San Sebastián (or Donostia, as we call it locally) has recently become an acclaimed destination for food lovers; it is what we donostiarras (and Basques in general) are mostly known for, the food. But San Sebastián is not just the epicentre of Basque gastronomy, it is also a city of leisure, business, and fashion — all three combined!
Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Elizabeth Taylor… Want to walk on the same red carpet as these celebrities? Well, now you can! If you are in San Sebastián at the moment, you must have realised we are up to something. Every September, words like ‘magical’ and ‘glamorous’ come back to our dictionaries to describe the exciting atmosphere that the San Sebastián International Film Festival brings to our city.
The San Sebastián International Film Festival (or Zinemaldia) was first celebrated in 1953 and has been running for 64 editions now. Initially, this festival was more like a film week rather than an actual competition. The first award-giving year was 1955, the most prestigious award at the time being the Concha de Plata, a silver shell that became gold in 1957 when the SSIFF obtained the A class Film Festival status.
If the Golden Shell is the most important award for a movie, the Donostia Award is the biggest prize to be given as an actor. The Donostia Award is decided before the festival takes off every year, and it is the sincerest form of acknowledgement since 1986. Representing The Magnificent Seven (Antoine Fuqua, 2016) and A Monster Calls (J.A. Bayona, 2016), American actor Ethan Hawke and American actress Sigourney Weaver will be given their corresponding shells in the Donostia Award Galas happening on the 17th and 21st of September. But before Weaver and Hawke walk to the stage to accept such recognition, many other well-known faces have been awarded with the same prize in the past: Gregory Peck, Glenn Ford, Claudette Colbert, Susan Sarandon, Al Pacino, John Malkovich, Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange, Willem Dafoe, Ian McKellen, John Travolta, Ewan McGregor, Benicio del Toro, and Emily Watson are a few of the many stars who have taken a piece of San Sebastián back to Hollywood with them.
The festival has several categories asides from the Official Selection and the Donostia Award Special Screenings, with films from all over world competing for the jury’s and the spectators’ approval. The SSIFF also brings movies for children, and has a wide variety of Spanish (or Basque)-speaking sections (Zinemira, Made in Spain, Horizontes Latinos). In many cases, unfinished movies are given economic aid to get to the international market. The festival’s goal is, after all, sharing one same passion and encouraging professionals to meet and collaborate in different audiovisual projects.
Tickets are available for non-accredited guests during the festival dates (September 16 to 24). You can get yours in the ticket window of Kursaal (Av. de Zurriola, 1) and choose time and theatre. Hurry, tickets get sold out very quickly! As for those working in the film or press industry, you can apply for credentials in the summertime; even if the festival is a one-week celebration, the SSIFF staff works all year long to make the Zinemaldia happen.
If you want to have your yearly dose of cinema, be prepared for a very crowded season in Donostia! The streets will be packed with people, the locals will be chasing their favourite celebrities around the luxurious Hotel María Cristina, and it is very likely that most lodgings will be booked months and months in advance. Last but not least, make sure to bring your umbrella with you if you are already present in the 64 Edition. We have already had a few accidents with the intense rain and gales; many advertising signs were completely torn from the ground and fell into River Urumea just a few days prior to the opening gala!
Discover the oh-so-local way of life in Basque country on a San Sebastian tour, with a local guide. With our tours you can take to the hills and discover the gorgeous coastline of the St. James Way, or get to know Basque food by tucking into some delicious pintxos. When it comes to San Sebastian travel, we’ve got you covered!