SAN SEBASTIAN– Catalan Isaki Lacuesta’s “The Double Steps” won the Golden Shell on Saturday at an upbeat 59th San Sebastian Film Festival, the first under new director Jose Luis Rebordinos.
A Mali-set, genre-blending movie — part road movie, part Western, part portrait of Spanish painter Miquel Barcelo — “Steps” bamboozled some critics but also attracted fervent admirers.
San Sebastian’s other big winner was Greek Filippos Tsitos’ comedic drama “Unfair World,” about an idealistic cop, which won both director and actor (Antonis Kafetzopoulos).
Julie Delpy’s “Skylab,” a ’70s-set comedic family reunion tale, nabbed a Special Jury Prize.
Accepting an applauded plaudit, Spain’s Maria Leon picked up best actress for her performance in Benito Zambrano’s “The Sleeping Voice,” a powerful two sister meller set in Spain’s heartlessly repressive post-Civil War.
Though locked out of major prizes, a clutch of pics went over well: Terence Davies’ adultery period drama “The Deep Blue Sea,” with Rachel Weisz; the heartwarming young brothers tale “I Wish,” from Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, which took best screenplay; Arturo Ripstein’s “The Reasons of the Heart,” a highly literate, Mexico-set “Madame Bovary” adaptation; and Enrique Urbizu’s noirish crime thriller “No Rest For the Wicked,” which led a Spanish critics’ poll.
As so often at San Sebastian, sidebar world preems offered discoveries: Sandra Sanchez’s “Behind the Lights,” a docu on the grinding life of gypsies running a fair ground; Chilean Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ haunting countryside-set drama “By the Fire;” Ignacio Ferreras’ toon pic “Wrinkles,” an original senior citizen buddy movie; David Trueba’s period chamber drama “Madrid, 1987.”
Another buzzed-up new title was social comedy “Pescador,” Sebastian Cordero’s punchy Colombian road movie.
Jan Zabeil’s “The River Used To Be A Man,” a South Africa-set survival tale, won the Kutxa New Directors’ Euros90,000 ($123,000) cash award.
Dexter Flexter’s “Wild Bill,” a Cockney criminal family drama nabbed the public-voted Euskaltel Youth Award.
Prizes were announced Cannes-style during fest’s Saturday night closing gala, rather than at the traditional afternoon press conference.
This year’s edition saw multiple other tweaks: a spatter of genre pics; 17 Spanish world preems, no less; and a bevy of crossover (Julie Delpy’s “Skylab,” Ana Katz’s “The Marziano Family”) or even upstream mainstream titles (Benito Zambrano’s “The Sleeping Voice,” Oren Moverman’s “Rampart”) playing Competition and beyond.
The general quality of Spanish films was, moreover, up on recent years.
Rebordinos is also laying the foundations for a larger industry presence. For producers, fest’s biggest innovation this year was a Mexico-Basque Country Co-Production Meeting, a possible dry run for a significant Europe-Latin America co-prod forum in 2012.
World preeming out of competition, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s Gaumont-sold fest closer, an across-the track’s friendship comedy “Untouchable,” went down like a hour on fire with the local press.
Fest ran Sept. 16-24.
Emilio Mayorga contributed to this article
WINNERS OF THE 59TH SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL
“The Double Steps,” (Isaki Lacuesta, Spain)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Skylab,” (Julie Delpy, France)
SILVER SHELL, DIRECTOR
Filippos Tsitos (“Unfair World,” Greece)
SILVER SHELL, ACTRESS
Maria Leon (“The Sleeping Voice,” Spain)
SILVER SHELL, BEST ACTOR
Antonis Kafetzopoulos, (“Unfair World”)
Ulf Brantas (“Happy End,” Sweden)
Hirokazu Kore-eda, (“I Wish,” Japan)
OTHER MAIN PRIZES:
KUTXA NEW DIRECTORS’ AWARD
“The River Used To Be A Man,” (Jan Zabeil, Germany)
NEW DIRECTORS AWARD, SPECIAL MENTIONS:
“A Beautiful Valley,” (Hadar Friedlich, Israel, France)
“Still Life,” (Sebastian Meise, Austria)
TCM AUDIENCE AWARD
“The Artist,” (Michael Hazanavicius, France)
TCM AWARD, EUROPEAN FILM
“Where Do We Go Now?” (Nadine Labaki, France, Lebanon, Italy, Egypt)
“Las acacias,” (Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina, Spain)
HORIZONTES, SPECIAL MENTION
“Miss Bala,” (Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico);
“Historias que so existem quando lembradas,” (Julia Murat, Brazil, Argentina, France)
EUSKALTEL YOUTH AWARD
“Wild Bill,” (Dexter Fletcher, U. K.)
FILMS IN PROGRESS AWARDS:
FILMS IN PROGRESS INDUSTRY AWARD
“7 Cajas,” (Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schembori, Paraguay)
CASA DE AMERICA AWARD
“Clandestine Infancy,” (Benjamin Avila, Argentina, Spain, Brazil)
CINEMA IN MOTION AWARD
“The Last Friday,” (Yahya Alabdallah, Jordan)
FIPRESCI INTL. FEDERATION OF FILM CRITICS’ PRIZE
“Blood of My Blood,” (Joao Canijo, Portugal)
TVE OTHER LOOK AWARD
“Nader and Simin, A Separation,” (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
OTHER LOOK, SPECIAL MENTION
“Blood of My Blood,” (Joao Canijo, Portugal)
“I Wish,” (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)