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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 New Directors

Review: The Deer

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Following documentary Sipo Phantasma, Basque director Koldo Almandoz shifts gear with his second film, a more narrative, straightforward and accessible piece of filmmaking

Review: The Deer
Laulad Ahmed and Patxi Bisquert in The Deer

Just days before its release in Spanish cinemas, the 66th San Sebastián International Film Festival has hosted a screening of Koldo Almandoz’s second film, The Deer [+see also:
trailer
interview: Koldo Almandoz
film profile
]
, in the New Directors Section. The Basque director’s first full-length film, documentary Sipo Phantasma [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, a fusion of reverie and cinephilia, was embraced by the festival circuit two years ago — with stops in Rotterdam and, indeed, San Sebastian (Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Section) — leaving a trail of commendation in its wake.

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With The Deer Almandoz is dancing to a different tune: it’s a narrative film, if an unconventional one, which adheres much more closely to the established vocabulary, norms and structure of fiction. While his debut led the viewer aboard the titular ship for a voyage through otherworldly seas, here we are invited to roam the countryside and waterways surrounding the city of San Sebastián, where raw nature coexists with the traces of a ghostly industrial past.

The landscape of this peripheral zone is both strange and surprising, a no-man’s land that at the same time is home to lifelong inhabitants, young people from other parts now perfectly integrated into the indigenous population and kids desperate to get out of a place they find claustrophobic, even if it’s in their blood.

As we follow the protagonist, a Basque biker of Moroccan descent trying to scrape a living by wheeling and dealing from the back of his motorcycle, we meet various other characters who symbolise ancient, irresolvable conflicts, like the two brothers (one a poacher, one an intellectual struggling with his sexuality) who share a house but not a way of life.

All of these elements, complemented by the beautiful natural setting that ultimately sets the tone of a film that dotes on it, are rallied by Almandoz to the task of reaching an audience that has never even heard of Sipo Phantasma, albeit with a plot that sometimes feels a little uninspired. The Deer’s slow, deliberate and contemplative place, however, is not the most enticing overture to its undeniable charms.

The Deer, written and directed by Koldo Almandoz and starring Laulad Ahmed, Patxi Bisquert, Iraia Elías, Erika Olaizola and Ramón Aguirre, was produced by Basque company Txintxua Films. It is set for release in Spain this Friday, 28 September, distributed by Golem.

(Translated from Spanish)

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