Audrey Diwan’s 1960s abortion drama L’Événement (Happening) has won the Golden Lion at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, while the runner-up honour went to Paolo Sorrentino’s semi-autobiographical The Hand of God.
- 21 films were competing for the main prize at the festival
- Audrey Diwan is the sixth woman to win the Golden Lion
- Penelope Cruz won the Volpi Cup for best actress
Diwan’s film about a French college student who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy was the unanimous choice from a jury that included recent Oscar winners Bong Joon-ho and Chloe Zhao.
The competition this year was robust, including well-received films like Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, and The Hand of God.
Twenty-one films were vying for the prize, which has become a promising early indicator of a film’s Oscars prospects.
“I wanted Happening to be an experience.”
Diwan is the sixth woman to have directed a Golden Lion-winning film. Others include Chloe Zhao, Margarethe Von Trotta and Agnes Varda.
Sorrentino’s The Hand of God, based on a formative personal tragedy, took the runner-up prize.
Campion won the Silver Lion for best director for her period epic The Power of the Dog.
It was her second time winning a runner-up prize at Venice. Her first was in 1990 for An Angel at My Table, a biopic of author Janet Frame.
“It’s amazing to get an award from you people,” Campion said, talking to the jury standing beside her.
“You’ve made the bar very, very high for me in cinema, Bong, Chloe.”
Penelope Cruz won the Volpi Cup for best actress for her performance as a new mother in Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers.
She thanked her director and frequent collaborator for “inspiring me every day with your search for truth”.
“I adore you.”
Gyllenhaal won best screenplay for her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s 2008 novel The Lost Daughter, which is both her first screenplay and film as a director.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be here,” Gyllenhaal said.
“I was married in Italy, in Puglia. I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter in Italy. And really my life as a director and writer and my film was born here in this theatre.”
Gyllenhaal said her film was Italian in its bones, even though it was shot in Greece and in the English language.
“In a way as women we have been born into an agreement to be silent, and Ferrante broke that agreement,” Gyllenhaal said.
“I had the same feeling seeing The Piano when I was in high school.”
John Arcilla was awarded the Volpi Cup for best actor for On The Job: The Missing 8.
Venice Film Festival a launching pad for the talented
The festival has in the past decade reestablished itself as the preeminent launch pad for awards hopefuls.
Zhao’s Nomadland won the prize last year and went on to win best picture, best director and best actor at the Oscars.
In addition to Zhao and Bong, who served as president, the jury also included actors Sarah Gadon and Cynthia Erivo and directors Saverio Costanzo and Alexander Nanau.
Zhao’s trajectory was the second time in four years that the Golden Lion winner has won best picture.
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water shared a similar path. Venice’s 2019 winner, Joker, simply went on to get 10 Oscar nods, including one for best picture.
Not winning the top prize at Venice doesn’t end an Oscar campaign before it starts, though.
Some of this year’s biggest premieres were not part of the competition, including Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho.
In the Horizons section, which spotlights emerging filmmakers, Pilgrims by Laurynas Bareisa won best picture.
The actor award went to Piseth Chhun of White Building, and actress to Laure Calamy for À plein temps, which also won best director for Eric Gravel.
The Venice festival was conducted under COVID-safe protocols.
But it also brought the glamour back to a red carpet that may have been less crowded than usual but made up for it in viral moments, from a teasingly tender embrace between co-stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, to the red carpet debut of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck — although perhaps it should be called a debut redo, as the pair rekindled a romance that ended 18 years ago.
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