Venice fest short on local honorees

Italy has not won a Golden Lion in 11 years

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ROME -- The Italian press, which before the Venice Film Festival had celebrated the high number of Italian films in the festival's official selection, has gone into a period of soul searching and finger pointing after Italian films were for the most part excluded from the festival's major prizes.

The festival concluded Saturday, with the top prize going to Israeli-made "Lebanon." Brit Colin Firth won the best actor prize for his work in "A Single Man," directed by first-time U.S. director Tom Ford. Iran's Shirin Neshat won the best director prize for her work on "Zanan Bedoone Mardan" (Women Without Men).

"La Doppia Ora" (The Double Hour), from Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi, was honored, but it was for best actress, which went to Ksenia Rappoport, the Russian-born actress who played an Eastern European immigrant to Italy.

Oscar winner Giuseppe Tornatore's "Baaria" -- the most expensive Italian film ever made and the first Italian film to open the Venice festival in more than two decades -- was one of four Italian films that screened in competition in Venice, but it was left without a major prize.

Italy has gone without a Golden Lion winner in Venice now for 11 consecutive years, since Gianni Amerlio's "Cosi Ridevano" (The Way We Laughed) won the award in 1998.

"Cinema looks to place the blame for the delusion of Venice," a headline in Corriere della Sera's Monday edition said, quoting several leading cinema figures about their disappointments at the lack of Italian hardware.

L'Unita weighed in on the lack of major prizes for Italian films by saying there were only "minor prizes for minor films" and that the results proved that the Italian cinema industry produced films that were a better fit on television than on the big screen. La Stampa said that criticisms left Venice "on the defensive."

Italian cinema blogs ranged between disappointments to anger to resignation when they talked about the Italian prize drought in Venice.

But there was at least one bright spot for Italian films: Il Giornale quoted jury president Ang Lee -- a two-time winner of Venice's Golden Lion -- as saying that if it had been up to him alone he would have given the top prize to "Baaria."
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