UPDATED with full winners list: French-Lebanese filmmaker Audrey Diwan has become the sixth female director to win the Venice Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, with her 1963-set abortion drama L’Evénement (Happening). She’s also the second in a row after Chloé Zhao took last year’s Lion with Nomadland.
An emotional Diwan said Saturday: “I did this movie with anger. I did it with desire, also my heart and my head. I wanted Happening to be an experience, a journey in the skin of this young woman.”
In the film, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a bright young student with a promising future ahead of her. But when she becomes pregnant, she sees the opportunity to finish her studies and escape the constraints of her social background disappearing. With her final exams fast approaching and her belly growing, Anne resolves to act, even if she has to confront shame and pain, even if she must risk prison to do so. The film is adapted from the book by Annie Ernaux.
There was a theme of the plight of mothers that ran through the wins tonight. This includes the Horizons entry A Plein Temps, whose star, Call My Agent’s Laure Calamy, and director Eric Gravel won prizes in that section.
Back in the main competition, the incredibly strong field also included Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. That autobiographical drama recounts the filmmaker’s own youth and the tragedy of losing his parents as a teenager. It took the runner-up Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize as well as the Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress for Filippo Scotti, who plays the young version of Sorrentino.
The Great Beauty Oscar winner choked up as he accepted his prize, in his native Italian. Scotti, who’s been billed as the “Italian Timothée Chalamet,” had earlier praised his director and charmed the audience in the Sala Grande — to the point that jury president Bong Joon-ho commented, “so cute” as Scotti exited the stage.
The Hand of God is a Netflix title and the streaming service had a good night at the awards ceremony. Jane Campion was crowned best director for its The Power of the Dog, while Maggie Gyllenhaal won Best Screenplay for her feature directing debut The Lost Daughter (Netflix has the movie in most major markets including the U.S.)
Penélope Cruz (in an upset for Spencer star Kristen Stewart?) took the Volpi Cup Best Actress prize for Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers. In her acceptance, she said the honor was 100% his, saying, “thank you once again for your trust in me, for inspiring me every day with your search for truth inside and outside the set… you have created magic again.”
Cruz further dedicated the win to her husband Javier Bardem and their children as well as to Bardem’s recently deceased mother. Pilar Bardem “did so much for actors and actresses in our country and her love and passion for this wonderful profession was huge,” said Cruz, adding, “At the end of our last conversation she told me, ‘I love you.’ She was very fragile and I thought those were her last words to me, but then very quiet and very soft and with a smile on her face she said to me two more words ‘Coppa Volpi’… This is for all the mothers.”
For her Best Screenplay win, Gyllenhaal was ebullient about The Lost Daughter’s premiere in Italy. ”I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be here,” she 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 a writer and my film was born here in this theater.”
She continued, “When I read Elena Ferrante (upon whose novel Lost Daughter is based) for the first time there was a kind of shock from hearing things that I had always known deep inside myself were true spoken out loud, some secret truths about being a woman in the world. Of course they’re not really secret, they’re just unspoken. In a way as women we’ve been born into an agreement to be silent, and reading Ferrante broke the agreement. Sitting alone in my room with her book I felt the power of something old shattering and it was both terrifying and exciting.”
PREVIOUSLY, 10 AM PT: The Venice Film Festival concludes this evening with prizes including the Golden Lion about to be handed out inside the Lido’s Sala Grande. For the second year in a row, the world’s oldest film festival proved it would not let the pandemic cancel a physical event, and organizers put on a selection that was roundly praised by critics and audiences alike. (Scroll below for the winners list which is being updated live.)
There were a few hiccups along the way with longer than usual security lines causing some delegates to be delayed at press screenings, and the ticket reservations system was glitchy for many.
But the movies themselves comprised another fine crop from artistic director Alberto Barbera and the selection committee — both in and out of competition. There were standing ovations aplenty, including for the world premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, though the Warner Bros/Legendary sci-fi epic is not up for any prizes tonight.
Competing titles that were very warmly welcomed include Paolo Sorrentino’s very personal The Hand Of God, Jane Campion’s western The Power Of The Dog (both from Netflix); Pablo Larrain’s Spencer with star Kristen Stewart already generating buzz; Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas in Official Competition; a new directing discovery in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature debut, The Lost Daughter; and many more.
In the past decade since Barbera returned, Venice has consistently delivered films that leap into awards season direct from the Lido and make it all the way to Oscar glory. Last year, the festival (simultaneously with Toronto) world premiered Nomadland, then gave it the Golden Lion before it went on to scoop the Oscars for Best Picture, Actress and Director. Chloe Zhao was not in town last year to collect her Golden Lion, but she is on the jury this year which is presided over by fellow Best Director Oscar winner, Bong Joon-ho.
Check back below to see the jury’s picks as we update the list of tonight’s winners live:
L’Evénement, dir: Audrey Diwan
Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize
The Hand Of God, dir: Paolo Sorrentino
Silver Lion, Best Director
Jane Campion, The Power Of The Dog
Volpi Cup Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
Volpi Cup Best Actor
John Arcilla, On The Job: The Missing 8
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
Special Jury Prize
Il Buco, dir: Michelangelo Frammartino
Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress
Filippo Scotti, The Hand Of God
Pilgrims, dir: Laurynas Bareisa
Eric Gravel, A Plein Temps
Special Jury Prize
El Gran Movimiento, dir: Kiro Russo
Laure Calamy, A Plein Temps
Piseth Chhun, White Building
Ivan Ostrochovský, Peter Kerekes: 107 Mothers
Best Short Film
Los Huesos, dirs: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña
Lion of the Future – Luigi De Laurentiis Award For A Debut Film
Imaculat, dirs: Monica Stan, George Chiper Lillemark
VENICE VR EXPANDED
Grand Jury Prize for Best VR
Goliath: Playing With Reality, dirs: Barry Gene Murphy, May Abdalla
Best VR Experience
Le Bal De Paris De Blanca Li, dir: Blanca Li
Best VR Story
End Of Night, dir: David Adler
Audience Award Armani Beauty
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic, dir: Teemu Nikki