Venice Film Festival winners: Laura Poitras and Alice Diop at the top of the bill

Chaired by Julianne Moore, the jury of the 79th edition of the festival consecrated the American Laura Poitras, who won the Golden Lion for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”, and Alice Diop, who won the Silver Lion with Saint Omer. Cate Blanchett and Colin Farrell are also rewarded.

The jury of the Venice Film Festival, chaired by Julianne Moore, therefore unveiled the awards for the 79th edition on Saturday evening. A solid track record, which has slalomed between Netflix films (none of which are award-winning) and industrial failures of the type The Whale by Darren Aronofsky, to award the Golden Lion to a modest and beautiful documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed by Laura Poitras. The American director, noticed at Cannes in 2014 for Citizenfour, around the fight of Edward Snowden, this time seizes another figure of activist, the photographer Nan Goldin: documenting a recent and little known aspect of her activity – her fight against the Sackler family, powerful patrons of the largest museums in the world and producer of oxycodone, an opioid responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths – Laura Poitras traces the life of Goldin, placed from the outset under the sign of risk and pain.

As Goldin’s photos merge with his biography, Poitras gives them a central place, shimmering about his past (moments of ecstasy in shady New York in the 80s and major setbacks, notably at the onset of AIDS) with his ultra-efficient battle against the Sacklers. Despairing but necessary moment of the film: attending the hearing of the family of billionaires, forced to connect like everyone else – via webcams interposed (since in the middle of Covid) – and to give to see, perhaps still better than if they had physically appeared in a trial room, the mechanical emptiness of their gazes faced with the magnitude of their fault.

The Silver Lion was awarded to Alice Diop (as well as the Lion of the Future, awarded by a jury chaired by Michelangelo Frammartino, whose incredible Il Bucopresented last year on the Lido) for its exemplary trial film, Saint Omer, framed from the Fabienne Kabou affair (the abandonment of her own child on a beach in the North, and the death that followed). The radical nature of the project, its way of staying away from any romantic temptation, the particular emotion that the very long audience shots provoke, make Saint Omer an extremely stimulating film that stands out in the current landscape of French cinema. That he is recognized is excellent news. Note that this award also confirms the power of producers Christophe Barral and Toufik Ayadi, who notably produced the Golden Lion last year, The Eventby Audrey Diwan (present this year among the members of the jury).

The prize for best director was awarded to the Italian Luca Guadagnino for Bones and All, his “great” American film (over the top landscapes and fatal love story), almost totally tasteless but not unpleasant. Its young lead actress, Taylor Russell, wins the Mastroianni award for best hope, deserved especially if we compare her performance to that of her playing partner, Timothée Chalamet, in minimum cuteness service.

The prize for best screenplay went to Irish director Martin McDonagh for Inisherin’s Banshees, which we have not seen. He won this prize for the second time, since in 2017 Three Billboards had been entitled to the same reward, before prancing at the Oscars. The Volpi Cup for Best Actor crowned, always for Inisherin’s BansheesColin Farrell, who gave himself an Irish accent to cut with a knife for the job.

Romantic and burlesque

The Special Jury Prize was awarded, as expected, to Bears don’t exist by Jafar Panahi. The film, which we missed but whose echoes are excellent, was presented in Venice in the absence of its director, arrested at the beginning of July in Tehran to serve a six-year prison sentence. The festival and the jury had multiplied throughout this edition the calls for his release, as well as those of Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Hamad, also detained in Iran.

Finally, the Volpi cup for best actress goes to Cate Blanchett who, with her interpretation of an impassive conductor in TAR of Todd Field, had from the beginning of the festival capped all the competition. Sovereign and mischievous during the ceremony, the actress received her prize from the hands of Julianne Moore, with whom she shared the great films of Todd Haynes (carol for Blanchett, far from paradise and Safe for Moore).

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Finally, the very beautiful film by Wissam Charaf, Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous, presented at the opening of the Orrizonti section, received the Prix des Cinémas Europa. This love story between a young Ethiopian servant and a Syrian refugee oscillates with great sweetness between a romantic vein and a burlesque vein, then takes the tangent and turns into a fantastic melody. Unpredictable, served by two excellent actors (Clara Couturet and Ziad Jallad), bathed in a mythological light, Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous confirms the talent of the Lebanese filmmaker. We will have the opportunity to talk about it again when it is released in theaters in 2023.

Venice Film Festival winners: Laura Poitras and Alice Diop at the top of the bill