54th San Sebastian International Film Festival

Spain, September 21 - September 30 2006

Awarded films

One goes to festivals to see films. To San Sebastian, one goes to see films and to enjoy the city — the bay of La Concha, the old city with its small streets and superb bars and excellent restaurants. End of September, it’s still late summer. Among the big European festivals, San Sebastian has probably the most relaxing and, at the same time, stimulating atmosphere. It is known and loved for its wonderful retrospectives, the theater Principe at the seaside being a meeting point of film lovers. The pleasure is indescribable — to leave the daily business and the new and newest films for some hours and to dive in the amazing and lovely cinematographic world of Ernst Lubitsch, whom the festival dedicated an integral retrospective, including his German and his American films (and accompanied by a book written by Jean-Loup Bourget and Eithne O’Neill, fortunately written in both Spanish and English). Another retrospective was dedicated to filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, still another one to Emigrants (touching a burning contemporary issue). Among the major festivals, only Berlin and San Sebastian invest such a lot of energy and care (and money) in the history of cinema — engagement which can’t be praised enough. Among the programs, Zabaltegi (Open Zone), focusing on new directors and Horizontes Latinos (an extensive overview on new films in Spanish and Portuguese language) deserve special attention. The international competition showed some controversially discussed films, such as Tom Dicillo’s Delirious which was received as a mediocre soap opera by some critics, as a successful attempt to approach the language and universe of a young generation, by others; or Agnieska Holland’s Copying Beethoven, for some spectators a kitsch-melodrama, a moving love story for others. Two films were unanimously acclaimed: The Road to San Diego(El Camino de San Diego) by Argentinean director Carlos Sorin, showing a young boy on the road from the North to the capital (awarded the Special Prize of the jury); and Bahman Gobadi’s Half Moon (Niwemang), part of the series Mozart’s Visionary Cinema: New Crowned Hope, showing an old man on the tiring road from Iran to Iraq (awarded a Golden Shell and the FIPRESCI Prize).

At the opening ceremony, we had the pleasure to present our Grand Prix — Best Film of the Year to a part of the team of Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver: the producers Agustin Almodóvar and Esther Garcia, and the actresses Yohana Cobo and Lola Dueñas. Pedro Almodóvar, who was absent because of a promotion tour in the US, sent a video message from Los Angeles. (k.e.)