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Kevin Smith takes top prize at Sitges

US indie director's 'Red State' and UK movie 'Attack the Block' are festival stars

There didn't seem to be many doubts among the public and the jury: the films that attracted the most attention in the Official Selection at this year's Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival were British movie Attack the Block, directed by Joe Cornish, and US filmmaker Kevin Smith's Red State. The former won the critics and audience prizes, the award for Best Soundtrack and received a special mention from the jury for its amazing vision of teenage life in an inner-city neighborhood - defending itself from an alien invasion. The latter took home the trophies for Best Actor for Michael Parks - tremendous as a violent ultra-radical preacher - and Best Film. As festival director Ángel Sala said: "It's the rebirth of Kevin Smith," verbalizing what many people have been thinking since the film screened. It resurrects the career of a key 1990s US indie director (Clerks, Dogma and, above all, Chasing Amy), whose last work was the shameful Cop Out.

Red State is a tough watch that hides several changes of genre. Although the core is an attack on a community of radical Christians by some police officers who have no qualms about using violence, you never clearly know what you are watching in the face of Smith's story twists.

The trio of performances made up of Parks, Melissa Leo (as his daughter) and John Goodman (the cop who leads the attack) is magnificent. But Smith has no problem in bumping off his leads - you can never get too attached to anyone because you never know who is going to die. "It is an uncomfortable film to watch," pointed out jury member Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage). The movie has yet to find a distributor in Spain, but hopefully the prize will encourage someone to snap it up. Its forcefulness and quality well deserve it.

In the other Official Selection awards, the prize for Best Director went to South Korea's Na Hong-Jin for The Yellow Sea; Best Actress went to American Brit Marling for Another Earth (see New releases, right) and Best Special Effects went to Spain's Eva.

Highlights from the other sections include the best film award that the Noves Visions jury gave to Korean genius Park Chan-wook and his younger brother Park Chan-kyong for Night Fishing, a 33-minute film shot on a cellphone camera. The Méliès de Plata prize for best European fantasy film went to Kill List from British filmmaker Ben Wheatley.

This year's festival once again broke attendance records. A competition succeeds by offering promotion for its titles (Cannes), by thinking about the industry and the public (San Sebastián) or by only thinking about the fans (Sitges). With an Official Selection comprising up to eight titles a day, it is impossible to report everything; in contrast the fans are delighted to see one film after another and, in this way, Sitges gives people what they want: with the final box-office figures still to be added, the festival released provisional figures of 66,000 tickets sold and a total of 115,000 spectators.

The Melía Sitges Auditorium, which seats 1,200 people, was sold out for several sessions and the film that sold the most tickets was Mientras Duermes, by Jaume Balagueró, which was shown out of competition.

A still from Kevin Smith's film 'Red State'.
A still from Kevin Smith's film 'Red State'.FESTIVAL SITGES
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