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'Genderless' awards at San Sebastián Film Festival: No more 'Best Actor and Actress'

This year's San Sebastián Film Festival is set to be a game-changer and could influence the entire world of silver-screen awards: For the first time, the gender of the winners will no longer be mentioned.


Due to take place in the Basque coastal city between September 17 and 25, what will be the 69th festival will no longer see 'Golden Shells', or Conchas de Oro, and 'Silver Shells', or Conchas de Plata, presented for 'Best Actor' and Best Actress'.

Instead, one will be given for 'Best Leading Performance', and another for 'Best Supporting Performance', instead of the usual 'Best Supporting Actor' and 'Best Supporting Actress'.

This could, in effect, mean only half as many awards presented, as male and female nominees will all be lumped together.

According to festival director José Luis Rebordinos: “Gender, which is a social and political construct, will cease to be a criterium for acting distinctions.”

He points out that the new format – which Berlin Film Festival has already opted to follow this year – 'opens the door to awards for players who identify as non-binary', defined as persons who do not consider themselves to be male or female at all, or who 'feel female' or 'feel male' at different times. Non-binary people may use gendered pronouns to describe themselves if they feel their gender is 'fluid', or changeable, but those who do not identify as one or the other typically go by the pronoun 'they' instead of 'he' or 'she'.

Rebordinos says requests have been repeatedly presented over the past few years to the USA Actors' Syndicate, the Television Academy – which is behind the Emmy Awards – and the Hollywood Academy, which runs the Oscars, to drop the gender distinctions.

But given that these awards have, in the recent past, come under fire for lack of female representation among the winners, the flip side of the 'genderless' approach could be that the guarantee of parity in acting nominations and prizes becomes lost and the risk of over-representation of men or, indeed, women, increases.

And steps to ensure this parity continues would be counter-productive to the aim of taking gender out of the equation when awarding trophies.

How it all works out will be seen in September, when the first San Sebastián Film Festival since before the pandemic takes place in person – partly, at least.

A 'hybrid' of online and in-person activities and presentations will be arranged this year – the 'red carpet' for certain productions being one of the latter, along with the 'festival within a festival' of Korean films from the 1950s and 1960s, which was scheduled for last year but unable to go ahead. The opening and closing parties will not take place, however; neither will the film sessions in the velodrome.


Alien actress Sigourney Weaver is the 'poster girl' for this year's San Sebastián Film Festival, which features a different famous face each year and gives lifetime achievement awards to an actor or actress at each edition.

Via ThinkSPAIN, 23/06/2021