1995 San Sebastian International Film Festival Awards

by Karen Jaehne

Los Premios: Prime Time Prizes

After 3 hours of deliberation, the San Sebastian jury selected from 15 films in competition (framed by another some 75 in various programs) and said, "Enough already. Let's go out into the beautiful night and eat." The prizes were surprising...but then the best films were not in competition.

The Golden Conch (Concha de Oro sounds so much classier) was awarded to MARGARET'S MUSEUM, a Canadian/U.K. production. So many people walked out of it that those of us who stayed until the end were able to swap information about what was in Margaret's Museum for drinks. The story plays with your mind about what is in the house Margaret calls her museum that so terrifies a woman in the opening scene.

Briefly reviewed, Helena Bonham Carter is an idealistic young woman who wants to escape from the Scottish immigrant mining town on Glace Bay on the Canadian island of Cape Breton. She tries to talk her brother into going to Toronto, too. But along comes Neill played with Clive Russell, an immigrant who drinks and plays the bagpipes and she falls in love with him. They want things, so he goes to work in the mines--and to the fate that claims so many of the other men in the town--a mining accident. Helena runs to the disaster to claim the bodies of the men in her family and, while cleaning them for burial, claims a few parts for her museum. Since we never actually see this exercise in preservation, our dread is reduced to hearing about it....not very shocking. Kate Nelligan is great as Helena's tired, cynical mother. She gave the picture some grit.

A Silver Conch for BEST ACTRESS went to the much-deserving VICTORIA ABRIL for her role in NOBODY WILL TALK ABOUT US WHEN WE ARE DEAD, a title strung out for its own sake and in imitation of Almodovar's propensity for prolix captions (look it up in the dictionary!). Victoria does a stupendous job as a plucky, sinewy, savvy hooker with a heart after gold. The woman who plays her mother-in-law, Pilar Bardem, was considered for a special prize, but the jury seems to have given up before coming to the right decision. (Sorry, guys, but that was a prize worth fighting for.)

Coming out of LEAVING LAS VEGAS, there was no reason to believe that it would carry home two prizes. Nobody seemed to have anything good to say about it, and yet....

NICOLAS CAGE won a Silver Conch for BEST ACTOR. He was just playing his usual zonked out character, but this one likes to drink. that's the story. We watch him get drunk in L.A., then get drunker in L.V., then drunkest and die. I think he got this because in a festival full of movies about drunks, he was the best drunk.

...and the man who directed the best drinking, MIKE FIGGIS, won the Silver Conch for BEST DIRECTOR. He should also have got the prize for the worst script.

The EUSKAL MEDIA PRIZE for the best first film went to the French SALE GOSSE or BAD BOY, written and directed by CLAUDE MOURIERAS. it's about a 10-year-old kid with a promiscuous mother and a longing for his father and how he torments his mother until she finally tells him about his father. This too was a sur-prize.

When prizes go this badly at a fest, here's the game you play. You sit down with your friends over dinner and decide what you would do. After looking at the competitions films and deeming none of them worthy, I threw it open to the entire festival.

Sticking with Victoria Abril's BEST ACTRESS conch, we would amend the BEST ACTOR award and give it to GABRIEL BYRNE in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, because even up against all these Latin lovers, he's still the sexiest man alive.

PEDRO ALMODOVAR should get BEST DIRECTOR, because he has made a daring departure from his post-modern pizzazz to offer a movie full of tender loving care. And because he could have given this film to any other festival for its premiere, but he chose San Sebastian, because, as he said, "C'mon! we've got to support the festival that supports us!" So add to that the Bring Home the Bacon Award.

The Aida (The Official Story) Bortnik scripted CABALLOS SALVAJES or WILD HORSES should get the GOLDEN CONCH for BEST FILM. This is an astonishing little picture with everything going for it--acting, rhythm, intelligent subject matter, politics, sense of place, terrific acting, characters who go through a spectrum of emotions and come out the other side teaching you something. This is movie-making. In any country. Review to follow below....

Best New Director Award

Awarded by EUSKAL MEDIA at the San Sebastian Film Festival:

US$300,000 to the Best New Director

The highest financial prize to be granted at any film festival will once again be awarded at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of Donostia-San Sebastian on 23rd September next.

A jury comprising critics and film experts will decide which first or second film from among those presented in any section of the Festival is deserving of the 40 million prize (approx. US$300,000).

Through Euskal Media, the Basque Government contributes this sum by way of co-production towards the next work- by the producer and director of the winning film. Should the producer and director decide not to collaborate on a future project, the prize money will be divided between them.

The last films to have received this prize are:

1993 - ZHAO LE (China), directed by Ning Ying
1994 - AILSA (Ireland), directed by Paddy Breathnach

This prize is an excellent incentive for new directors and producers, and is also a contribution to the development of the Basque Audiovisual Arts Industry, in its desire to carry out joint actions between producers from one or several countries.

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