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Another film festival shifts to gender neutral awards

The move follows a similar step taken by the Berlin Film Festival, held last March, and is part of a growing trend.

Spain's San Sebastián International Film Festival announced Tuesday that its acting awards will this year be gender neutral for the first time.

The Silver Shell for best actor and best actress are to be replaced by the Silver Shell for best leading performance and for best supporting performance at the event in September, the organizers said.

The move follows a similar step taken by the Berlin Film Festival, held last March, and is part of a growing trend.

"The change arises from the conviction that gender, a social and political construct, is no longer a criterion that we follow to distinguish between performances," the festival director, José Luis Rebordinos, said. "The criterion for the jury will be to distinguish between good and bad performances."

Organizers say they are confident the festival will be run along lines more similar to those in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While some restrictions are likely to continue, the festival intends to increase the number of screenings and the seating capacity in cinemas compared to last year, as well as to recoup some red carpet glamour.

The 69th San Sebastián International Film Festival runs from Sept. 17 to 25 in northern Spain.

Zackary Drucker, an actor who consulted on Amazon Studios’ “Transparent” said, “Young people are identifying less with the gender binary and it’s, I think, a necessity for survival for organizations to reflect the society that we’re living in,” the Washington Post reported.

Michael Schneider wrote a column for Variety last year and argued that while some may see dropping gender in award categories as potentially lowering the number of individuals who can say they are "Emmy nominees," it could create more opportunity. Schneider argued that non-gendered categories could expand the slots and offer an opportunity to introduce additional categories for performers to have a chance to win.

TEGNA's Douglas Jones contributed to this report.