Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’ to Open San Sebastian Film Festival

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Zhang Yimou’s One Second, a period drama set during the upheaval of China’s Cultural Revolution, will open this year’s San Sebastian International Film Festival and compete for the festival’s coveted Golden Shell.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye from The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, starring Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker, and Undercover, a French crime drama from director Thierry de Peretti (Apaches) starring Vincent Lindon and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, have also been added to San Sebastian’s competition line-up.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which looks at the rise, fall, and eventual redemption of the infamous televangelist, co-stars Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Jerry Falwell. Undercover is based on the late Hubert Avoine’s true-crime book L’Infiltré, written together with Emmanuel Fansten, about Avoine’s adventures as a crook-turned-informant who helped infiltrate Chapo Guzmán’s Mexican drug cartel.

One Second was initially set to premiere three years ago, in competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2019. But the movie was pulled just days before its scheduled release. The official reason was “technical difficulties encountered during post-production” but most observers assumed it was Chinese government censors at work.

While Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) is among the most celebrated of Chinese directors, the subject matter of One Second — the story of a prisoner sent to a desolate labour camp during the purges of the Cultural Revolution — was thought to be too controversial. After a yearlong struggle with the authorities, and reshoots in the Gobi desert in China’s Gansu Province, Zhang got a version of the film approved. Neon has picked up North American rights for One Second and art house film-streaming platform and theatrical distributor Mubi has snatched the film for the U.K., Ireland, Germany and Turkey.

Both One Second and The Eyes of Tammy Faye will screen at the Toronto Film Festival before heading to San Sebastian.

The 69th San Sebastian Film Festival runs Sept. 17-25.

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