Venice Film Festival Winners


In a rare triumph for nonfiction cinema at a major film festival, American docmaker Laura Poitras has taken the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” — the third female director in a row to the take the honor on the Lido, following recent victories for Chloe Zhao and Audrey Diwan. In doing so, she narrowly edged out such hotly fancied filmmakers as Martin Donagh, Luca Guadagnino, Alice Diop and Jafar Panahi, all of whom nonetheless landed prizes of their own from a jury headed by actor Julianne Moore.

An Oscar winner in 2015 for her doc “Citizenfour,” Poitras earned some of the most stellar reviews of the festival for her revealing, adventurous portrait of trailblazing photographer Nan Goldin, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman calling it “profound and incendiary,” and praising it for “[taking]two elements — Goldin’s art and her activism — and [showing]you how they’re actually woven together in richly suggestive ways.” The prize comes as a welcome publicity boost to the upcoming Neon release, and marks it as a formidable contender for next year’s documentary Oscar.

Despite such notices, Poitras’ film wasn’t widely expected to take the Lion, becoming the first documentary since Gianfranco Rosi’s “Sacro GRA” in 2013 to do so: Other, flashier critical favorites like Todd Field’s comeback feature “Tár” and Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” were more heavily hyped throughout the fest, while many suspected that unjustly imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi would triumph both as a gesture of political solidarity and on the strength of his dense, innovative autofiction feature “No Bears.”

Moore’s jury balanced out the relatively low-key nature of their top prizewinner by plumping for big-name glitz in their acting selections. Cate Blanchett took Best Actress for her ferocious tour de force turn as a troubled orchestra conductor in Field’s provocative character study, as many suspected she would after bowling critics over on the very first day of the festival, with Gleiberman enthralled by her “magnetic shifts of mood” in the role. (The only question, really, was who would win Best Actress if the jury loved “Tár” enough to win the Golden Lion; festival rules forbid one film from winning both.) As it is, we can expect the Venice award — Blanchett’s second, having won 15 years ago for her witty Bob Dylan impression in “I’m Not There” — to be the first of many for the Australian thesp this awards season, with her third Oscar very much in sight.

Best Actor, meanwhile, went to a well-liked star who nonetheless hasn’t been such an awards mainstay: Colin Farrell, moving and wryly funny as a rural Irishman devastated by his estrangement from his best friend in McDonagh’s unexpectedly poignant black comedy — which also landed the playwright-turned-filmmaker his second Venice screenplay prize, having taken the honor five years ago for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It’s a welcome campaign launch for the popular but offbeat Searchlight release, with Farrell seeing off more solemn dramatic competition from Brendan Fraser in “The Whale” and Hugh Jackman in “The Son,” among others. Variety‘s review, describing Farrell’s performance as “lovely,” added that the star has “never seemed more boyishly worried, his open smile never more hopeful or eager to please.”

When Luca Guadagnino’s sensual cannibal romance “Bones and All” premiered on the Lido, it was leading man Timothee Chalamet who drew the squealing crowds — but it’s his co-star, Taylor Russell, as well as Guadagnino himself who wound up with hardware for the film. Local son Guadagnino took the Best Director prize, while Russell landed the Marcello Mastroianni Award for the best young actor of the festival — a gong that has previously gone to such talents as Jennifer Lawrence and Gael Garcia Bernal near the start of their careers. Gleiberman, no fan of “Bones and All,” nonetheless had words of praise for the “expressively melancholy actor.”

The Grand Jury Prize — effectively the runner-up to the Golden Lion — went to French-Senegalese filmmaker Alice Diop for her powerful, formally radical courtroom drama “Saint Omer,” described by Variety critic Jessica Kiang as a “deceptively austere, extraordinarily multifaceted fiction debut” from the filmmaker, who previously made a splash on the European festival circuit with her feature doc “We.” The film, inspired by the true-life case of a Black woman who admitted to murdering her baby, also earned Diop the separately juried Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best debut — rather oddly insinuating, on a night that a documentary took the festival’s top prize, that nonfiction features also don’t count. (Read Variety‘s interview with Diop here.)

The absent Panahi, meanwhile, earned a Special Jury Prize and a standing ovation at the ceremony for “No Bears,” the latest of several features made in secrecy by the embattled auteur, who was sentenced to six years in prison by the Iranian authorities in July. Festival prizes can only do so much to counter such persecution, but the fight continues.

In the festival’s other juried sections, meanwhile, another Iranian filmmaker, Houman Seyedi, took the top prize in the Horizons sidebar for his anti-totalitarian political drama “World War III,” which also took an acting prize for leading man Mohsen Tanabandeh. Canadian filmmaker Graham Foy led the winners (juried by French filmmaker Celine Sciamma) in the festival’s independently programmed Venice Days strand for his debut “The Maiden,” a summer adolescent tragedy with a surprising spiritual dimension, while the Critics’ Week section’s top prize went to Austrian director David Wagner’s first feature “Eismayer,” an intimate, affecting portrait of a closeted gay sergeant in the Austrian army.


Golden Lion for Best Film: “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Laura Poitras
Grand Jury Prize: “Saint Omer,” Alice Diop
Silver Lion for Best Director: “Bones and All,” Luca Guadagnino
Special Jury Prize: “No Bears,” Jafar Panahi
Best Screenplay: “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Martin McDonagh
Volpi Cup for Best Actress: “Tár,” Cate Blanchett
Volpi Cup for Best Actor: “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Colin Farrell
Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor: “Bones and All,” Taylor Russell

Best Film: “World War III,” Houman Seyyedi
Best Director: “Vera,” Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel
Special Jury Prize: “Bread and Salt,” Damian Kocur
Best Actress: “Vera,” Vera Gemma
Best Actor: “World War III,” Mohsen Tanabandeh
Best Screenplay: “Blanquita,” Fernando Guzzoni
Best Short Film: “Snow in September,” Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir

Luigi de Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Feature: “Saint Omer,” Alice Diop

Audience Award: “Nezouh,” Soudade Kaadan

Best Documentary of Cinema: “Fragments of Paradise,” K.D. Davison
Best Restored Film: “Branded to Kill,” Seijun Suzuki

Best Immersive Experience: “The Man Who Couldn’t Leave,” Chen Singing
Grand Jury Prize: “From the Main Square,” Pedro Harres
Special Jury Prize: “Eggscape,” German Heller

VENICE DAYS (announced earlier)
Cinema of the Future Award: “The Maiden,” Graham Foy
Director’s Award: “Wolf and Dog,” Cláudia Varejão
People’s Choice Award: “Blue Jean,” Georgia Oakley

CRITICS’ WEEK (announced earlier)
Grand Prize: “Eismayer,” David Wagner
Special Mention: “Anhell69,” Theo Montoya
Audience Award: “Margini,” Niccolò Falsetti
Verona Film Club Award: “Anhell69,” Theo Montoya
Mario Serandrei – Hotel Saturnia Award for Best Technical Contribution: “Anhell69,” Theo Montoya
Best Short Film: “Puiet,” Lorenzo Fabbro and Bronte Stahl
Best Director (Short Film): “Albertine Where Are You?,” Maria Guidone
Best Technical Contribution (Short Film): “Reginetta,” Federico Russotto

Source: Guy Lodge Variety


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