• Festivals

Women Highlighted in New Director Section at San Sebastián

At the 70th San Sebastián International Film Festival, which takes place from September 16-24, eight of the 13-title lineup of films in the New Directors section are directed by women. Nicaraguan director Laura Baumeister and Danish director Katrine Brocks are among them.

The San Sebastián International Film Festival, the highest-profile film festival in the Spanish-speaking world, highlights emerging talent in its New Directors section. This year, eight of the thirteen titles are directed by women.

Among the participants is Nicaraguan director Laura Baumeister, whose film project Daughter of Rage was awarded the €20,000 EFADs-CAACI Europe-Latin America Co-Production Grant in San Sebastián in 2019.


“We really needed to find a way to give voice to this country, which has no cinema history and has no industry, and we needed to amplify it,” says Laura Baumeister, whose film is the first movie ever directed in Nicaragua by a Nicaraguan-born woman. “You need allies, and this was a platform that helped us amplify this voice in 2019. “

Laura Baumeister is pleased to see so many women in her section but points out that she personally has not felt any extra hardship simply because she was a woman.

“It is a tricky question because there are no cinema opportunities in Nicaragua,” says Laura Baumeister. “That is a fact. It has nothing to do with gender. There is no industry. There is no funding. There is no school. “

Female Protagonists

Women also serve as protagonists in most of the films directed by women in the New Directors section. In Thunder, by Swiss director Carmen Jaquier, the emancipation of a young nun is at the heart of the story. In To Books and Women I Sing, directed by Spanish director To Books, the focus is on women and literature. In Le Grand Marin, directed by Russian director Dinara Drukarova, a woman fulfills her dreams of becoming a fisherwoman in Iceland.


Women are also the protagonists in Laura Baumeister’s debut attribute, Daughter of Rage. It follows 11-year-old Maria (Ara Alejandra Medal), who lives with her mother, Lilibeth (Virginia Sevilla), in a shed close to a huge rubbish dump. Lilibeth struggles to make ends meet in a rough environment, where she has to gather and repurpose refuse and sell it by night. Living in poverty and without much hope, Lilibeth nevertheless seeks to instill a sense of pride in her daughter as she prepares her for a life of fighting to stay afloat. When Lilibeth travels to town to settle debts, she is forced to leave Maria at a place where children sort garbage for resale.

“I also had abandonment issues with my mother and we have worked through them,” says Laura Baumeister, who also wrote the script. “My mother was a revolutionary in Nicaragua and very involved in this and a founder of the feminist movement, so she had a path. So I had to find my way in the world.”

Laura Baumeister finds it highly important that female directors get a chance to get their projects done.

“It matters in the sense that I believe that there is a new wave of women’s cinema. It is not so much that we make movies about certain topics. It has to do with the fact that we have inherited a struggle for parity that has put us in a place that now we are gaining new spaces and we are seeing that we have the right to be there and we are going to take it. Because of course we have stories to tell. “

Role Models in Denmark

Danish director Katrine Brock’s film The Great Silence has its world premiere in San Sebastián. Unlike Laura Baumeister, she can point to a long list of female directors from her own country such as Lone Scherfig, Susanne Bier and May el-Toukhy, who are role models for young female directors in a country that has a long tradition of filmmaking.

“May won for best director for Queen of Hearts,” says Katrine Brock about the Robert Award, the Danish equivalent to the Oscar, which May el-Toukhy won in 2020. “She went on stage and said that this was the first time a woman had won this award and it made a huge impression on me, because I was not aware of it. It exemplified how important it is to have these role models.”

Katrine Brocks, who also co-wrote the script with Marianne Lentz, went to the National Film School of Denmark. Fifty percent of the students there were female, she points out.

“For many years, the qualities you looked for in a director have been traits traditionally viewed as masculine, “she says. “I compared myself to an ideal of always being on top the situation, always knowing what to do, and being assertive and strong all the time. But I think I am much more of the kind of director who asks questions. I don’t have all the answers. I figure out where to go by talking to my collaborators, so I think it has just taken a while for me to understand that that is also a legit way of being a director. “

Motivated by San Sebastián

The Great Silence follows Alma (Kristine Kujath Thorp), who is a few days from taking her vows as a nun in a Catholic convent in Denmark when her brother Erik (Elliott Crosset Hove) turns up to claim his share of the family inheritance after their father’s passing. Mother Miriam (Karen-Lise Mynster) welcomes Erik to stay at the convent and Alma is forced to be confronted by traumatic experiences from her past.

“You could tell that (the audience) were engaged in the story because they were reacting so spontaneously,” says Katrine Brocks about the reaction at the world premiere of her debut film. “Some people came up to me in tears and it gives me the chills to think about it because we worked on this film for three years, and suddenly to see that it has an impact on people – that means everything.”

Making a film is hard work. Katrine Brocks admits it was daunting to start a new project from scratch again. But being at the film festival at San Sebastián is inspiring for the 32-year-old director.

“It is such a great feeling,” says Brocks.  “Obviously when you work on a film for so many years, you can reach a point where you feel fatigued. Do I feel ready to buckle up and do this again? But the bottom line is, that for me it is a huge privilege to be able to make films, and right now I cannot wait to start working on the next one.”

Fact box:

13-title lineup of New Directors:

Carbide, Josip Zuvan, Croatia,

Carbon, Ion Bors, Moldova,

Daughter of Rage, Laura Baumeister, Nicaragua,

Le Grand Marin, Dinara Drukarova, Russia,

The Great Silence, Katrine Brocks, Denmark,

Jeong-sun, Jeong Ji-hye, South Korea,

Nagisa, Takeshi Kogahara, Japan,

On Either Sides of the Pond, Parth Saurabh, India,

Roleless, Masahiko Sato, Japan, Yutaro Seki, Japan, Kentaro Hirase, U.S.,

Spare Keys, Jeanne Aslan, Turkey, Paul Santillan, France,

Thunder, Carmen Jaquier, Switzerland,

Tobacco Barns, Rocío Mesa, Spain,

To Books and Women I Sing, Maria Elorza, Spain