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Spain in-depth: practical information

San Sebastian Film Festival

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San Sebastian Film Festival

The San Sebastián Film Festival is Spain’s most prestigious such award ceremony, celebrated annually towards the end of September and it is actually one of the top events in September in Spain.  The festival enjoys the maximum accreditation awarded by FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films; English: International Federation of Film Producers Associations) in the gorgeous Basque city of San Sebastián. The film festival’s first edition took place on september 21st 1953 and has been held annually ever since. 

The San Sebastian Film festival is also the most important film festival in the world for Spanish speaking cinema and it is one of the most prestigious film festivals held in Europe and one of the oldest as well. 

Alfred Hichcock chose the San Sebastian Film festival to premier two of his greatest films: Vertigo and North by North West. The festival was also the site of the European premier of Star Wars in 1977. It has also been the launching pad of the careers of several of cinema’s brightest stars. Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola and Pedro Almodóvar all found international notoriety after participating in the festival. 

Table of Contents

The history of Cinema in San Sebastián

San Sebastian has long been a city that has attracted the “creme de la creme” of the European bourgeois. Since the Belle Epoque, San Sebastián has been a favorite destination for the artistic and intellectual elite of Europe, and has even been the summer residence of the Spanish royal family for a long time. San Sebastian has always been a refined cultural hub in Spain, and it is easy to understand how a festival of these characteristics would emerge from such a city.  

basque country
a Luxury Collection Hotel

Another consequence of San Sebastián’s particular brand of incumbent tourism was the construction of venues like the Maria Cristina Hotel, one of the most spectacular hotel in all of Europe, the perfect place to host Hollywood’s brightest stars. The Victoria Eugenia Theatre, built in 1912, is one of the most emblematic monuments in the city and has hoasted all of the most important cultural events that have taken place in the city. Nowadays it is used as one the main venues of the festival. The original Casino of San Sebastian was renovated and modernized and is now an innovative convention center, known as the Kursaal, and is currently the main festival venue. Lastly, San Sebastián’s city hall known as the Miramar Palace, built right on the La Concha beach is the site of the festival’s closing party. 

The cities culture and these landmarks have made San Sebastian and an amazing site to host a film festival of this magnitude and a magnet over the years for stars of the caliber of  Federico Fellini, Gloria Swanson, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, François Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen, to name just a few.

When is the San Sebastián Film Festival? 

The Festival is held annually at the end of September. The dates may vary from year to year, but it is always set for this general time period. 

The 2020 edition of the awards will be held from 18th to the 26th of September


What to know about the San Sebastian Film Festival 

Franco, the infamous Spanish dictator was actually instrumental in the creation of the film festival. The “generalisimo”created the award ceremony alongside a group of businessmen from San Sebastián. Franco saw the festival as a chance to show Spain as an open and inviting country on an international stage. 

The Festival in recent years is always held at the Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium on San Sebastián’s seafront, which was designed by Spanish architect, Rafael Moneo.

Only 15 other film festivals arround the world enjoy category ‘A’ film festivals accreditation from the FIAPF. Other European festivals with this accreditation are the film festivals of Venice, Cannes and Berlin.

Awards of the San Sebastian Film Festival: La Concha de Oro

The award of the San Sebastian Film Festival takes the shape of a shell. The best film of the festival is awarded the golden shell or “Concha de Oro” and the best actor and actress receive Silver Shells, or “Concha de Plata”. San Sebastián features one of the most famous beaches and spectacular beaches in the country known as “La Concha” or The Shell, from where the film festivals award gets its name. 

The festival also gives out a lifetime achievement award each year, known as the Donostia award. Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Dame Judy Dench, and Danny Devito have all been chosen to receive this prestigious award. In 1989 Bette Davis, was also awarded the Donostia award at the festival. It would be her last ever public appearance, she died two weeks later.

concha de oro san sebastian film festival

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