UPDATE: Coming into Venice, jury president Bernardo Bertolucci said he was looking “to be surprised.” Just after the awards ceremony tonight, he confirmed that Sacro Gra, the winner of the Golden Lion, “is a surprising film.” Gianfranco Rossi’s documentary about life on the ring-road highway that circles Rome gave Venice its first Italian winner since 1998’s The Way We Laughed (that film’s director, Gianni Amelio, was also coincidentally in competition this year with L’Intrepido).Venice Film Festival - Sacro Gra It’s also the first time a documentary has ever won at the fest; this was the first year non-fiction films were included. Bertolucci commented on the other documentary in competition, Errol Morris’ portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, and said that some on the jury “thought about giving (Rumsfeld) the Best Actor prize.”

Best Actor in fact went to Themis Panou, for Miss Violence, a Greek film by Alexandros Avranas who also scored the directing Silver Lion in a feat that requires special dispensation from the festival president because films are not normally supposed to win more than once. That’s similar to last year when The Master took both of those awards (the acting nod was shared between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman). A lot of people were expecting Judi Dench to be named Best Actress for Philomena, but Bertolucci’s jury chose Elena Cotta for Emma Dante’s Via Castellana Bandiera, a film about a stand-off between two women. There were no prizes tonight for critical favorites Xavier Dolan’s Tom At The Farm and Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. Philomena scored with a Best Screenplay prize for Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. They are already in Toronto so were not here to accept the award but sent a message of thanks with special mentions for Frears, Dench and the real Philomena Lee “for allowing us to tell this story.”

PREVIOUS: The 70th Venice Film Festival concludes this evening with the awarding of the Golden Lion and other major prizes. This was the 2nd outing in a row for festival director Alberto Barbera since returning to the event he previously ran until 2002. Things got off to a stellar start with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney on the Lido for the world premiere of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. The sci-fi thriller was a great way to blast off the proceedings. But it was out of competition and so is not up for any prizes tonight. Among the competition pics that were strongly embraced here were Stephen Frears’ crowd-pleaser Philomena with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan; Xavier Dolan’s psychological thriller Tom At The Farm; and Hayao Miyazaki’s feature swansong The Wind Rises. Other notable pics vying for prizes are John Curran‘s Tracks with Mia Wasikowska; David Gordon Green’s Joe with Nicolas Cage; Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves; Tsai Ming-Liang’s Stray Dogs; Errol Morris‘ documentary The Unknown Known; Terry Gilliam‘s The Zero Theorem; and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, which largely divided critics. This felt like a slightly more muted fest than last. There was less commotion and controversy than in 2012 when Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder were among the big talking points. And one of the biggest scandals to hit the Lido in recent memory happened on closing night last year when, due to festival rules, the jury was unable to award the Golden Lion to its first choice, The Master. The regs have been tweaked a bit this year to add a Grand Jury Prize, but only in exceptional cases can a film win more than one prize; and whoever wins the Golden Lion can win that, and only that, award. Bernardo Bertolucci is jury president this year and as Barbera told me the other day, “With Bernardo, you never know.” Below is a list of the winners, updated as they happen:


Golden Lion:
Sacro Gra, dir: Gianfranco Rosi

Grand Jury Prize:
Stray Dogs, dir: Tsai Ming-liang

Silver Lion for Best Director:
Alexandros Avranas, Miss Violence

Volpi Cup, Best Actor:
Themis Panou, Miss Violence

Volpi Cup, Best Actress:
Elena Cotta, Via Castellana Bandiera

Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress:
Tye Sheridan, Joe

Best Screenplay:
Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Philomena

Special Jury Prize:
The Police Officer’s Wife, dir: Philip Groning

Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a debut film:
White Shadow, dir: Noaz Deshe

Best Film:
Eastern Boys, dir: Robin Campillo

Special Jury Prize:
Ruin, dirs: Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Michael Cody

Best Director:
Uberto Pasolini, Still Life

Special Award for Innovative Content:
Mahi Va Gorbeh, dir: Shahram Mokri

Best Short Film:
Kush, dir: Shubhashish Bhutiani (India)