'Prayers' heard at San Seb

Wang pic prevails in festival finale

Wayne Wang's U.S. film "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" won the Golden Shell at the 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival, official jury chair Paul Auster said Saturday.

Henry O. took the best actor honor for his portrayal in "Prayers," which centers on a Chinese widower who visits his recently divorced only daughter in the U.S. Blanca Portillo picked up the actress prize for her role in Gracia Querejeta's "7 Billiards Tables," from Spain.

Nick Broomfield won best director for his U.K. docudrama "Battle for Haditha," about the war landscape in Iraq.

Hana Makhmalbaf saw her directorial debut, "Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame" (Iran-France) — which centers on a 6-year-old girl's efforts to learn the alphabet in Afghanistan — take the special jury prize. The jury said the "first feature by a extremely young director impressed the jury with its exquisite cinematography and the remarkable performance by the child actress Nikbakht Noruz."

The jury called "Shame" "a promising debut by a filmmaker who we hope will go on to create important works in the future."

Makhmalbaf also won the newly created Other Look Award, sponsored by Spanish pubcaster Television Espanola, which supports the film that best depicts the "female universe" by acquiring Spanish broadcast rights.

Querejeta and David Planell — the screenwriters of "7 Billiards Tables" — tied for best screenplay with John Sayles for his "Honeydripper" (U.S.). Charlie Lam took the cinematographer award for his work on Pang Ho-Cheung's "Exodus" (Hong Kong).

The coveted €90,000 ($128,000) Altadis-New Director Award went to Conrad Clark's directorial debut "Soul Carriage" (China-U.K.), about a down-on-his-luck employee asked by his boss to dispose of a corpse.

San Sebastian again proved its festival circuit niche as a cooking pot for fresh talent from Latin America.

Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone's "The Pope's Toilet" (Uruguay-Brazil-France) took the Horizontes Prize, worth €10,000 ($14,000) for the director and €25,000 ($35,600) for the Spanish distributor, in this case, Golem Distribucion.

Ernesto Contreras' "Blue Eyelids" (Mexico) and Andres Baiz's "Satan" (Colombia-Mexico) — Colombia's bid for a foreign-language Oscar — both took a Horizontes special mention. "Eyelids" won for its "original manner of demonstrating the loneliness of people."

Nadine Labaki's Lebanese beauty salon tale "Caramel" (Lebanon-France) won the TCM Audience Award and the Youth Award. Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (France) won the TCM Audience Award for a European Film.
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