Winners of the top prizes at the 77th Venice Film Festival on Saturday (September 12) celebrated their awards and what they said was a courageous decision by organisers to hold the event during a pandemic.
The festival on the Lido waterfront was the first such event to go ahead in front of live audiences since the COVID-19 pandemic all but shut down the world of showbiz.
“Nomadland”, a U.S. movie about a community of van dwellers traversing the vast American West, won the festival’s top award, the Golden Lion for best picture.
British actress Vanessa Kirby, who was in Venice with two films, won the best actress award for her performance as a woman reeling from the grief of losing her newborn daughter during a home birth in “Pieces of a Woman.”
“We all experience grief in different ways and we’ve all lost people and I hope in someway it unites us and makes us feel less alone because you watch one woman’s story of navigating that grief, which is an extremely individual, private, solitary journey and I hope even in a tiny way it makes it more, perhaps less solitary knowing that something is represented on the screen that might touch on what you feel,” Kirby said as she left the awards ceremony, carrying her trophy.
The best actor prize went to Italy’s Pierfrancesco Favino, who urged everyone to wear masks to ensure next year’s festival would be virus-free.
Mexican director Michel Franco was honoured with the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize for his thriller “New Order” which imagines what happens when social and economic disparity becomes unsustainable.
“We must bring attention to this issue and change the course that the world has been on since such a long time ago because if we don’t correct the situation, it will explode, it’s a ticking bomb,” Franco said.
Veteran Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky was also awarded a special jury prize for “Dear Comrades!”, a film about the 1962 massacre of striking workers in Novocherkassk which had been tipped as a front-runner for the top prize.
A strict safety protocol was put in place for the festival, including the wearing of face masks when watching films and leaving about half the seats in theatres empty.
Due to travel restrictions, few Hollywood celebrities made the trip to the world’s oldest film festival, which is regarded as a showcase for Oscar contenders as awards season approaches. Many winners did not attend the awards ceremony on Saturday night, and those who did only pulled down their masks for their thank-you speech.
Still, festival director Alberto Barbera said he was fully satisfied with the result, adding the event had met its goal of having about 50% of its usual public of cinema fans, accredited media, film critics and industry officials.
(Production: Gabriele Pileri, Hanna Rantala)