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‘Liverpool’ wins at Gijon festival

Event closes with 'Midnight Kiss'

“Liverpool,” from Argentina’s Lisandro Alonso, took best feature at Spain’s Gijon Festival Saturday, which closed Saturday with “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” from U.S. helmer Alex Holdridge.

Both pics reflect the state of the indie scene, and the new direction the fest has taken.

When director Jose Luis Cienfuegos relaunched Gijon in 1995, he drew on American indie greats: Gregg Araki, Todd Haynes, Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley and Todd Solondz have all visited Gijon, mostly for tributes.

Since then, the Spanish-speaking world has created its own neo-indie movement: the studiously paced, contemplative, sometimes painterly films of Jose Luis Guerin, Marc Recha, Carlos Reygadas and Alonso himself.

A slice-of-lifer, “Liverpool” follows a 50-ish merchant sailor who, after years at sea, returns home to Tierra del Fuego.

The pic exemplifies pretty well Gijon’s overall selection: “a risk-taking film, which make few concessions,” Gijon jury member Alex Brendemuhl said Saturday, justifying the film’s top plaudit.

Meanwhile, under ever greater commercial pressures, as Tom DiCillo lamented in Gijon back in 2001, the U.S. indie scene has largely slid ever-more mainstream.

“Kiss” is distribbed in the U.S. by IFC, with distribution consultancy services from John Sloss at Cinetic Media. In industrial terms, you can’t get much more contempo U.S. indie than that.

“Kiss” has its edge, sumptuously shot in b/w, quirky humor, but its plot proved conventional enough — a blind date from hell — to allow it to play to a rousing reception Saturday night with Gijon’s good and great, who packed out fest’s closing ceremony.

Most major Gijon kudos went to movies that have resisted the slide toward mainstream.

Michael J. Smith and Jim Myron Ross won actor and Tarra Riggs actress for their perfs in Lance Hammer’s Mississippi Delta-set family drama “Ballast,” a film that Hammer distributed himself in the U.S.

Sergey Dvortsevoy won director for the near docu “Tulpan,” about a young man’s courtship of a potential wife in rural Kazakhstan.

According to “Liverpool” co-producer Luis Minarro, present at the prize announcement, the Gijon plaudit, worth Euros40,000 ($52,000) will allow Spanish distributor Sagrera to boost the number of prints for the pic’s February release from one or two to four or five.

That still highly limited print run, even with a prize, underscores an irony at Gijon.

Tastfully chosen by Cienfuegos, Gijon’s competition played to SRO crowds. Such was the competition for seats that, in a country where much goes down to the wire, screenings were packed a full 10 minutes before a film starts.

But the same crowds in Spain that flock to festivals, coldshoulder many of their films on their commercial release.

Gijon hasn’t one private-sector arthouse.

Some major arthouse titles — Lucrecia Martel’s “La Mujer sin cabeza, for instance — screen in Gijon at its Cines Centro multiplex.

Otherwise, local film buffs have to look to once weekly subtitled films at a municipal cinema, Gijon Sur, or to film cycles sponsored by Caja Astur, a regional savings bank.

Gijon’s Cines Hollywood, a privately owned miniplex, occasionally screened arthouse films. It closed.

And the winners are:

PRINCE OF ASTURIAS PRIZE
“Liverpool,” (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina-Spain-France-Netherlands-Germany)

DIRECTOR
“Tulpan,” (Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany-Switzerland-Kazakhstan-Russia-Poland)

ACTOR
Michael J. Smith and JimMyron Ross (“Ballast,” U.S.)

ACTRESS
Tarra Riggs (“Ballast”)

SCREENPLAY
Sylvie Verheyde (“Stella,” France)

ART DIRECTION
Yoni Goodman, (“Waltz With Bashir,” Israel-France-Germany)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“35 Shots of Rum,” (Claire Denis, France)

PRINCE OF ASTURIAS, SHORT FILM
“Love,” (Cristian Solimeno, U.K.)

OTHER PRIZES:

NON-FICTION/DOCUMENTARY PRIZE
“I Want to See,” (Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Lebanon-France) and “Z 32,” (Avi Mograbi, Israel-France)

FIPRESCI PRIZE
“A Week Alone,” (Celina Murga, Argentina)

YOUTH JURY, FEATURE
“Waltz With Bashir”

ENFANTS TERRIBLES, FEATURE FOR UNDER-13s
“The Three Investigators: The Secret of Skeleton Island” (Floria Baxmeyer, Germany)

ENFANTS TERRIBLES, FEATURES FOR OVER-12s
“Des poupees et des anges,” (Nora Hamdi, France)

ASTURIAS DAY, SHORT
“Venciu,” (Santos Hevia, Spain)

PRINCE OF ASTURIAS NEW DIRECTORS’ PRIZE
“Viejos perdedores,” (Ruben Ordieres, Spain) and “Sin Lupe,” (Mario Fernandez Tardon, Spain)

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