don siegel: first steps as long as they are short m.g.   This year's Donostia Zinemaldia Special Section is about Don Siegel (1912-1991) the US director. Along with directors Robert Aldrich, Richard Fleischer, Samuel Fuller, Sam Peckinpah, Richard Brooks and Nicholas Ray, he was part of the ¨violent generation¨ which has not, until now, received all the recognition it deserves.

Don Siegel, like almost all the cinema makers of the time, started off on the lowest rung of the ladder. But he very soon showed that he had a special talent for editing. He edited a lot of films. His style was known for being direct and fast, giving films rhythm and taking stories forward by creating ellipses in time with a skill that led to the big studios giving him work. Casablanca is one of those films. But Siegel was dying to move from the editing table to directing. But the studios didn't offer him films. As he was fairly obstinate, in the end the studios offered to let him make a short film. But before doing that he received a contract to make another short film. Siegel, like Atxaga's character, made two short films in a short period.

Hitler lives (1945)
With that striking title, Don Siegel created 17 minutes of war propaganda for the US government. He showed the risks of the war that had just finished. He reminded people that German society was still sick and cruel and, using violent images from the Second World War, the documentary announced that each German was, in fact, a little Hitler. Thanks to his skill at editing, the result of this commissioned job, made using only archive footing, was well worth watching.

A Star in the Night (1945)
In this short, fictional film we are told the story of some characters who go to a motel in the middle of a desert following a bright star. In this collective story, the editing hardly matters. The characters' conversations and ups and downs are what really count. This short film is half road movie, half Christmas story. Siegel showed his skill in getting to the heart of the story right from the start. Clint Eastwood, one of his favourite actors, and who appears in many of his films, said of him: "With Don I learnt to film what needs to be filmed live, without getting hung up about silly details, seeing what needs to be seen in time and filming it. It sounds easy, but not many people know how to do it".

And Eastwood wasn't trying to please a friend by saying this. Because in 1946 Siegel achieved what nobody else had managed to. His two short films won Oscars: Hitler lives in the documentary category, A Star in the Night in the fiction category.

That's when Siegel started his career as a director. He made all sorts of films: B movies, for example the mythical Invasion of the Body Snatchers and, in a different register, Elvis Presley's Flaming Star, in the 60's and 70's he made film noir and new police films (the Harry series with Eastwood)… But to see all of this, you've got an unbeatable chance at Donostia Zinemaldia. We'll be paying attention to those first two steps Siegel took, which were as important as they were short.