Venice: Golden Lion Contenders At The Half + A Refresher On New Awards Rules

At the midpoint of Venice last year, The Master had emerged as a clear favorite and indeed went on to scoop the directing trophy and a double best actor Volpi Cup. But, due to rules designed not to favor one film too heavily, the jury was unable to give it the Golden Lion in what became something of a scandal on the Lido. In a move that could help deter such furture controversies, the festival added a Grand Jury Prize this year. Still, the regs say that no film can win more than one award — save for exceptional cases whereby a film that’s won the directing Silver Lion, the Grand Jury Prize, the Special Jury Prize or the screenplay prize can also nab an acting nod. For that to happen, it has to be done in consultation with the festival president. But, if a movie takes the Golden Lion, that’s the only prize it can win.

This year, the press and the public have embraced Philomena. That film bowed on Saturday to rapturous applause and standing ovations. The Stephen Frears-directed pic has been praised for its deft handling of a sensitive subject. The movie, based on a true story, is about a woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption while slaving away in an Irish abbey for so-called fallen women. The abbey in the film certainly brings to mind the Magdalene laundries where some 30,000 women were incarcerated between 1765-1996. The asylums were the subject of Peter Mullan’s 2002 The Magdalene Sisters, which went on to win the Golden Lion here. And yet, if Philomena were to follow that path, its heavily praised star, Judi Dench, would be ineligible for the best actress Volpi Cup. There are still eight films to screen so nothing is a certainty, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on the prizes on Saturday to see how the jury juggles a strong field of films. The Weinstein Co. is giving Philomena a December 25 limited release before opening wide on January 10. (more…)

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