The 78th Venice Film Festival came to close this evening of September 11, 2021. The Closing Ceremony saw this year’s jury of Venezia 78, headed by director Bong Joon Ho, present the awards and the coveted Golden Lion, after watching the 21 feature films in competition.
The oldest film festival, considered as a launchpad for future award ceremonies, was back in a full force, still with Covid-safety restrictions, but a great line-up of films and dazzling red carpet moments (just have a look at the clip of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain for the premiere of Scenes from a Marriage that went viral).
During the eleven days of the festival, two lifetime achievements were awarded. The actor, director and screenwriter Roberto Benigni received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Iconic American actress Jamie Lee Curtis was also awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. She thanked the festival and said that by awarding her this prize, the festival was also by extension honoring her parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. The Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker, dedicated to a personality who has made a particularly original contribution to the contemporary film industry, was awarded to British director and producer Sir Ridley Scott.
After Cannes in July, another strong French film won the highest prize. Audrey Diwan succeeds Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, who won the coveted prize last year, and is the sixth woman director to win the Golden Lion in the festival’s history since 1949.
Venezia 78 Competition
L’Evènement (Happening) by Audrey Diwan won the Golden Lion for Best Film in an unanimous vote from the jury. Based on Annie Ernaux’s novel, L’Evènement is about her own experience as a 23-year-old woman getting an illegal abortion in the 1960s. Diwan said she did this film with anger and desire and wanted it to be an experience and tried to make it a journey in the skin of this young woman. “Let’s not look at Anne, but be Anne,” she maintained throughout the shooting. She asked her leading actress Anamaria Vartolomei to join her on stage exclaiming “she is the movie”. The film was co-written by Diwan and Marcia Romano, and stars Anamaria Vartolomei as Anne. The film was produced by France’s Rectangle Productions, in co-production with France 3 Cinéma, Wild Bunch and SRAB Films, with the participation of Canal+, Ciné+ and France Télévisions. Its French distribution is handled by Wild Bunch, which also oversees its international sales.
The Silver Lion, the Grand Jury prize was awarded to Paolo Sorrentino’s È stata la mano di Dio (The Hand of God). The film has been deemed by critics a beautiful memoir by the Academy Award winning director of The Great Beauty. Paolo Sorrentino’s autobiographical The Hand of God, set in 1980s Naples, will be released on Netflix on December 15.
Jane Campion received the Silver Lion for Best Direction for The Power of the Dog. The Power of the Dog is Jane Campion’s first feature since Bright Star in 2009. The film is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel about two Montana rancher brothers and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst. The Power of the Dog will be released theatrically on November 17 before becoming available on Netflix from December 1.
Coppa Volpi for Best Actress was given to Penélope Cruz. Critics praised Penélope Cruz’s strong performance in the film. Cruz plays a successful photographer named Janis who unexpectedly becomes pregnant. In hospital, she bonds with a younger woman named Ana, also about to become a single mother. Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers, which opened the festival, is being released by Sony Pictures Classics in U.S. theaters on December 24.
John Arcilla was warded the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor for his performance in Erik Matti’s On the Job: The Missing 8. Erik Matti received the award at the ceremony on behalf of the actor, while Arcilla thanked the jury in his acceptance speech through video. On the Job: The Missing 8 is a Philippine crime thriller. John Arcilla plays Sisoy Salas, a corrupt reporter for a local newspaper.
Maggie Gyllenhaal won the Award for Best Screenplay for her film The Lost Daughter. Elena Ferrante’s novel spoke of the secret truths as a woman and mother to Gyllenhaal, she said in her acceptance speech. “I am still pulsating with the love from the audience” in Venice, she added. The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, received a four-minute standing ovation after its premiere at the festival. The film was praised by critics. Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel, the film stars Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson. The film is due to hit theaters on December 17 before being released on Netflix on December 31.
Special Jury Prize was given to Il Buco, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino. The Italian film tells the story of the discovery made in 1961 of the 700m deep cave in Southern Italy.
“Marcello Mastroianni” Award for Best New Young Actor or Actress was awarded to Filippo Scotti for his role of Fabietto in Paolo Sorrentino’s È stata la mano di Dio (The Hand of God).
The Orrizonti Comptetition has a completely different jury. It was headed this year by Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić, and included directors Mona Fastvold, Shahram Mokri, American film curator Josh Siegel and Italian author Nadia Terranova.
Pilgrims directed by Laurynas Bareisa won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film. The Lithuanian film follow Indre and Paulius, who travel to a small town where a gruesome crime was committed.
Eric Gravel won the Orizzonti Award for Best Director for his film A Plein Temps (Full Time). He wanted to tell the story of single mothers in a different way with his film. He thanked his lead actress Laure Calamy, “I loved working with you” he said. A Plein Temps follows Julie, played by Laure Calamy, a single mother with two young kids.
Special Orizzonti Jury Prize was awarded to Bolivian film El Gran Movimiento by Kiro Russo. He dedicated the film to the workers of his city.
French actress Laure Calamy won the Orizzonti Award for Best Actress for her performance in A Plein Temps directed by Eric Gravel. Calamy—known for her role in the popular French series Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent)—said she was proud of her role of Julie, and is a great fan of Italian cinema.
Piseth Chhun was given the Orizzonti Award for Best Actor for his performance in the Cambodian film White Building directed by Kavich Neang.
Péter Kerekes and Ivan Ostrochovský won the Orizzonti Award for Best Screenplay for the film 107 Mothers.
Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film was awarded to Chilean film Los Huesos.