SAN SEBASTIAN — In a surprise turn, Czech Bohdan Slama’s “Something Like Happiness,” an ensemble working class drama, emerged as the big winner at the 53rd San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival, taking its Golden Shell, plus best actress for young Czech star Anna Geislerova.
Announced by a beaming jury president Anjelica Huston, “Something’s” top plaudit drew timid whistles at the packed press conference Saturday.
Slama’s third pic, “Something” had hardly registered with local scribes who were tipping Michael Winterbottom’s “A Cock & Bull Story” and Stephane Brize’s “Je ne suis pas la pour etre aime” for major prizes. Both went away empty-handed.
With San Sebastian’s competish proving solid but hardly spectacular this year, few titles gave Spain’s often passionate local scribes much to get fired up about.
Father-son drama “Sunflower” drew moderate applause winning best director for mainland China’s Zhang Yang. Pic’s versatile d.p., Jong Lin, won best photography.
In a crowded field, the jury’s best actor went to Spaniard Juan Jose Ballesta for his wide ranging perf as a reform school teen in Alberto Rodriguez’s “7 Virgins.”
Tristan Bauer’s post-Falklands War “Enlightened By Fire” took a Special Jury Prize.
“Enlightened” divided critics with naysayers talking up another Argentine competish pic, Fabian Bielinsky’s “The Dawn.”
Its lede, Ricardo Darin, who plays a taciturn heist-obsessed taxidermist, was one favourite for best actor. Another, Jesper Christensen, for his imposing turn as a harrowed university lecturer in Per Fly’s “Manslaughter.”
Low on star-power — barring Huston, Terry Gilliam, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Donostia awardees Willem Dafoe and Ben Gazzara — San Sebastian’s 53rd edition will go down as one of the calmest in years.
As ever, a major attraction was the fest’s large critical mass of Spanish-lingo pics, playing in its Zabaltegi and Horizontes Latinos sidebars. Of new titles, standouts included Spain’s “El taxista ful” and “Aupa Etxebeste!” plus Chile’s “La sagrada familia.”
“Taxista” proved the fest’s most popular prize-winner, garnering a mention from the Altadis New Directors jury. The most unpopular winner, taking the Fipresci prize, was Gilliam’s “Tideland.” Gilliam ruffled feathers accusing journos who walked out of the pic’s press screening of being “stupid.”
With the international sales biz proving increasingly tough, sales agents now use any venue to further deals.
Fest saw a splaterring of niche biz on competish titles and between Spanish sales agents and Latin American or Latino buyers. Alta took Spain on “Je ne suis pas…” and “Summer in Berlin,” which won Wolfgang Kohlhaas a best screenplay prize. Vertigo snapped up Spain on “Cock & Bull.”
Sogepaq sold DVD and pay TV rights on a four-pic package to the U.S.’s Venevision. New U.S. distrib Alternativa took U.S. DVD rights on Ventura Pons’ Latido-sold “Idiot Love.”
Fest ran Sept. 15-24.
“Something Like Happiness,” (Bohdan Slama, Czech Republic, Germany)
SPECIAL JURY AWARD
“Enlightened by Fire,” (Tristan Bauer, Argentina)
SILVER SHELL, DIRECTOR
Zhang Yang, “Sunflower,” (China)
SILVER SHELL, ACTRESS
Anna Geislerova, “Something Like Happiness”
SILVER SHELL, ACTOR
Juan Jose Ballesta, “7 Virgins” (Spain)
Jong Lin, “Sunflower”
Wolfgang Kohlhaase, “Summer in Berlin” (Germany)
ALTADIS NEW DIRECTORS AWARD
“Gravehopping,” (Jan Cvitkovic, Slovenia)
TCM AUDIENCE AWARD
“Holy Lola,” (Bertrand Tavernier, France)
“Toro negro,” (Carlos Armella, Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio, Mexico)
MONTBLANC NEW SCREENWRITERS AWARD
Kang Yi-kwan, “Sa-Kwa” (South Korea)
VOLKSWAGEN YOUTH AWARD
“Aupa Etxebeste!” (Asier Altuna, Telmo Esnal, Spain)
FIPRESCI (INTL. CRITICS’ ASSN) PRIZE
“Tideland,” (Terry Gilliam, UK)
“Sud Express,” (Chema de la Pena, Gabriel Velazquez, Spain)
CICAE 2005 PRIZE
“Alex,” (Jose Alcala, France)
FILMS IN PROGRESS TECHNICAL INDUSTRY AWARD
“Forbidden to Forbid,” (Jorge Duran, Brazil)
CINEMA IN MOTION CNC AWARD
“O jardin do outro homen,” (Sol de Carvalho, Mozambique)