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Scott Graham's 'Shell' Wins Top Award at Turin Fest (Updated)

"We Aren't Like James Bond" from Mario Balsamo and Tim Sutton's "Pavilion" split the jury prize at the 30-year-old event, which enjoyed strong ticket sales.

ROME – Shell, a domestic drama set in the Scottish highlands from Scott Graham, took home the Best Film award at the Turin Film Festival, which earned headlines this year from surging ticket sales and a scandal caused when director Ken Loach refused his career honor in protest of alleged worker abuses at the festival’s parent organization.

The five-person international jury chaired by four-time Cannes competitor Paolo Sorrentino handed out two jury awards to a pair of coming-of-age films: Mario Balsamo’s Noi non siamo come James Bond (We Aren’t Like James Bond) and Pavilion, the striking directorial debut from Tim Sutton.

Aylin Tezel won the Best Actress award for her role in Pola Beck’s German drama Am Himmel der Tag (Breaking Horizons), while Hunton Batu, the protagonist from Tabun Mahabuds (The First Aggregate) from Mongolian directors Emyr ap Richard and Darhad Erdenibulag, won the Best Actor honors.

The jury for the 30-year-old festival’s documentary competition gave its top prize to A Ultima Vez Que Vi Macau from João Rui Guerra da Mata and João Pedro Rodrigues for what the jury called the film’s “complex engagement with cultural history.” It also issued a special prize to Leviathan from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, citing the film’s “exemplary originality. ”

Shell, which is based on a 2007 short film of the same name directed by Graham, was the festival’s big winner, also taking home the FIPRESCI Award from international film critics, as well as a prize awarded by local writing students. The Hollywood Reporter critic Neil Young, who reviewed the film after its earlier premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival, called it a “quietly impressive calling-card feature of domestic strife in the [Scottish] highlands.”

Overall, the lineup -- which also included Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet; Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy literary classic, Anna Karenina; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ romantic comedy Ruby Sparks; and The Sessions, a story about a man on an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity, written and directed by Ben Lewin -- was mostly applauded by the Italian media.

The lineup apparently resonated with Turin’s movie going public as well, as ticket sales were higher than in any of the 29 previous editions of the festival, producing 16.3 percent more revenue than in 2011 with 17.8 percent more tickets sold. That is contrary to the overall trend in Italy, which is on pace to see cinema ticket sales drop by around 10 percent compared to last year. Earlier festivals in Venice and Rome also saw ticket sales slip compared to 2011.

The festival got underway Nov. 23 amid a swirl of controversy after Loach, who was to join Italian auteur Ettore Scola as one of the festival’s two career honorees, announced he would turn down the prize in protest of the treatment of workers at Turin's National Film Museum, who said their jobs were outsourced, resulting in lower wages and some layoffs. The museum said Loach had been misinformed, but the ripple effects from the withdrawal lingered for the entire festival. The city of Turin is reportedly mulling a lawsuit against the director to recoup damages stemming from his no-show.