Wayne Wang’s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” was the biggest winner at the 55th San Sebastian festival, taking the top Golden Shell for best pic, plus best actor for Henry O.
A character actor in the U.S., Henry O. puts in an engaging turn as as a Chinese father who laments his daughter’s free-wheeling lifestyle in the U.S.
San Sebastian jury decisions are often stomped by the local press. So jury chairman Paul Auster pulled off something of a feat on Saturday by drawing strong applause from Spanish critics for almost all plaudits.
Special Jury Prize went to “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame,” a micro-budgeted tale of child bullying and intolerance, directed by 19-year-old Iranian Hana Makhmalbaf.
Auster praised the drama’s “exquisite photography and a remarkable performance by child actress Nikbakht Noruz.” “Buddha” was “a promising debut by a film-maker who we think will go on to create important works,” he added.
Raising cheers, best actress went to Spaniard Blanca Portillo for her performance as a morally embattled ex-con in Gracia Querejeta’s “Seven Billiards Tables.”
The drama, which sees one of Spain’s premier distaff helmers exploring a lighter vein of humor, also shared best screenplay with John Sayles’ Alabama blues drama “Honeydripper.”
Almost the only prize sparking dissent from some Spanish critics was best director, which went to Nick Broomfield for “Battle for Haditha,” an intense re-creation of Marines running amok in Iraq.
Local money was on David Cronenberg taking director. His “Eastern Promises” left San Sebastian empty handed, but led critics polls with “Buddha.”
Fest’s major surprise, however, the popular fervor elicited by Lebanese beauty salon drama “Caramel” which swept the TCM Audience Award and Youth Award.
Of new or newish competish contenders, Iciar Bollain’s femme detective drama “Mataharis” won good marks from most critics. Simon Staho’s Daish drama “Daisy Diamond” proved a bleak portrayal of a single mother in moral freefall. Period murder mystery “Shadows in the Palace,” from Korea’s Kim Mi-jung, was sumptuous, and cunningly but unrelentingly plotted.
San Sebastian’s competish lineup was arguably a notch below last year’s, a recent high-point.
But this year’s 55th edition did achieve a delicate balancing act: it sourced enough world preems to satisfy the business press; it screeneda clutch of good-to-very-good competish pics to keep local scribes happy; and it brought in a brace of Hollywood stars – Richard Gere, Demi Moore and Samuel L. Jackson.
San Sebastian offered some small pic discoveries, led by Israeli revenge drama “Foul Gesture” and Spain’s “Suso’s Tower,” a warm and witty homecoming drama.
But Gere and company made it San Sebastian’s glitziest edition in years. Battling to maintain itself near the head of Europe’s other festivals after Berlin, Cannes and Venice, San Sebastian can be expected to attempt to raise its glam factor even more in the future.
Fest ran Sept.20-29.
(Maria Alvarez Rilla and Emilio Mayorga contributed to this report)
And the winners are:
“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” (Wayne Wang, U.S.)
SPECIAL JURY AWARD
“Buddha Collapsd Out of Shame,” (Hana Makhmalbaf, Iran)
SILVER SHELL, BEST DIRECTOR
Nick Broomfield, “Battle for Haditha,” (U.K.)
SILVER SHELL, BEST ACTRESS
Blanca Portillo, “Seven Billiards Tables,” (Spain)
SILVER SHELL, BEST ACTOR
Henry O., “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”
Charlie Lam, “Exodus” (Hong Kong)
Gracia Querejeta and David Planell, “Seven Billiards Tables” and John Sayles, “Honeydripper” (U.S.)
OTHER MAIN PRIZES:
ALTADIS NEW DIRECTORS AWARD
“Soul Carriage,” (Conrad Clark, China, U.K.)
TCM AUDIENCE AWARD
“Caramel,” (Nadine Labaki, Lebanon, France)
“The Pope’s Toilet,” (Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone, Uruguay, Brazil, France)
FIPRESCI (INTL. CRITICS’ ASSN) PRIZE
“Encarnacion,” (Ahnai Berneri, Argentina)
“La extranjera,” (Fernando Diaz, Argentina)
“Gasolina,” (Julio Hernandez Colon, Guatemala)
FILMS IN PROGRESS INDUSTRY AWARD
CINEMA IN MOTION AWARDS
“Salt of this Sea,” (Annamarie Jacir, France, U.S., Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, U.K.) and “Recycle,” (Mahmoud Al Massad, Jordan)
“Vita de Giacomo,” (Luca Governatori, France)