San Sebastian Film Festival: Jim Broadbent wins Silver Shell

Spanish-speaking talent shines despite industry cuts

Jim Broadbent has triumphed at the 61st San Sebastian Film Festival, winning the Silver Shell for Best Actor for his turn as a university lecturer trying to rekindle his marriage in Le Week-End.

In the film, academic Nick takes his wife Meg (Lindsay Duncan) to Paris for the weekend for their anniversary, planning to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon. But their marriage - just like the hotel - has seen better days.

Broadbent said it was quite easy for him to get into character: “Lindsay and I knew each other pretty well, we played husband and wife before.” [In the 2006 Myra Hindley TV film Longford.]

In the week that book extracts revealed that Helen Fielding had killed off Mark Darcy, Broadbent also said that he would be up for returning to the Bridget Jones franchise.

“I would love to do it, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Bridget’s dad," he said, though he'll have to wait to see if he's been killed off.

The jury was chaired by I’m Not There director Todd Haynes, and also included Chilean Paulina Garcia, who won the best actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, popular Mexican heartthrob Diego Luna and onetime Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

San Sebastian is the most important film festival in the Spanish-speaking world. In late September, the Basque town, famous for its food, surf and beaches, continues to house one of the finest film festivals in the world.

This year that reputation was enhanced despite a big cut in budget from central government.

With less emphasis on Hollywood, festival-goers were treated to a gourmet serving from directors working in Spanish (despite the number of films being made in Spain having dropped by more than a quarter in the past year).

The Golden Shell for Best Film went to Venezuelan picture Pelo Malo (Bad Hair), directed by Mariana Rondón. The Caracas-set drama centres on a single mother in despair at her 9-year-old son Junior’s fantasies about being a singer with straight hair.

The Best Director prize went to Mexico’s Fernando Eimbcke for Club Sandwich. The Best actress award went to Marian Alvarez for her turn in Wounded, in which she plays a 30-year-old ambulance driver with a personality disorder.

The opening night film, Foosball, was a 3D animation directed by Argentine director Juan José Campanella, who helmed the 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar winning film The Secret in Their

It's a complete change of pace for the director - a children’s film about a table football champion. In an exhilarating opening, table football maestro Amadeo creates an enemy for life when he beats local bully Grosso in order to impress a girl. Grosso returns to the sleepy town years later to exact revenge.

The English-language dubbed version will debut at the London Film Festival. Rupert Grint will voice the table football champ and Jonathan Pearce will be providing the match commentary. This could be one of those anomalies where the dubbed version is actually better than watching with subtitles.

A Spanish film that opened to critical acclaim, but surprisingly won no awards, was David Trueba’s excellent Living is Easy with Eyes Closed. It’s loosely based on a true story about a teacher who decided to go to the film set of Richard Lester’s How I won the War in order to meet Lennon at the height of Beatlemania.

The closing night film was Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. The adaptation of Reif Larson’s children’s adventure story sees a child genius invent a perpetual motion machine - something he finds far simpler than coping with the death of his twin brother. Jeunet takes liberties with the source material, but manages to find a winning formula for this whimsical tale in which Helen Bonham Carter plays T.S. Spivet’s mum.