The San Sebastian International Film Festival will this year change its acting awards to be gender neutral and will be the first time that male and female performances will compete together for the winning accolades.
Festival organisers announced this week that the Silver Shell for best actor and best actress will be replaced by the Silver Shell for best leading performance and for best supporting performance.
The awards, due to be announced during the festival in September, follow a similar change adopted by the Berlin Film Festival in March last year. More awards in the arts sector are moving to gender neutral categories, following a trend to assess performances regardless of gender.
José Luis Rebordinos, Festival Director, explained the move during a launch event this week, saying that ‘the change arises from the conviction that gender, a social and political construct, is no longer a criterion that we follow to distinguish between performances’.
Describing the assessment process, he went on to say that ‘the criterion for the jury will be to distinguish between good and bad performances’.
It is hoped that this year’s event will be closer to the way it was before the pandemic, although for the second year running there will not be an opening or closing party and it will not be possible to use the Velodrome as a giant theatre.
Rebordinos was optimistic about delivering a more ‘normal’ festival, saying that ‘we are banking on increasing the number of screenings and the seating capacity in cinemas compared to last year, and we also want to bring back the glamour to the red carpet. In short, we would like this year’s festival to be one that restores hope to the city after more than a year of great uncertainty and suffering for many people’.
The official poster for the 69th Festival, taking place from 17-25 September this year, features the American actress Sigourney Weaver.
Weaver first visited San Sebastian in 1979, following her cinematic debut in Alien. She has attended the festival twice since, including to receive the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Speaking about the image for the 69th edition, Rebordinos said that Weaver is ‘an exceptional actress, much loved by the public, who has shone in the entire range of genres with characters that form part of the universal imaginary of cinema’.
The change in awards to gender neutral and more recognition for the work in supporting performances is a move that is expected to keep the festival relevant and internationally recognised as an important event in the cinematic calendar.