Asian flicks vie for top prize at San Sebastian

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Asian flicks vie for top prize at San Sebastian

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain - Spain’s San Sebastian International Film Festival opened Friday supplying a dose of terror and comedy, with a clutch of Asian films in the running for top prize.

The Sept. 16 to 24 festival, the oldest and most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world, boasts some big talent despite being trimmed by a day since 2009 because the economic crisis has cut funding.

Korean, Japanese and Chinese works are among the 16 films in the official selection vying for the Golden Shell in this coastal city of Spain’s northern Basque country.

Renowned Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s horror film “Amen” follows a woman who seeks her boyfriend across Europe but is raped and robbed, then pursued by her attacker.

Tokyo-born director Hirokazu Koreeda, a top name in Japanese cinema, enters his film “Kiseki” (“I Wish”), about a young boy separated from his brother by their parents’ divorce who dreams of a miracle after a bullet-train line is completed between their mother’s and father’s home cities.

Rounding out the Asian competitors, Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai’s “11 Flowers” is another film centered on a young boy - this time an 11-year-old confronted with a wounded runaway murderer who asks for his help.

American film and stage actress Frances McDormand, who won an Academy Award for “Fargo,” will chair the official selection jury at the 59th edition of the festival.

The festival culminates with the world premiere of “Intouchables,” an out-of-competition comedy about a friendship between a millionaire tetraplegic and his ex-convict carer, written and directed by French duo Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache.

Glenn Close, 64, one of Hollywood’s most feted actresses, will receive a lifetime achievement award and present her film, “Albert Nobbs,” set in 19th-century Ireland, in which she plays a woman who disguises herself as a man to get a job in a hotel.

She received the festival’s Donostia Award for her film career yesterday. The Donostia Award has been given each year since 1986. Past recipients include Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere and Woody Allen. Last year’s winner was Julia Roberts.

Others attending include French actress Catherine Deneuve, who will join a retrospective of the work of Jacques Demy.

Meanwhile, Jose Luis Rebordinos, who is running the festival for the first time this year, said money was tight. The festival is struggling to invite big stars and needs up to 3 million euros ($4 million) more, he said Friday.

Sponsorship income had climbed by just over 300,000 euros this year, boosting an overall budget of more than 7 million euros, he said in an interview with the AFP.

The number of stars at the festival was up, too, he said, and the extra money would go on travel and hotels.

“Of course the crisis affects us, but we have to fight to get more money because this festival needs a bit more money. So we have to look for sponsors, we will have to see what we can do,” Rebordinos said.

The tight budget had no impact when selecting films, he said.

But “it influences you when it comes to bringing people in - people from the films who get noticed as much as people from the industry,” the festival director said.

Both the stars who give the festival publicity and industry workers such as distributors were important to the festival, he said.

“Bringing these people means a lot of money and that is the problem for San Sebastian - that we need an extra 2 to 3 million euros to be able to operate comfortably, to be able to invite a lot of people and bring everything possible,” Rebordinos said.

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