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Filipino director Lav Diaz on Saturday won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Lion, for his film The Woman Who Left. The drama explores themes of revenge after a wrongly convicted schoolteacher struggles following her release from prison. Diaz dedicated the award to the people of his country and “the struggle for humanity.”
Tom Ford earned the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize for his second feature film, Nocturnal Animals, a thriller starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Speaking in Italian, Ford thanked the festival, saying, “Italy for me is truly a second home.”
Ford first came to the festival in 2009, where his debut film A Single Man premiered in competition. The film’s Colin Firth won the Coppa Volpi for best actor and was later nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. The drama also won the Queer Lion that year.
The Silver Lion for best director was a split this year between Mexican helmer Amat Escalante for his sci-fi film Untamed and Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky for his holocaust drama Paradise. Venice juries are historically allowed one tie for a prize.
The Coppa Volpi prize for best actress went to Emma Stone for her singing and dancing turn in the universally praised La La Land. Stone, who was not present to collect the honor, recorded a video message for the audience: “I wish I was back there because Venice and Italy are so amazing and I can think of no better place than Venice to have premiered La La Land. We had such an amazing time and I will never forget it. I have to thank Ryan Gosling for being my partner on this movie, and especially Damien Chazelle for casting me,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”
The Coppa Volpi for best actor went to Oscar Martinez for The Distinguished Citizen from Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat. The pic follows a Nobel Prize-winning novelist who returns to his small-town home in Argentina.
The best screenplay award was given to Noah Oppenheim for Jackie. Natalie Portman plays the famous first lady in the days following JFK’s assassination in the film, which was directed by Pablo Larrain.
The special jury prize went to Ana Lily Amirpour for her cannibalistic love story The Bad Batch.
The Marcello Mastroianni award for best newcomer went to Paula Beer for her role in the acclaimed period drama Frantz by Francois Ozon. It was the first time the young German actress performed in French.
It was a year led by studios since Venice has been a lucky charm for Oscar launches, having premiered three big winners in recent years, including Gravity, Birdman and Spotlight. Seven of the 20 films in competition came from American productions.
Venice juries have often been criticized in recent years for choosing films to highlight those that might not otherwise receive attention, rather than picking the best film. Last year, the big prize went to first-time director Lorenzo Vigas, for his Venezuelan drama From Afar, which was awarded by jury president Alfonso Cuaron.
Sam Mendes, who served as this year’s president of the jury, jested on the difficulty of job: “To paraphrase the great writer George Orwell, all movies are equal, but some movies are more equal than others.” The filmmaker was asked afterwards if the jury discussed how the awards would affect the potential distribution of the films as a factor in their decisions. Mendes replied that the jury discussed only the merits of each film, but he did believe that an award from a big festival could help the longevity of a movie. “We’re here to encourage people to come to the cinema and come to see original films,” he said.
“I hope some of the choices we’ve made will lead audiences to see these films,” said Mendes, adding that he hoped that the jury’s choices would open up distribution for some of the movies awarded.
Unlike in previous years, critics were not so divided among features this year. Over the course of the festival, the top-reviewed film among Italian and foreign critics was La La Land, with Jackie a close second. The lowest reviewed film was The Bad Batch.
The Horizons jury awarded the best film to Liberami by Federica di Giacomo, a documentary about exorcism in Sicily. Flemish helmer FIen Troch won best director honors for her look at the generational divide between teenagers and their parents in Home. The special jury prize went to Turkish filmmaker Reha Erdem for Big Big World.
The best screenplay nod went to Wang Bing for Bitter Money, a film about the violent living conditions of migrants in East China. Nuno Lopes was named best actor for his turn as a boxing enthusiast turned debt collector in Sao Jorges by Marco Martins. Best actress honors went to Ruth Diaz for her role in The Fury of a Patient Man, the helming debut of actor Raul Arevalo.
Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim won the prestigious Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future, the best debut film award, for The Last of Us. Premiering in Critics’ Week, the pic tells, without any dialogue, the story of an illegal sea crossing from Africa to Europe.
The jury for Venice Days, chaired by Canadian artist Bruce LaBruce, gave the best film award to The War Show, a documentary by Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard. The film, which explores the civil war in Syria, moved the jury with both its political and social significance.
The winner of the Audience Award for the Venice International Film Critics Week went to The Nobodies by Juan Sebastian Mesa. Shot on a budget of $2,000, the film explores Colombia’s anarcho-punk culture and was shot in one week throughout Medellin’s most inaccessible streets.
This year’s Queer Lion went to Heartstone, directed by Guomundur Arnar Guomundsson, which premiered in Venice Days. The film, about young teenagers coming of age, was the first movie from Iceland to compete in the festival.
In the Venice Classics section, Claire Simon won best documentary on cinema for Le concours. And best restored film went to Break up — L’uomo dei cinque palloni by Marco Ferreri.
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