San Sebastian Film Festival


San Sebastian Film Festival
   The most important film festival in the Spanish-speaking countries and one of the most established in Europe takes place in the Basque country each year in late September. It is managed by official institutions — some cultural ones, including the government Institute for Audiovisual Arts (Instituto de Cinematografía y Artes Escénicas, ICAA), and some more obviously political ones (the Basque and the city governments).
   San Sebastian is a prosperous northern city that had been a popular and glamorous spa during the first third of the 20th century. After the Civil War, however, the golden years seemed well in the past. In 1953, two of the city's most prominent businessmen thought that one way for the city to regain its former glory would be the organization of a small-scale "film week" devoted to Spanish film. In only two years, it had become a full-blown "film festival" with a B grading awarded by the International Federation of Associated Film Producers (FIAPF).
   In 1957, the San Sebastian Film Festival was promoted to the A category, which meant that it became a proper showcase for international film and that awards could be offered. From the point of view of the regime, it was also an early occasion for Spain to be perceived internationally in a civilized, cultural context, rather than as a reactionary country with repressive laws. During late Francoism, tensions existed between attempts on the side of the government to use the event as a way of showing a kind, glamorous face to the world and the discontent of Spanish filmmakers with that government's attitude toward them, culminating in the demonstrations of 1975 and instigated by the last death sentences signed by Francisco Franco that year.
   The Festival went through a difficult period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, owing to organizational issues. Today, the festival has problems finding new films for the competition when there is so much demand from Cannes and Venice, but with proper funding it has maintained substantial prestige and is again attracting film personalities like David Cronenberg.
   The premier official San Sebastian award is the Golden Shell, although a number of Silver Shells are awarded to directors, actors, and for professional careers as a whole. In particular, the Donostia prize annually celebrates the accomplishments of a relevant actor (and is often shared by two performers). Also, the Jury distributes awards for best cinematography and best script. Along with these, a number of unofficial prizes are given: one for new directors, another for scriptwriters, an audience award, and a youth award, among others. Finally, the International Association of Film Press Professionals (FIPRESCI) awards its own prize at the Festival.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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