British film ‘Neds’ wins top prize at San Sebastian festival

A coming-of-age tale set in 1970s Glasgow, “Neds”, by Scottish actor and director Peter Mullan won top honours 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 by Mullan, whose early directorial ambitions had been dashed when he was rejected entry to the prestigious National Film School.

“Neds”, a derogatory Scottish term referring to working-class white males, focuses on a teenager from a Glasgow housing estate with a violent father and his friendship with a middle-class boy who has a bright academic future.

Mullan, who last directed Venice Golden Lion winner “The Magdalene Sisters” eight years ago, is also a prolific actor, appearing in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” and Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting”.

He has also teamed up with fellow British director Ken Loach, first in 1991 for “Riff Raff” and then “My Name is Joe”, which won Mullan the best actor award at Cannes in 1998.

The 58th edition of the San Sebastian festival awarded Franco-Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz the best director prize for his four-hour movie “Misterios de Lisboa”, inspired by the work of Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco.

The 69-year-old director, who is recovering from cancer and an 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 all connected to a young orphan and boarder in a Lisbon religious school.

It was a successful night for Mullan as the best actor award went to his lead actor in “Neds”, the young Scottish newcomer Conor McCarron.

Spain’s Nora Navas won the best actress prize for her part in “Pa negre”, a drama by Catalan director Agusti Villaronga set during the Spanish civil war of 1936-39.

Earlier in the week Spanish actor Javier Bardem awarded 42-year-old American actress Julia Roberts, his co-star in “Eat Pray Love” which was showing out of competition, with the special Donostia prize for her film career.

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.