The 70th Venice Film festival (Aug 28-Sept 7) awarded the Golden Lion this year to a creative Italian documentary "Sacro Gra" by Gianfranco Rosi (Italy, France) in a special ceremony at Sala Grande on September 7. The award was unexpected since it was not a feature film. This year’s "Venezia 70" jury was presided over by Bernardo Bertolucci and composed of Andrea Arnold, Renato Berta, Carrie Fisher, Martina Gedeck, Jiang Wen, Pablo Larraín, Virginie Ledoyen, and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Rosi was especially pleased with the award since this is the first time the festival has opened up the “Venezia” official competition to the documentary form.
The "Gra" is a 68-kilometer motorway that lies on the periphery of Rome, an acronym that stands for “Grande Raccordo Anulare” (“Great Ring Junction”). It was designed by and named for Eugenio Gra. Rosi traveled in his minivan to speak with people who live along the ring, and who play themselves in the film. Rosi calls them “representatives of the New World”: The Eel Fisherman Cesare, The Nobleman from Piemonte and his daughter Paolo and Amelia, The Paramedic Roberto, The Tree Doctor Francesco, The Prince and his Consort Filippo and Xsenia and The Actor Gaetano. Rosi’s ambition was to study the identity of contemporary Rome. The film is a part of the “Sacro Gra project”, a multi-disciplinarian study of modern Rome established by urbanist and landscape architect Nicolò Bassetti. The project will create a map of stories, landscapes, and people of the Gra.
Alexandros Avranas (Greece 99’) won the Silver Lion for “Miss Violence”. The Greek narrative concerns the suicide of an 11-year-old girl after her birthday party. Avranas explores what made her do it and why she keeps silent about it before her death. The disturbing scenario follows a new wave of Greek filmmakers (Dog Tooth, Yorgos Lantimos 2009) creating scenarios about dangerous nuclear families. The patriarch of this family is said to symbolize the injustices of society, one factor being the economic collapse of the Greek economy.
Themis Panou won the best actor award (Coppa Volpi) for his role as the patriarch in "Miss Violence".
The 82 year old veteran Italian actress Elena Cotta who plays a passerby with only three spoken lines in Albanian won the best actress award (Coppa Volpi) for her role in "A Street in Palermo (Via Castellana Bandiera)" by Emma Dante (Italy, Switzerland, France). The film was especially popular among the critics about two women in Palermo in town for a wedding engaged in a “Mexican standoff”. Each refuses to move her car on Via Castellana Bandiera. Rosa (Dante) and her passenger Clara (Alba Rohrwacher) are a lesbian couple on the rocks and in the other vehicle is the extended Calafirore family.
According to Tsai Ming-liang "Jiaoyou" – Stray Dogs (Taiwan, France) will be his last feature. He is tired of the labor involved in producing quality films. Causing some controversy, the film is from Taiwan but Italy was required by law to list the film from Chinese Taipei or the film would not be allowed to compete. Tsai is from Malaysia but grew up in Taiwan. The 55 year old director takes the Grand Jury Prize with him for his last effort about a father and his two children who live on the margins of society in Taipei. The father works as a human billboard and the children find free samples of food in shopping malls. They live in an abandoned building with an hypnotic mural that starts to affect the father.
Paul Schrader and jury Catherine Corsini, Leonardo Di Costanzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Frédéric Fonteyne, Kseniya Rappoport, Amr Waked awarded films in the Orizzonti (Horizons) division for innovations in cinema.
"Eastern Boys" (France) by Robin Campillo won for best film in Orizzonti, a complex and provocative film about a gang of East European undocumented immigrants that plunder a middle age Frenchman (French actor Olivier Rabourdin) who tries to pick up one of the boys at Gare du Nord.
One film the critics walked out of in Venice won special mention in Orizzonti- Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody’s film "Ruin" about a misfit Cambodian couple - an abused prostitute and thief/murderer. Courtin Wilson is not thin on social injustice topics and Cody has worked on cross cultural cinema projects in Australia and Asia.
The special Orizzonti award for innovative content went to "Mahi va Gorbeh" by Shahram Mokri (Fish and Cat, Iran), an incredible feature with one continuous take of 237 minutes. The setting is winter solstice where Iranian university students are gathered for a kite festival. Slowly but surely the film seems more and more seems like a story of the undead and murder and is based on a true story where food was served in the countryside containing human flesh.
The 70th Venice Film Festival confirms its legacy as a festival with a clearly defined artistic stamp as well as proven stature as a form for groundbreaking innovation in cinema.