Queer Lion to share awards shelf at Venice


ROME -- The Queer Lion award is finally coming to the Venice Film Festival after four years of negotiations.

The prize will be awarded to the best full-length film in competition or in any of the festival's sidebars that features a gay theme or character, even if the character does not play a central role. The name Queer Lion is a take on Venice's main prize, the Golden Lion.

"We aren't looking for the next 'Brokeback Mountain,' " the competition's director Daniel Casagrande said in an interview. "We are just looking for films that accurately portray gay characters or themes."

With 22 films in competition at the 64th annual Venice event, and about three dozen others screening in sidebars, Casagrande said he expects "around 10 or 12" films to be candidates for the prize.

The plaudit is a gold plaque with the Venice Lion winged logo in black with the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag on the wings. A small international jury will select the winner.

The new award comes after Casagrande first approached the festival with the idea in 2003. The Berlin International Film Festival has been handing out a similar prize -- the Teddy Awards, a play on Berlin's Golden Bear -- for the past 21 festivals.

The Queer Lion competition is one of two first-year prizes joining more than two dozen other secondary competition sections that dish out prizes to films that meet a variety of criteria.

The other first-year prize is the Padre Nazzareno Taddei Prize for the in-competition title that shows "authentic human values in the best cinematographic language." The more established prizes awarded in Venice include the Persol prize for superior style in film; the Little Lion Award for the best film based on a vote of local school children; and the Human Rights Film Network award.