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France’s Ozon takes top honors at Spanish film festival

Ozon holds up the Golden Shell award for Best Film.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain: French director Francois Ozon won the top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival Saturday for his psychological thriller “Dans la maison” (In the House). Ozon’s film tells the story of the relationship between a world-weary French teacher and a disturbingly gifted student.

It is based on the play “El chico de la ultima fila” (The Guy in the Back Row) by Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga. In addition to the Golden Shell for best film, Ozon also picked up the best screenplay prize.

Warm applause greeted the announcement of his wins at the awards ceremony.

The prize for best director went to Spain’s Fernando Trueba for “El artista y la modelo” (The artist and the Model), a drama set in Nazi-occupied France during WWII.

Shot in black and white, it tells the story of the relationship between an aging French sculptor and a Spanish girl fleeing Franco’s Spain. The international cast includes Italy’s Claudia Cardinale and France’s Jean Rochefort.

In speeches at the festival, both Ozon and Trueba denounced the Spanish government’s budget cuts to the national film industry.

The special jury prize went to Spanish director Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves” (Snow White).

This latest reworking of the classic fairy tale – which has been a popular re-make this past year – moves the setting to 1920s Spain.

A silent movie with a flamenco soundtrack, it unfolds in the world of bullfighting in Seville and evokes the European cinema of that period. Spanish actress Macarena Garcia won the Silver Shell for best actress for her performance in the film, which has also been selected as Spain’s candidate for best foreign-language picture at the Academy Awards.

Garcia shared the best actress honors with Katie Coseni for her performance in the Franco-Canadian production “Foxfire,” by French director Laurent Cantet.

The film, based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, tells the story of five teenage girls in 1950s New York who come together to form a gang to strike back against their enemies.

The best actor award went to veteran Spanish actor Jose Sacristan for his performance in “El muerto y ser feliz” (The Dead Man and Being Happy) by Spanish writer-director Javier Rebollo, a road movie set in Argentina.

Sacristan plays an aging hit man stricken with cancer who is coming to terms with his own impending death.

The prize for best cinematography went to Iran’s Touraj Aslani for his work in the Turkish film “Fasle Kargadan” (Rhino Season).

And the jury’s special mention went to “The Attack” by Lebanese-born director Ziad Doueiri.

It tells the story of an Israeli surgeon of Palestinian origin whose life is shattered after his wife turns out to have been the suicide bomber in a devastating attack on a restaurant.

This year’s festival attracted its share of Hollywood star power, with visits by Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon to promote their financial thriller “Arbitrage.”

The festival also presented special awards to leading figures in the industry, including U.S. actors John Travolta, Tommy Lee Jones and Scottish actor Ewan McGregor.

Dustin Hoffman also attended to present his first film as director and received a lifetime achievement award for his acting career.

His film, “Quartet,” set in a home for retired opera singers, features a strong cast of British talent including Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Trevor Peacock.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 01, 2012, on page 16.

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