'Life and Death' tops San Sebastian fest

Javier Rebollo takes home the award for best directing

SAN SEBASTIAN -- Lu Chuan's controversial Chinese film "City of Life and Death," depicting the atrocities committed during the 1938 Japanese siege of China's former capital, Nanjing, won the Golden Shell Saturday at the 57th San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Spain's Javier Rebollo picked up the best directing award for his "Woman Without Piano," portraying the alienation of a Madrid housewife on the threshold of menopause.

The Silver Shell acting awards went to Spanish actors Lola Duenas and Pablo Pineda for their central performances in Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro's "Me Too," focusing on a man with Down syndrome and his efforts to woo a woman without. Pineda is the first Down's sufferer to get a university degree in Europe.

Philippe Van Leeuw's look at the Rwandan massacre "The Day God Walked Away" won the coveted Kutxa-New Directors Award worth 90,000 euros to be equally divided between the director and the Spanish distributor. Matias Armand Jordal's "Together" earned a special mention.

Francois Ozon's "Le Refuge" snagged the Special Jury Prize and Cao Yu took best cinematography for "City of Life and Death."

Adrian Biniez's Uruguayan "Gigante" will take home the 35,000 euro Horizontes Award, while Israel Adrian Caetano's "Francia" got a special mention.

The San Sebastian awards were announced just hours after the People's Republic of China passed over Lu's film in favor of Chen Kaige's opera biopic "Forever Enthralled" as its pick for the foreign-language Oscar.

Lu said he was very excited that the Golden Shell award would open more doors for the film.

"It's the most difficult time for the movie now," Lu said. "This award will help the movie to travel further."

Indeed Madrid-based Karma Films picked up Spanish rights for the film at San Sebastian, with talks under way for distribution in Japan and France.

"It is beautiful that the film won this award in Spain," Lu said. "Spain had a Civil War and the people share similar feelings and understand the movie."

Juan Jose Campanella's "The Secret in Their Eyes" walked away empty-handed, as did its lead actor Ricardo Darin -- who was also the lead in Fernando Trueba's "The Dancer and the Thief," which screened out of competition.

Awards were to be handed out Saturday night at the closing ceremony