The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia upon the recommendation of Venice Film Festival Director, Alberto Barbera.
Accepting the award, Swinton said: “This great festival has been dear to my heart for three decades: to be honored by her in this way is extremely humbling. To come to Venice, this year of all years, to celebrate immortal cinema and her defiant survival in the face of all the challenges that evolution might throw at her – as at us all – will be my sincere joy.”
Swinton started making films with the director Derek Jarman in 1985 with Caravaggio. They made seven more films together including Edward II for which she won the Best Actress award at the 1991 Venice International Film Festival. She gained wider international recognition in 1992 with her portrayal of Orlando (1992), based on the novel by Virginia Woolf under the direction of Sally Potter.
She is known for her collaborations with directions including Jim Jarmusch, Joel and Ethan Coen, Lynne Ramsay and Luca Guadagnino, whose movies A Bigger Splash and Suspiria debuted on the Lido. Her collaborations with Bong Joon Ho included Snowpiercer (2013) and Okja (2017). She played the Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange (2016) and she won both and Oscar and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton (2007).
Swinton recently finished shooting with Wes Anderson on The French Dispatch – their fourth film together – as well as the second part of The Souvenir with Joanna Hogg and Memoria with Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It’s likely at least one of these movies will play at Venice. She is currently working on projects with Pedro Almodóvar and George Miller.
Barbera stated: “Tilda Swinton is unanimously recognized as one of the most original and powerful performers to establish herself at the end of the last century. Her uniqueness lies in her commanding and incomparable personality, uncommon versatility, and an ability to pass from the most radical art-house cinema to big Hollywood productions, without ever eschewing her inexhaustible need to bring to life unclassifiable and uncommon characters. Her every portrayal is a fearless challenge to conventions, be they artistic or social; the outcome of a need to put herself continuously on the line without ever being satisfied with the results she achieves; and the desire to explore new implications in behavior and human emotions, which Swinton never limits herself to conveying but instead personifies in the most surprising and challenging way.”
Hui declared: “I am so happy to receive this news and honored for the award! So happy that I feel I cannot find the words. I just hope everything in the world will turn better soon and everybody can feel again as happy as I am in this moment.”
The veteran filmmaker studied at the University of Hong Kong and at the London Film School in the early 1970s. Upon her return to Hong Kong, she worked as the assistant director to martial arts film master King Hu.
Her debut feature film The Secret (1979) starring Sylvia Chang, made her one of the key figures in the Hong Kong New Wave film movement that she contributed shaping together with Tsui Hark, John Woo, and Patrick Tam, among others.
Since then, she has directed 26 features, including Boat People (1982) and Song of the Exile (1990) which debuted in Cannes, Summer Snow (1995) and Ordinary Heroes (1999) from Berlin and A Simple Life and The Golden Era (2014) which launched in Venice.
She has won more best director awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards than anyone else with six awards. Her latest feature Love After Love is in post-production and could potentially debut on the Lido.
Barbera stated: “Ann Hui is one of Asia’s most respected, prolific, and versatile directors of our times; her career spans four decades and touches every film genre. Although she has paid attention to the commercial side of movies and has garnered widespread success with the public, the cinema of Ann Hui has never abandoned an auteurist approach. In her movies, she has always shown particular interest in compassionate and social vicissitudes, recounting – with sensitivity and the sophistication of an intellectual – individual stories that interweave with important social themes such as those of refugees, the marginalized, and the elderly. In a trailblazing fashion, through her language and her unique visual style, not only has she captured the specific aspects of the city and the imagination of Hong Kong, she has also transposed and translated them into a universal perspective.”