September is always a big month in the film festival world. Things start off in Venice; its closing weekend overlaps with the launch of TIFF in Toronto; then film junkies get a brief reprieve before the festivities start up again in San Sebastiàn to round out the month.
The San Sebastiàn awards were just announced yesterday, so we thought it a good time to look at some of what’s been going on in the festival realm over the last month.
Venice’s competition – which for the last couple of years has consisted entirely of world premiere presentations – was an impressive grab-bag of 20 films. New works from acknowledged auteurs like Errol Morris, Tsai Ming-Liang, Merzak Allouache, Stephen Frears and Terry Gilliam went up against films from contemporary darlings like Kelly Reichhardt, Xavier Dolan and James Franco.
In the end, the Golden Lion for Best Film went to Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary ‘Sacro GRA’, a film about the various people living near the ring road that encircles Rome. The Silver Lion for Best Director was handed to Alexandros Avranas for his ‘Miss Violence’, the tale of a young girl’s suicide and the secrets behind it. Tsai Ming-Liang’s ‘Stray Dogs’, another of the Taiwanese director’s lyrical studies of life in the margins of society, won the Grand Jury Prize.
Venice’s Orrizonti programme, which tracks new trends in world cinema, is an international panorama of what’s hot – and what’s going to be hot. This year’s names and titles to remember are Robin Campillo’s ‘Eastern Boys’ (Best Film); Uberto Pasolini’s ‘Still Life’ (Best Director) and Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s ‘Ruin’ (Special Jury Prize).
Complete Venice award listings can be found here.
Toronto’s selection and set-up is a different ballgame. There is no official international competition, though there are several awards given – Canadian films are up for juried awards, while the audience selects favourites in several sections. TIFF is also a much larger festival than Venice – indeed, TIFF is the largest public film festival in the world – and is known as a launchpad for Oscar contenders. Year-in, year-out, TIFF premieres films that go on to win Academy Awards – though one could argue that, given the sheer size of the festival (about 250 features), it’s hardly a surprise that so many Oscar nominees show up on TIFF screens.
TIFF’s Blackberry People’s Choice Awards this year went to Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave’, a fact-based tale about a freeman who was kidnapped and sold into slavery; ‘The Square’, Jehane Noujaim’s documentary about activism and unrest in Egypt; and ‘Why Don’t You Play in Hell?’, a gory Japanese gangster flick that pits a film crew against a yakuza mob. The full list of TIFF awards can be found here.
After the glitz and glamour of Venice and the Hollywood hype of Toronto, things get a little more beachy in San Sebastiàn. A dozen or so features compete for the Golden Shell in the official competition, while the competition for new directors features fewer than 20 films total. It’s no wonder that, after a gruelling two-and-a-half-weeks of the high-pressure of Venice and Toronto, you’ll hear film professionals everywhere exclaim, ‘I can’t wait to get to San Sebastiàn!’ Now, make no mistake – there’s a lot going on outside the competitions as well at San Sebastiàn – to check it all out, go here and choose the Sections and Films tab.
All the San Sebastiàn awards are listed here. The festival’s Golden Shell for Best Film went to Mariana Rondón’s ‘Bad Hair’, the tale of a young boy’s obsession with straightening his hair; the Silver Shell for Best Director went to Fernando Eimbcke for ‘Club Sandwich’, the story of a mother’s realisation that her son is growing up. Finally, the Special Jury Prize went to Fernando Franco’s ‘Wounded’, about an ambulance driver suffering from borderline personality disorder.
With the September festivals behind us, of course, all we in festival land can do is look forward to what’s up next. There’s a whole lot of activity in the Gulf region coming up, of course, with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October, our own Ajyal Youth Film Festival in November and the Dubai International Film Festival in December. Festivals are also coming up in London, Chicago, Pusan, Adelaide, Tokyo, São Paulo, Rome, Thessaloniki, Taipei, Torino and Cairo. Never a dull moment.