It was Javier Marías who, angrily (of course), once attacked the recurring journalistic obsession with pointing out the sex of films. The columnists in the culture section of the newspapers want to take away the jobs of the chicken sexers, the ill-fated and bad-tempered writer was saying. The 71st edition of the San Sebastián Festival kicks off today, Friday, in the best possible way with the European premiere of ‘The Boy and the Heron’ (The Boy and the Heron), Hayao Miyazaki, and -there we are- with the most sought after news by the editors of the ‘sextions‘of culture: there is parity. Or almost. Of the 17 films in competition for the Golden Shell, eight of them have a female director in the corresponding box. Taking into account that there are two productions with double authorship, the result is eight women compared to 10 men and one non-binary person. And one more fact: the three Spanish films in the running are made by women. For the first time, three out of three. 100%.
Without a doubt, and with permission for the excessive presence of Josu Ternera y the notable absence of Hollywood stars Due to the strike of actors and scriptwriters, this is the most outstanding feature of the current edition of a contest that is increasingly aware of its place; of its place both in the panorama of Spanish cinema and its relevance in the conglomerate of international competitions. With Toronto on its way to extinction and the Berlinale in its eternal process of searching for itself, Zinemaldia is now what it always wanted to be. and, furthermore, happy at the challenge of becoming the third most important event after Cannes and Venice.
The official section, consequently, is offered this year not so much full of names as of ideas and intentions. To begin with here, that this year the representation of Spanish cinema is supported by the names of Isabel Coixet, Isabel Herguera and Jaione Camborda It’s quite a symptom. If in previous seasons the emergence of women has been the determining factor in a real change in forms and attitudes at the hands of directors such as the National Film Award winner Carla Simón, it is good that in 2023 this transformation takes center stage from the very beginning.
Coixet was always there. She is the reference after having been the exception for years and, consequently, it seems fair that she should be her adaptation of Sara Mesa’s novel ‘One Love‘the most outstanding and anticipated production of those competing. It’s a winning bet. The text, disturbing and uncomfortable, fits like a glove to the raw exploration of intimacy that presides over the director’s filmography. Alongside her, Camborda offers in her second film, ‘The cuckold’, which seems like a vademecum of what we understand by Spanish cinema right now: peripheral, sensual, fiercely truthful cinema and women’s cinema. And then there is Herguera with the most extreme proposal: animation from a deeply original and even exotic point of view. And feminist, of course. The sultana’s dream is called.
Reviewing the international names in the official section also provides a lot of insight into the new modes. To cite three examples, ‘All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt’, of Raven Jackson, is a feminine, lyrical journey, very far removed from the classic patterns of fabulation, through a Mississippi in the form of a myth; ‘Inverse‘, from the Swedish Isabella Eklöf, It is presented as an investigation of trauma from an immense, white Greenland transformed into an intimate and devastated landscape, and ‘The Royal Hotel‘ is the new work of the author of ‘The assistant’,Kitty Green, convinced that the new narrative involves questioning the woman’s body. And so.