A festival in transition

The San Sebastian International Film Festival in the years of change (1976-1985)

After Franco's death in 1975, the San Sebastian Festival saw one of the most vibrant and convulsive periods in its history: a decade marked by experimentation and democratisation, but also by profound instability.

This exhibition, developed by the team of the research project Zinemaldia 70: All Possible Histories, looks at some of the ruptures of these years through photographs preserved in the archives of the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the photo collection of Kutxa Fundazioa.

The convulsive 1976 edition, marked by the protests following the murder of the pro-amnesty demonstrator Josu Zabala by the Guardia Civil, made it clear that the Festival could not continue in its traditional form, fossilised after almost three decades under Franco. From 1977, the management of the Festival passed into the hands of the city of San Sebastian and its Steering Committee welcomed new voices: anti-Franco artists such as Nestor Basterretxea and Eduardo Chillida, representatives of neighbourhood associations and film clubs, and individuals committed to the survival of the event such as José Ángel Herrero-Velarde and Luis Gasca.

During these years, San Sebastian became a meeting point and a tribute to filmmakers exiled and censored by the Franco regime. The Festival broke with its elitist tradition and democratised its audiences by extending its screenings and talks to working-class neighbourhoods and municipalities all over the Basque Country through the "Barrios y Pueblos" section.  The screens opened up to new aesthetic and political codes by programming new creators such as Iván Zulueta and Pedro Almodóvar. The event was committed to new languages through pioneering initiatives such as the Video Festival, created and directed by Guadalupe Echevarria between 1982 and 1984. All this while the cinemas became sounding boards for ongoing struggles, from the Basque conflict to the insubordination movement, from the denunciation of Latin American dictatorships to the demands of feminist and LGTBIQ+ collectives.

In 1980, the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers) withdrew its highest accreditation from San Sebastian, which it did not regain until 1985. Although this period has often been recounted with the emphasis on this "loss", the aim of this exhibition is different: to invite us to think of these years of change as a crucial moment in which the foundations were laid for many of the hallmarks of the current San Sebastian Festival.

Curated and researched by: Pablo La Parra Pérez and Irati Crespo Manjarrés.

Documentation and cataloguing: Ana E. Redondo, Arantxa Giga, Andrea Sánchez and Lorena Soria.

This exhibition was co-produced by Kutxa Fundazioa, the San Sebastian International Film Festival and Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola. Adapted for its virtual presentation