on-site event next year.
JOHN HOPEWELL, EMILIANO DE PABLOS, ELSA KESLASSY