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San Sebastian festival director talks about Covid measures, gender equality and Johnny Depp | Characteristics

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José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastián International Film Festival (September 17-25), reveals why finances will be tighter in its second pandemic edition, fighting for gender equality and his backlash surprise to honor Johnny Depp.

One year after hosting the festival during the Covid-19 pandemic, how have you prepared for this year’s edition?

The Covid further complicates matters. Most of the measures are still in place: there will be no parties; the red carpet will be reserved for photographers and television cameras; wearing a mask will be compulsory indoors; and occupancy is limited. What makes the difference this year is the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated. This dramatically reduces concerns about critical health threats. This, plus the same security strategy we adopted last year [mask wearing and pre-assigned seating in the theatres] will make the festival a safe environment.

In terms of projections, we had to plan for an occupancy rate of 50 to 60% in the theaters. Compared to last year, however, we have a higher percentage of professionals and guests attending – around 75% compared to 40% last year – so the number of tickets available to the regular audience will be more. small.

What was the financial impact of the pandemic on the festival?

Last year, the impact of covid restrictions on the festival’s box office was € 600,000 ($ 705,800) due to occupancy restrictions and € 700,000 ($ 823,500) for sponsorship. But there has also been a reduction in expenses in terms of the number of venues and invitations. [comprising flights and hotel fees] so it balanced out. This year it will be tighter due to more talent and professionals present.

What would you put forward in the composition of the competition?

I think this year’s official selection is a good example of what we’re aiming for: a balance between established writers, like Zhang Yimou, Terence Davies, Lucile Hadzihalilovic or Laurent Cantet, and new names. There are three first films in competition: Blue Moon by Alina Grigore, Like in paradise by Tea Lindeburg and Fire On the plain by Zhang Ji. We also have a very strong Spanish line-up and I’m very happy to see with the titles competing that we have almost reached 50% parity, with seven titles led by women and eight led by men. Last year a first film by a woman – Start, directed by Dea Kulumbegashvili – won the Golden Shell for Best Picture. Kulumbegashvili will chair the jury this year.

What is the role of film festivals in achieving gender balance in the industry?

It is evident that women’s access to industry is still a work in progress and we must do everything possible to push for change, festivals included. The fact that so many women have won the main awards on the festival circuit this year is a good sign, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Some key aspects include gender parity on selection committees and helping to channel new talent. An example of this in San Sebastian extends to the co-production forum, the student section and the new directors lineup, where we are particularly sensitive to achieving parity – aiming for change now and also films. future.

The announcement that Johnny Depp will receive the Honorary Donostia Award has been controversial. Why did you decide to give him the award and how far did you anticipate the reaction?

We were anticipating a debate, a reaction, but perhaps not as intense as it was. But let’s keep in mind that Johnny Depp was not arrested, charged or convicted of any form of assault or violence against a woman. I have nothing more to add. It’s not for me to judge what he looks like in life, in the same way that I don’t know if historically the award has been given to people with impeccable personal lives. The prize rewards a professional career.

All I can say about Johnny Depp is that it has been a pleasure to deal with him as a professional, like when he came in last year as the producer of the Julien Temple film. . Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan, and that he is an extremely talented actor, which he proved from his work with Tim Burton at Pirates of the Caribbean saga, from his work with Marlon Brando and many other big names in the film industry to some interesting choices as a producer. We started thinking about giving him a Donostia award a few years ago and when we met him last year we started discussing it more specifically.

San Sebastián is a festival that has not hesitated to select productions through streaming platforms. What can you say about it?

We select based on what we like, not who produces or format. It can be feature films or series, like that of Alejandro Amenábar La Fortuna [playing in official selection, out of competition]. The same goes for producers, they can be independent companies or streaming platforms.

This edition of the festival includes the first Netflix production in competition, Fever dream by Claudia Llosa. In the parallel sections there are two other Netflix productions: Jane Campion’s The power of the dog and that of Paolo Sorrentino God’s hand; as well as the Apple TV documentary The velvet metro by Todd Haynes. Spanish streamer Movistar + is behind Amenábar La Fortuna and we are delighted to find him at the festival, in the same way that we included Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s film Riot police Last year.


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