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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK


Spanish eyes on Banderas clan

Mr and Mrs: Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith open festival

The San Sebastian Film Festival has opened with a glittering gala attended by Spanish actor turned Hollywood heart-throb Antonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffith.

Festival goers are getting the first glimpse of the star's directorial debut, Crazy in Alabama, with the Mark of Zorro actor in town for the premiere.

Tippi Hedren, Banderas' mother-in-law and star of The Birds, is also gracing the northern Spanish resort, to mark the centenary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth.

This year's festival has broken with tradition by splitting its top honour between three stars - Vanessa Redgrave, Anjelica Huston and Spanish actor Fernando Fernan Gomez.

[ image: Three-way split: Vanessa Redgrave shares top honours]
Three-way split: Vanessa Redgrave shares top honours
Spain's most prestigious celebration of film normally chooses to pay homage to just one star - with Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum and John Malkovich all having received the coveted 'Donostia' award.

Vanessa Redgrave, one of the leading lights of the British cinema and theatre, is expected to be on hand to accept her award.

The 62-year-old is being recognised for her performances in such films as Mrs Dalloway (1997), Blow-Up (1966) and Howards End (1992).

Anjelica Huston, daughter of late director John Huston, is being given her Donostia to mark a film career which has seen her appear in more than 30 productions.

The 49-year-old has been particularly prolific in the 1990s, working on films as diverse as The Grifters (1990), Buffalo 66 (1998) and The Addams Family (1991).

The third recipient of the prestigious Donostia is veteran Spanish star Fernando Fernan Gomez. The 78-year-old will be the first local actor to be given the achievement award.

The 'family' film festival

Organisers of the 10-day festival - now in its 47th year - claim it has a friendlier air than rival events in Cannes and Venice.

"San Sebastian is a small festival with a family atmosphere," says Diego Galan, the event's director. "The premiere of a film or the arrival of a star is felt throughout the city."

The festival's opening gala night featured a screening of Lawrence Kasden's Mumford - a film about a psychologist whose advice sends a small town into a romantic spin.

Kasden's previous credits include The Big Chill (1983) and The Accidental Tourist (1988). He also wrote the script for the hugely popular Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and helped create two of the Star Wars films.

Nearly 200 movies will be shown during the course of the festival, with 15 competing for the event's top prize - the Golden Shell.

[ image: Director Almodovar to miss award ceremony]
Director Almodovar to miss award ceremony
Among the films battling for the award is Miss Julie, the latest effort from British director Mike Figgis - maker of the acclaimed Leaving Las Vegas (1995).

The festival will close with a screening of Onegin, an adaptation of the Pushkin poem starring Ralph Fiennes and directed by his sister, Martha.

One prominent home-grown talent not attending the festival is Pedro Almodovar. The director was to have accepted a special award, but has cancelled following the death of his mother.

Almodovar, whose latest film All About My Mother won him the best director award at this year's Cannes film festival, will instead be represented by actress Marisa Paredes.

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