Woody Allen Tunes Into San Sebastian Opening Presser From New York: “This Dreadful Pandemic Has Really Ruined Everything”

The 68th edition of Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival gets underway tonight with the world premiere screening of Rifkin’s Festival, Woody Allen’s latest movie.

The filmmaker was unable to jet into the fest due to ongoing pandemic disruption, appearing at the opening press conference via video link from New York. While San Seb won’t have its usual cohort of A-list names, several recognizable faces are heading to Spain in the coming days, including Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortensen, and Matt Dillon, with most of the guests arriving from Europe.

Rifkin’s Festival is set during a fictional edition of the San Sebastian fest and also shot in the town. Allen told press today that he was disappointed not to be returning for his premiere.

“The most delightful part of working on this film was that my family and myself could spend months in San Sebastian,” he commented. “Our heart is broken that we can’t come back now for the festival. But this dreadful pandemic has really ruined everything.”

A controversy-free presser saw questions largely focused on Allen’s inspiration for the movie (“the outstanding thing I recalled about San Sebastian was the film festival”), and the filmmaker was also drawn into discussing his take on the health of the indie film industry versus when he first set out in his career some five decades ago.

“I see no reason why there wouldn’t be great auteur filmmakers now, there are some very fine filmmakers today that would be perfect colleagues and peers of those masters,” he commented. “There are some serious filmmakers that make excellent, very fine films. Some of them do very well, some of them do less well than the commercial films. We live in an age where blockbuster films make hundreds of millions of dollars, this was unheard of before, but the same equation used to hold true – the commercial films made more money.

“But it starts not to pay for the cinemas to show the smaller films because they make so much more money with the bigger films. So the smaller, more serious filmmakers are struggling to get distribution. It will always be that way, but nevertheless the ones who are honest will emerge, their movies will be seen, on a lower flame but on a longer burning flame than the commercial films, which make a lot of money but you never hear of them again. The cosmetics change but the principal remains the same.”

Asked about his opinion on the Spanish cinema industry, Allen replied, “Spain is one of the great European contributors to cinema. [Pedro] Almodovar films are inspiring to the entire film industry.”

Allen was joined in the presser by his cast members Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon and Elena Anaya.

Gershon joked that the most challenging thing about shooting the movie in San Sebastian was “not gaining ten pounds” due to the quality of the food, while Anaya sent a message of support for cinemas – “go back to theaters”, she urged the public.

Rifkin’s Festival screens for the public tonight, and San Seb runs through September 26.

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