“Golden lion” to “nomadland”

Actress Tilda Swinton stands with her Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Photographers during the opening ceremony of the 77. Venice International Film Festival. © Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Film Festival Director Barbera's hope that Venice would instill new courage in the film industry has come to fruition. The festival groaned under Corona conditions but celebrated cinema and cinematography.

The 77. Venice Film Festival has proven that cinema and film festivals under corona conditions are possible again. It was an unusual "Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica". Due to the pandemic, star hype and Hollywood blockbusters were absent from the Lido.

Instead of launching pad for "Oscar" candidates predominated arthouse films, very much European cinema, war themes and contemporary references. Above all, women made their mark on the festival. 8 out of 18 competition entries came from female directors. And the so-called weaker sex also dominated the screen.

On the verge of a nervous breakdown

Right at the beginning, director Pedro Almodovar made a statement with Tilda Swinton, who was honored with a "Golden Lion" for her life's work. Almodovar's idiosyncratic interpretation of the one-act play "The Human Voice," written by Jean Cocteau as early as 1928, set the pace.

In just 30 minutes, an actress exposes herself on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but then faces the world with confidence. If this cinematic gem weren't a short film "out of competition," Swinton would surely have won the actress award for it.

Remarkable quality of the contributions

The quality of most of the contributions was, with a few exceptions, very remarkable. In the run-up, jury president and Hollywood star Cate Blanchett had already expressed the hope that a female filmmaker should also win the "Golden Lion" for once. Her wish came true. The US studio production "Nomadland" won the coveted trophy.

In her very poetic film, Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao tells the story of 61-year-old Fern, who, after the death of her husband, meets a wide variety of people on the way in her rickety van. The authenticity of the film is based not least on the nomads of the street and those who confidently tell their fates.

At the awards ceremony, Zhao and co-producer Frances McDormand greeted each other via video from a van in Pasadena and said goodbye with the nomadic greeting "See you down the road".

British actress Vanessa Kirby was considered a shoo-in for the Best Actress award after her performance in Kornel Mundruzco's English-language debut "Pieces of a Woman". At Shia LaBeouf's side, she suffers a nightmare as a tough businesswoman. The "Coppa Volpi" for Best Actor went to Italian Pierfrancesco Favino for his performance in "Padrenostro".

The moving story of a family in which a ten-year-old boy witnesses an assassination attempt on his father by left-wing terrorists in 1976 and lives in fear from then on is a piece of Italy's past.

"Silver Lion" for the most controversial work

The most controversial work of the festival was awarded the "Silver Lion", the Grand Jury Prize: Michel Franco's disturbing look at Mexico in "Nuevo Orden" (New Order). What begins with looting and bloody protest by exploited indigenous people against the rich ends in a military coup and an orgy of violence with rape, torture and shootings.

The "Silver Lion for Best Director" went to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's tricky drama "Wife of a Spy," set in the early 1940s before Japan's entry into World War II.

The Russian old master Andrei Konchalovsky ("Special Prize of the Jury") works his way through the conservatively staged drama "Dorogie Tovarischi!"(Dear Comrades) in brilliant black and white on a workers' uprising in 1962 that was put down by the KGB and the military and officially kept quiet. The screenplay award went to India's Chaitanya Tamhane for "The Disciple," about a young musician's quest for perfection embedded in a father-son conflict.

"Quo Vadia, Aida" goes empty-handed

It is incomprehensible that Jasmila Zbanic and her moving drama "Quo Vadis, Aida?" was passed over in the prices. Her tale of the teacher Aida would have deserved any prize; the translator for the Blue Helmets must endure how the Serbian soldiers of General Ratko Mladic over 8.000 Bosnians shot in Srebrenica in July 1995. A cry against oblivion, which was only heard by the jury of the Catholic world association Signis and received their prize.

Online tickets and mandatory masks

Alberto Barbera has managed the impossible to put on a major international festival in pandemic times – physically and not digitally. Initially, there was a problem with online ticketing; checking body temperature at the entrances was a nuisance, as was the requirement to wear a mask throughout the entire area, including the film screenings. A lively festival includes audience and hysteria, glamour and stars.

None of that existed this time. Instead of the expected chaos, however, there was an almost perfect organization, and for all inconveniences compensated the long-missed and so wonderful feeling that finally again a film festival was running.

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