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Going, going, ‘Gone’

Agresti pic takes San Sebastian's Golden Shell

SAN SEBASTIAN — Reflecting the San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival’s traditionally broad programming focus, juries at the premier Spanish event’s 46th edition honored entries from the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia.

The fest’s highest honor, the Golden Shell, went to director Alejandro Agresti’s Patagonia-set comic allegory on the state of his native Argentina, “With the Wind Gone.”

The announcement of the prize by jury president Jeremy Thomas was met with a chorus of boos from the press corps, who saw the pic as one of the fest’s lesser entries, and by protests of foot-stomping and whistling during Saturday’s Busby Berkeley-inspired closing ceremony.

Jury deadlocked

More warmly received was the Special Jury Award split between Bill Condon’s “Gods and Monsters,” a fictionalized retelling of the dramatic fadeout of classic horror helmer James Whale, and French director Robert Guediguian’s James Baldwin-inspired drama about interracial teenage lovers drawn closer together by a false accusation of rape, “A la Place du Coeur.”

Condon’s feature, which will be released in the U.S. through Lions Gate, also earned the best actor award for Ian McKellen, while Gallic feature “Late August, Early September,” by Olivier Assayas, secured best actress honors for Jeanne Balibar.

Perhaps the most unanimously popular choice was the Silver Shell for best director to 30-year-old Spaniard Fernando Leon de Aranoa for “Barrio,” a poignant, often humorous slice of life in a bleak working-class neighborhood of outer Madrid focusing on three teenage friends.

Leon de Aranoa’s screenplay also picked up the literary, audiovisual and media writers’ Alma Award and the prize from national scriptwriters circle CEC.

Japanese director wins

San Sebastian’s lucrative New Directors Prize awarded by a separate jury to a first or second feature went to Japanese newcomer Yoichiro Takahashi’s lyrical drama “Fishes in August,” about an unconventional romantic triangle. A special mention also was given to Berlin-based Irish filmmaker Eoin Moore’s resourceful debut, “Break Even.”

The presentation of the cash prize worth $165,000 to a film from Japan for the first time was significant in a year when San Sebastian highlighted both the glorious past of Japanese cinema and the promise of its future in films like “Fishes in August” and Hirokazu Koreeda’s “After Life,” which won the Fipresci international critics award.

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