Israeli film 'Lebanon' wins Golden Lion

Venice fest also awards Colin Firth for best actor

ROME -- "Lebanon," a story about Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon told almost entirely from inside a tank, was given the Venice Film Festival's top award, and Colin Firth and Ksenia Rappoport won the prizes for best actor and actress, respectively.

"Lebanon," based on the wartime experiences of Israeli director Samuel Maoz, set the Venice Lido abuzz when it premiered during the festival's second week, and it quickly became a favorite for the main prize in a lineup where political films seemed to attract the most attention.

On accepting the Golden Lion during Saturday's awards ceremony, Maoz said he dedicated the prize to war veterans worldwide.

"This is dedicated to all the thousands of people around the world who, like me, come back from war safe and sound but who have the memory of their experiences stabbed into their souls," he said.

Firth won the Coppa Volpi for best actor for his portrayal of a homosexual professor struggling with the loss of his partner in Tom Ford's "A Single Man." Rappoport took the Coppa Volpi for her role as an immigrant hotel worker who becomes involved in a robbery plot in Giuseppe Capotondi's thriller "The Double Hour."

Shirin Neshat won the Silver Lion prize for best director for "Women Without Men," based on a banned book about Iran in the 1950s.

Maoz, Ford, Capotondi and Neshat were among five first-time directors to have a film in the main competition. Before the festival got under way, much media attention was paid to the unusually high number of first-time directors in Venice's official lineup.

The most important award not given to a first-time director went to "Soul Kitchen," a comedy from German-born Turkish director Fatih Akin.

Five prizes were awarded Friday:

  "The Last Days of Emma Blank," a comedy from Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam about a wealthy woman who drives her servants to mutiny, won the top prize at the Venice Days sidebar.

  Jessica Hausner's "Lourdes," the story of a religious pilgrimage to the shrine at Lourdes, won the FIPRESCI award.

  The Queer Lion, which selects the best film with a gay plot or subplot, went to Ford's "Single Man," the first film to take home the prize that did not screen in the Venice Days sidebar. Organizers also presented a career achievement award to director Ang Lee, president of Venice's main jury this year, who has taken home the Golden Lion twice, including for "Brokeback Mountain," which tells the story of two homosexual cowboys.

  The Future Film Festival's Digital Award, for the best film using digital technology, went to "Metropia," a surreal, animated anti-utopian love story directed by Tarik Saleh. The film screened in the Critics Week sidebar.

  A jury of 26 selected Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" for the Leoncino d'Oro, selected by local school children with a knack for picking the overall winner. In its 17 previous editions, the Leoncino winner has gone on to take the main Venice prize six times, and it almost always has taken some major Venice prize.

This time, Moore was shut out, though "Capitalism" reportedly attracted the festival's largest crowds. It was Moore's first appearance on the Venice Lido after the premieres of his previous two films took place in Cannes, where he took home major awards both times.
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