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In the second big prize announcement by a Directors’ Fortnight partner, “The Mountain” (“La Montagne”), from emerging French auteur Thomas Salvador, has won the SACD Prize, awarded by France’s Writers’ Guild for the best French-language movie in the section.

The second feature of the French actor-director after 2017’s promising “Vincent,” selected for San Sebastian’s prestige New Directors section, ”The Mountain” is sold internationally by Le Pacte which will also handle distribution in France.

From a screenplay written by Salvador and Naila Guiguet, which was selected for Critics’ Weeks’ Next Steps 2020, “The Mountain” turns on Pierre, 40, played by Salvador, who makes a sales pitch for his company’s robotic arm in Chamonix, the capital of the French Alps.

When his colleagues return to Paris, he stays on, pitching a tent just below the Aiguille du Midi cable car station, a spectacular pinnacle at 12,600 feet, in the lap of Mont Blanc. There he strikes up a friendship with the head of the station’s restaurant (Louise Bourgoin) as a mysterious glow glitters in the deep mountains – and the movie in its last third makes a dramatic tonal shift into the supernatural.

Little explanation is given to the finale, as little was made as to why Vincent, in Salvador’s debut, acquires super-human powers  when in contact with water.

Salvador  told Le Film Français in an interview that Pierre is “searching for what he really desires in life and to strike a balance between that and his relationship with other people.”

“Prizing ‘The Mountain,’ we are prizing the prodigious audacity and radiant simplicity of generous filmmaking. The spectacular and intimate ambition of the film, its delicate writing and its stylistic ambition take us on a memorable journey,” said SACD’s Delphine Gleize, a writer-director, adding that the award was the “consecration of a writer, a director who also acts, and of an auteur.”

Past winners of SACD’s Directors’ Fortnight prize take is many of France’s foremost directors, both well established and up-and-coming, such as Rebecca Zlotowski (“An Easy Girl,” 2019), Claire Denis (“Let the Sunshine In,” 2017) Philippe Garrel (“Lover for a Day,” 2017) and and Arnaud Desplechin (“My Golden Days,” 2015). 

Canada’s Xavier Dolan won for his breakthrough debut, “I Killed My Mother,” back in 2009.