"Despite my romanticisation, it was a competitive festival, and so the awards are still important"TWITTER/@SANSEBASTIANFES

Although showings are still taking place, the San Sebastian International Film Festival closed over a month ago, and it seems fitting to have a look back at the results. To me, and the thousands of other members of the public who were essentially part of the festival, the awards seemed like an afterthought. The emphasis lay more on spreading the love for cinema, sharing the work of new, young creatives, and generally creating a good atmosphere for the visitors, regardless of their stature. There was none of the nervous anticipation of the Academy Awards or Golden Globes; it felt like more of a celebration than a competition.

Despite my romanticisation, it was a competitive festival, and so the awards are still important.

“The emphasis lay more on spreading the love for cinema, sharing the work of new, young creatives, and generally creating a good atmosphere for the visitors, regardless of their stature”

In the Official Selection (the highest category) we saw a staggering amount of women take home awards. Of the seven individual winners, only Terence Davies, who won Best Screenplay for Benediction, a British film about Siegfried Sassoon, was male.

Taking home the Golden Shell (Best Film), was Alina Grigore for Crai Nou (Blue Moon), making it the first time that a Romanian production has won this award and the third year in a row that a debut director has won it. In fact, the 2020 debut winner, Dea Kulumbegashvilli, was the president of this year’s jury.

Du dom er i himlen (As in Heaven) won two awards, Tea Lindeberg was awarded the Silver Shell (Best Director) and Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl won Best Leading Performance.

Hofmann Lindahl shared this award with Jessica Chastain, which, in my eyes, is a wonderful representation of how this festival brings Hollywood stars into the same forum as small-scale, non-Anglophone productions put together by those with less funds and experience.

To prove my utter ignorance of film-making, Best Screenplay went to Claire Mathon of Enquete sur un scandale d’etat, which, if you read my previous article, you will know I found utterly dull. So take that as a clue that you should potentially ignore every opinion I put across. If you needed more convincing of my ignorance, Mathon also provided photography for two other entries in the competition, Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman and Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, so she probably knows what she’s doing.

“This festival is just that; a week’s celebration of the love of cinema”

The Special Jury Prize also went to a female director, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who presented Earwig. In 2004 she also won the New Directors Award in her debut film Innocence and the Special Jury Prize in 2015 with Evolution. This makes her the first director to be awarded the Special Jury Prize twice.

What can we take away from these results?

"For girls who have only ever seen old men hobble across the stage, this is a new moment as young, visionary women are finally being given the recognition they deserve"TWITTER/@SANSEBASTIANFES

Three things.

It’s clear that the SSIFF differs from other Category A competitions in terms of purpose. The huge number of films screened all over the city which do not even compete for a prize are evidence that this festival is just that; a week’s celebration of the love of cinema. The cheap tickets, multiple showings and general inclusion of the local population in the festival sets it apart from other competitions. The drama and elitism of the Academy Awards create a wonderful spectacle which I adore, but the festival in Donostia offers something different; something that truly includes everybody.

We need to watch more ‘foreign-language’ films. Yes, of course, it is easier if you speak the language; I found watching Fire on the Plains (which is in Mandarin) much more taxing than The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but by opening our eyes to the huge amount on offer beyond British and American productions, we expose ourselves to new narratives, concepts and understandings of other cultures. And I’d argue understanding is something we need more of in this era of walls and camps.


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The San Sebastián International Film Festival – An Alternative Guide to the Contenders

Finally, a positive note. Before the festival even began we witnessed the controversy over Johnny Depp’s appearance due to the claims of abuse by his ex-wife, Amber Heard, with female directors decrying the blind sexism and patriarchy of the film industry at large. However, this has been somewhat overshadowed by the commendation of an unprecedented number of female creatives in the Official Selection. For girls who have only ever seen old men hobble across the stage, this is a new moment as young, visionary women are finally being given the recognition they deserve.