A coming-of-age tale set in 1970s Glasgow, “Neds,” by Scottish actor and director Peter Mullan, won top honors on Saturday at the San Sebastian film festival in northern Spain.
The jury, headed by Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic, awarded the Golden Shell to the film. It was a sweet victory for Mullan, whose early directorial ambitions had been dashed when he was rejected entry to the prestigious National Film School.
A British-French-Italian co-production, “Neds” — a derogatory Scottish term referring to working-class white males — is an insightful exploration of the violent upheavals of adolescence within the harsh environment of 1970s Glasgow, Scotland. It tells the story of the struggle facing a young man determined to make his mark on life.
Connor McCarron won the best actor award for his role as McGill, an intelligent, sensitive boy eager to learn and forge a future for himself but who finds life’s obstacles stacked heavily against him. One of his character’s many obstacles includes the strong influence of local gangs — especially those of the Neds (Non-Educated Delinquents).
Mullan, who last directed Venice Golden Lion winner “The Magdalene Sisters” eight years ago, is also a prolific actor, having appeared in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” and Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting.”
He has also teamed up with fellow British director Ken Loach, first for “Riff Raff” in 1991 and then “My Name is Joe,” which won Mullan the best actor award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
The 58th edition of the San Sebastian festival awarded French-Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz the best director award for his four-hour-long movie “Misterios de Lisboa.” The film was inspired by the work of Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco.
The 69-year-old director, who is now recovering from both cancer and a recent operation, received a lifetime achievement award in 1997 at the Berlin film festival.
“Misterios de Lisboa” is divided into three parts and explores the loves and jealousies of a host of characters who are all connected to a young orphan and boarder in a religious school in Lisbon.
Nora Navas was awarded the best actress award for her part in the Spanish film “Pa Negre,” which means “Black Bread” in the Catalan language. The movie, directed by Agusti Villaronga, is set in a Catalonia devastated by the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.
The best photography category winner was Jimmy Gimferrer for his work in the Spanish production “Aita,” and the best screenplay prize went to Bent Hamer for “Home for Christmas,” a Norway-Sweden-Germany co-production.
Earlier in the week Spanish actor Javier Bardem awarded 42-year-old American actress Julia Roberts, with the special Donostia prize for her film career. Roberts was his co-star in “Eat Pray Love” which was showing out of competition.
A total of 15 films were in official competition this year. In 2009, the top prize went to the controversial “City of Life and Death” by Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan on atrocities committed in the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.
Portuguese actors Adriano Luz (L) and Maria Joao Bastos (R) receive the best director Silver Shell award for the film "Misterios de Lisboa.” (AFP Photo/Rafa Rivas)