Wayne Wang Movie Tops San Sebastian Film Festival Awards

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers Wayne Wang

Wayne Wang's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers won the Golden Shell for Best Film at this year's edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Written by Yiyun Li from her own short story, Wang's film depicts the difficult relationship between a Beijing widower and his recently divorced daughter living in the US. As the widower, American performer Henry O, 79, was given the Silver Shell for Best Actor.

“It was a small film that needed a lot of time to be done because I think films need to breathe, like us,” Wang, 58, remarked. “Not every story has to have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.”

The jury was presided by author and director Paul Auster, with whom Wang had previously worked on the meandering 1995 dramatic comedy Smoke and its sequel, Blue in the Face. The duo reportedly had a falling out a few years later while working on another project.

San Sebastian Film Festival 2007A Thousand Years of Good Prayers was also the top pick of the World Catholic Association for Communication and of the Spanish Film Critics.

The Special Jury Award went to 18-year-old Hana Makhmalbaf's feature-film debut, Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, the tale of a six-year-old Afghan girl who wants to go to school despite opposition from traditionalists in that rabidly patriarchal society. Jury members were impressed with the film's “exquisite cinematography and the remarkable performance by the child actress Nikbakht Noruz. A promising debut by a filmmaker who we hope will go on to create important works in the future.”

Battle for Haditha by Nick BroomfieldNick Broomfield won the best director prize for the British Iraq war drama Battle for Haditha, the story of the 2005 slaughter of 24 Iraqi civilians by US marines.

“I think this film can play a role, provide information at a time when there is very little information coming out of Iraq that is not from official sources,” Broomfield stated at the Battle for Haditha screening. “This is a war with very little information.”

Blanca Portillo, best known internationally for her role as the woman dying of cancer in Pedro Almodóvar's Volver, was chosen best actress for her performance as a morally conflicted ex-con in Gracia Querejeta's Seven Billiard Tables. Querejeta and co-screenwriter David Planell shared the screenwriting award with John Sayles for Honeydripper, the story of a nightclub owner who must fight the system in 1950s Alabama in order to keep his club going.

According to John Hopewell's report for Variety, “San Sebastian jury decisions are often stomped by the local press. So jury chairman Paul Auster pulled off something of a feat … by drawing strong applause from Spanish critics for almost all plaudits.” (A feat indeed, but Auster shouldn't have led the jury when a film by friend/foe Wang was in competition.)

Caramel by Nadine Labaki

Nadine Labaki's French-Lebanese beauty salon drama Caramel (above) won both the Audience and the Youth awards, while the International Film Critics choice was Anahí Berneri's Argentinian drama Encarnación, which follows an aging, fading actress who travels to the countryside. Julian Schnabel's tedious (though, admittedly, well-received) French-made drama The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the real-life struggles of stroke victim Jean-Dominique Bauby, was the Audience Award runner-up.

David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, the festival's opening night gala film – and perhaps the most high-profile entry in the official selection – came out empty-handed. (“An absence as ridiculous as it is understandable,” wrote E. Rodríguez Marchante in the Spanish newspaper ABC (Google translation), adding “it's a Cronenberg film, so why bother giving it any awards?”)

Conrad Clark's Anglo-Chinese co-production Soul Carriage, about a young man whose boss orders him to take care of the dead body of a co-worker, received the Altadis New Directors Award, while Enrique Fernández and César Charlone's Uruguayan comedy The Pope's Toilet, about the furor caused by the pope's visit to a small Uruguayan town, received the Horizontes Award for Best Iberian/Ibero-American film.

Liv UllmannRichard Gere, 58, and Liv Ullmann, 69, were honored with the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award. (Donostia is the Basque name for San Sebastian.)

“We've lost two of the greatest film directors, [Ingmar] Bergman and [Michelangelo] Antonioni – both died this summer – and those two people did much more for the world with their cinema than the majority of politicians,” Ullmann remarked at a press conference. “It's thanks to them that I'm proud to make movies.”

Ullmann added that she and Bergman had “a magnificent relationship for 40 years, a friendship, and he's the father of my child.” According to a moncinema.ca report, the (Tokyo-born) Norwegian actress-director was visibly moved and was warmly applauded by the journalists present.

The 2007 edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival also included a comprehensive retrospective of director Henry King's career, ranging from his early silents – Tol'able David, Stella Dallas, The Winning of Barbara Worth – to his lengthy stint at 20th Century Fox, where he was one of the studio's top directors from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s.

Henry King's films, in fact, served as launching pads and/or major career boosts for the likes of Tyrone Power (In Old Chicago, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Jesse James, The Black Swan, etc.), Alice Faye (In Old Chicago, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Little Old New York), Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing), Gregory Peck (Twelve O'Clock High, The Gunfighter, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, etc.), and Susan Hayward (I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, David and Bathsheba).

And the last word goes to Hana Makhmalbaf:

“Thank you very much,” the young filmmaker said upon accepting her award. “I was just thinking that if cinema and poetry didn't exist the world would only be violence.”

2007 San Sebastian Film Festival Awards

2007 San Sebastian Film Festival: Sept. 20–29.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Wayne Wang


Official Selection

GOLDEN SHELL FOR BEST FILM: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by WAYNE WANG (USA)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Buda az sharm foru rikht / Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame by HANA MAKHMALBAF (Iran-France)


SILVER SHELL FOR BEST ACTOR: HENRY O. for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (USA)

SILVER SHELL FOR BEST ACTRESS: BLANCA PORTILLO for Siete mesas de billar francés / Seven Billiard Tables (Spain)

JURY PRIZE FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: CHARLIE LAM for Ceot oi kap gei / Exodus (Hong Kong)

JURY PRIZE FOR BEST SCREENPLAY (ex aequo): GRACIA QUEREJETA and DAVID PLANELL for Siete mesas de billar francés / Seven Billiard Tables (Spain) and JOHN SAYLES for Honeydripper (USA)

DONOSTIA PRIZE: Liv Ullmann, Richard Gere


Soul Carriage by Conrad Clark

ALTADIS NEW DIRECTORS AWARD: Soul Carriage (China-UK) by Conrad Clark


El Bano del papa by Enrique Fernandez, Cesar Charlone

HORIZONTES AWARD: El baño del Papa, by Enrique Fernández and César Charlone (Uruguay-Brazil-France)

SPECIAL MENTIONS: Párpados azules (Mexico) by Ernesto Contreras, and Satanás (Colombia) by Andrés Baiz, for the excellent performance of Marcela Mar in the part of Paola.


Caramel by Nadine Labaki

TCM-AUDIENCE AWARD: Caramel by Nadine Labaki (Lebanon-France)

RUNNER-UP: Le Scaphandre et le papillon / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Julian Schnabel (France)


YOUTH AWARD: Caramel by Nadine Labaki (Lebanon-France)


PANAVISION (FILM SCHOOL) AWARD: Vita de Giacomo by Luca Governatori (France)

SPECIAL MENTIONS: Idioma by Ian Menoyot (Belgium); De las relaciones by Jorge Acebo (Spain); La Invención by Andrés García Franco (Mexico)


FIPRESCI Film of the Year: 4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile / 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu

FIPRESCI AWARD: Encarnación, Anahí Berneri (Argentina)

SIGNIS AWARD: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Wayne Wang (USA)

SPECIAL MENTION: Battle for Haditha, Nick Broomfield (UK)

CICAE AWARD: Brick Lane, Sarah Gavron (UK)

CEC AWARD: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Wayne Wang ( USA)

GUIPUZCOAN BLOOD-DONORS' ASSOCIATION CORRESPONDING TO THE SOLIDARITY AWARD: JAKOB BRONSKI, the leading character played by Max von Sydow in Emotional Arithmetic, by Paolo Barzman (Canada)

SEBASTIANE AWARD: Caramel by Nadine Labaki (Lebanon-France)


Film in Progress Awards

SIGNIS AWARD: La Extranjera by Fernando Díaz (Argentina)

CICAE AWARD: Gasolina by Julio Hernández Cordón (Guatemala)

FILMS IN PROGRESS INDUSTRY AWARD: Gasolina by Julio Hernández Cordón (Guatemala)

TVE AWARD: Acné by Federico Veiroj (Uruguay-Argentina-Spain-Mexico) and Sol na Neblina by Werner Schumann (Brazil)

CINEMA IN MOTION AWARDS: Salt of this Sea by Annamarie Jacir (France, U.S., Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, U.K.) and Recycle by Mahmoud Al Massad (Jordan)





2007 San Sebastian Film Festival: Official Selection

David Cronenberg Eastern Promises Viggo Mortensen Naomi Watts
Opening Night Film
Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg; with Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Josef Altin, Vincent Cassel

Battle for Haditha Nick Broomfield
Battle for Haditha, directed by Nick Broomfield

Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame Hana Makhmalbaf
Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame / Buda az sharm foru rikht, directed by Hana Makhmalbaf

Exodus Pang Ho-Cheung
Exodus / Ceot oi kap gei, directed by Pang Ho-Cheung

Daisy Diamond
Daisy Diamond, directed by Simon Staho; with Noomi Rapace, Thure Lindhardt, Benedikte Hansen, Morten Kirkskov

Max von Sydow Susan Sarandon Emotional Arithmetic
Emotional Arithmetic, directed by Paolo Barzman; with Max von Sydow, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer, Gabriel Byrne, Roy Dupuis

Encarnacion Anahi Berneri
Encarnación, directed by Anahí Berneri; with Silvia Pérez, Martina Juncadella, Luciano Cáceres, Inés Saavedra

Moritz Bleibtreu Reclaim Your Brain Hans Weingartner
Reclaim Your Brain / Free Rainer - Dein Fernseher lügt, directed by Hans Weingartner; with Moritz Bleibtreu, Elsa Sophie Gambard, Milan Peschel, Gregor Bloéb

Shadows in the Palace Meejeung Kim
Shadows in the Palace / Goong-nyeo, directed by Meejeung Kim

Honeydripper John Sayles
Honeydripper, directed by John Sayles; with Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Yaya DaCosta, Charles S. Dutton, Stacy Keach

La Maison Manuel Poirier
La maison, directed by Manuel Poirier; with Sergi López, Bruno Salomone

Mataharis Iciar Bollain
Mataharis, directed by Icíar Bollaín; with Najwa Nimri, Tristán Ulloa, María Vázquez, Nuria González

Kill Them All Esteban Schroeder
Kill Them All / Matar a todos, directed by Esteban Schroeder

Padre Nuestro Christopher Zalla
Our Father / Padre Nuestro / Sangre de mi sangre, directed by Christopher Zalla; with Jesús Ochoa

Seven Billiards Tables Gracia Querejeta
Seven Billiards Tables / Siete mesas de billar francés, directed by Gracia Querejeta; with Maribel Verdú, Blanca Portillo, Amparo Baró, Enrique Villén, Ramón Barea, Jesús Castejón, Víctor Valdivia

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers Wayne Wang
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, directed by Wayne Wang; Henry O, Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Feihong Yu, Vida Ghahremani

2007 San Sebastian Film Festival: Out of Competition movies

polar bear Earth Alastair Fothergill Mark Linfield
Earth, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

David Thewlis Irene Jacob The Inner Life of Martin Frost
The Inner Life of Martin Frost, directed by Paul Auster; with David Thewlis, Irène Jacob, Michael Imperioli, Sophie Auster

Michael Caine Demi Moore Flawless
Closing Night Film
Flawless, directed by Michael Radford; with Michael Caine, Demi Moore, Lambert Wilson, Nathaniel Parker

Movie photos: San Sebastian Film Festival

Wayne Wang Movie Tops San Sebastian Film Festival Awards © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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