'The Double Steps' Wins Top Prize at San Sebastian Festival

Fabrizio Maltese for THR

Michel Hazanavicius’ "The Artist" received the award for the Zabaltegi Pearls section at the ceremony.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Isaki Lacuesta’s The Double Steps won the Golden Shell at the 59th San Sebastian International Film Festival in a ceremony that sprinkled awards across the Official Section.

Frances McDormand, chair of the official jury, handed out the award to Steps, which marks a collaboration between Lacuesta and Spanish artist Miguel Barcelo in a story that weaves together Mali, a painted bunker wall buried somewhere in the desert and French painter Francois Augieras.

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The ceremony, broadcast live on pubcaster Television Espanola and on the festival’s website, broke with the tradition in which journalists and award winners were told the honors in advance of the event. The spontaneous and surprised reactions charged the gala with emotion.

High-profile jury members like Alex de la Iglesia, Guillermo Arriaga, Bai Ling and Juan Diego Botto participated in the ceremony, handing out awards.

One of the biggest win was the two-pronged win for Greek director Filippos Tsitos Unfair World -- which won the director nod and the Silver Shell for Best Actor for Antonis Kafetzopoulos’ role as a police officer.

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Spanish actress Maria Leon won the Silver Shell for Best Actress for her part in Benito Zambrano’s Spanish Civil War drama The Sleeping Voice.

“I don’t have any speech prepared because I think the beautiful part is to enjoy the moment and let yourself be surprised and I’m super surprised,” a tearful Leon told reporters in the press room after picking up the prize on stage.

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Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda won the best script prize for I Wish, showing up in sneakers, and Ulf Brantas took the photography award for the Swedish Happy End.

“I didn’t write the whole screenplay. So part of the award goes to the children in the film,” said Koreeda.

German director Jan Zabeil snagged the coveted Kutxa New Directors award, worth 90,000 euros ($110,000) for his The River Used to Be a Man.

“I hope this award helps me to get this film screened,” Zabeil said.

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Michael Fassbender presented the award for the best European film to Nadine Labaki’s Where do We Go Now? and Antonio Banderas presented the award for the Zabaltegi Pearls section to Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, which its Spanish distributor Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn of Alta Films described as “a gem.”

Pablo Giorgelli’s Las Acacias, which won the Camara d’Or, walked away with the 35,000 euro Horizons Award, designed to support the distribution of Latin American films. The director receives 10,000 euros and the Spanish distributor Festival Films takes the remainder.  

Special Jury Award for the Official Section went to Julie Delpy’s Le Skylab.

A complete list of awards follows:

Golden Shell
The Double Steps, directed by Isaki Lacuesta (Spain/Switzerland)

Filippos Tsitos for Unfair World (Greece)

New Directors Award
Jan Zabeil for The River Used to Be a Man (Germany)

European Film
Where do We Go Now?, directed by Nadine Labaki (France)

Antonis Kafetzopoulos for Unfair World (Greece)

Maria Leon for The Sleeping Voice (Spain)

Hirokazu Kore-eda for I Wish (Japan)

Ulf Brantas for Happy End (Sweden)

Las Acacias, directed by Pablo Giorgelli (Argentina-Spain)

Zabaltegi Pearls
The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius (France)

Special Jury Award
Le Skylab, directed by Julie Delpy (France)

Youth Award
Wild Bill, directed by Dexter Fletcher (UK)

Fipresci Award

Blood of My Blood, directed by Joao Canijo (Portugal)

TVE Otra Mirada Award
Nader and Simin, A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi (Iran)

Special Mention
Blood of My Blood, directed by Joao Canijo (Portugal)