Occasionally the archives turn into fertile ground for inventing and creating the possible. In spring 1960, Luis Buñuel travelled to Paris to put the finishing touches to the credits for his Mexican production La joven (The Young One), which would be presented shortly afterwards at the same edition of the Festival de Cannes as the premiere of Carlos Saura’s Los Golfos (The Delinquents). His time in France was decisive in enabling him to obtain, thanks to the diplomatic influences of his friend Francisco Rabal and several visits to the Parisian consulate, the visa allowing him to return to the country of his birth for the first time after more than 20 years in forced exile.
A few days after crossing the border, the San Sebastian Festival, busy with the preparations for its eighth edition, hinted at a teaser for its opening: the historic possibility of including among its guests a filmmaker who had left his country for political reasons. The Festival archive still has the hand-written letter sent by the moviemaker from Calanda from the Plaza Hotel in Madrid to the then Mayor of San Sebastian and president of its Executive Committee, declining his invitation given that “on 21 June I leave for Mexico where I am required to attend to my professional affairs”. Buñuel’s response must be read between the lines: at that time, his professional affairs included the possibility of co-producing and filming Viridiana (1961) in Spain, hence his desire to avoid any public exposure with the potential to endanger his project.
It wasn’t until seventeen years later that Luis Buñuel would make his first visit to the San Sebastian Festival where he was paid tribute in the shape of a retrospective and a Golden Shell in recognition of his career. A political gesture, far removed from all invention and this time more possible than ever, by a festival in full swing of an immense transformation in the wake of Franco’s death.