Juror Winger walks; Sciarra nabs top honor

LOCARNO — Fur flew and jaws dropped during the final hours of the 54th Locarno Intl. Film Festival as the main competition jury announced a controversial lineup of prizes Sunday.

Juror Debra Winger flounced out halfway through the awards press conference after journalists repeatedly asked the jury to explain the phrase “not unanimously” in the official release. Winger proclaimed it was “the first time, and probably the last” she would sit on a festival jury, not wanting the experience to be tarnished by such media cross-examination.

Rumors had already begun spreading Saturday that the seven-women, one-man jury was locked in disagreement, and Daily Variety understands the final list of prizes was only agreed close to midnight after a marathon session. Virtually none of the pics reckoned as contenders figured in the jury’s main awards.

Top prize, the Golden Leopard, went to Italian road movie “Off to the Revolution by a 2CV,” sophomore feature by Maurizio Sciarra that had garnered little critical attention during the festival. Film also unexpectedly grabbed the Best Actor prize for Andoni Gracia in a year richer than usual in strong performances by known talent.

Silver Leopards went to Alain Gomis’ Paris-set immigrant drama “L’Afrance,” and German helmer Peter Sehr’s New York-set “Love the Hard Way,” starring Adrien Brody. Neither pic, again, had attracted much positive critical reaction.

Best actress award went to South Korea’s Kim Ho-jung, for the DV-shot futuristic drama “Butterfly,” by Moon Seung-wook, which had radically split auds and critics.

Rumored to be the jury’s only unanimous award was Iranian Abolfazl Jalili’s semi-abstract drama “Delbaran,” also well-liked by crix.

Reflecting divisions within the jury, many of the best-liked movies merited only Special Mentions. “The Milk of Human Kindness,” by France’s Dominique Cabrera, and American director John Singleton’s “Baby Boy” were noted for their ensemble acting; U.K. relationships movie, “The Lawless Heart,” by Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger, was praised for its screenplay; and first-timer Emily Tang’s Beijing-set drama, “Conjugation,” drew a mention for its direction.

The most surprising absentee from the list of prizes was Anne Fontaine’s French family drama, “The Way I Killed My Father,” which had been expected to nab a major award.

The eight-member jury was presided over by U.S. writer-critic Janet Maslin. Aside from Winger, the other members were Italian actress Laura Morante, New Zealand actress Kerry Fox, Brit producer Olivia Stewart, French director Emilie Deleuze, Swiss writer Zoe Jenny and Chilean writer-director Antonio Skarmeta. Italian-based Turkish director, Ferzan Ozpetek, bailed just before the fest because of a conflict of interest with one of the competing films.

Ironically, the last-minute controversy came after one of the Aug. 2-12 fest’s best-appreciated editions in several years, with most observers agreeing that new program topper Irene Bignardi had revitalized the veteran event.

Fest’s final days threw up no real discoveries, though Alan Taylor’s Napoleonic comedy, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” starring Ian Holm, drew appreciative applause at its Piazza Grande world preem. Most high-profile bomb of the final leg was “Planet of the Apes,” which was rewarded by only a polite ripple of appreciation from its huge Piazza audience.

Among non-competing titles, the undisputed popular hit of the fest was Bollywood cricket epic “Lagaan,” which won the audience award and even created some buzz among buyers.

The full Intl. Competition Jury awards list is as follows.

And the winners are…

Golden Leopard

“Off to the Revolution by a 2CV” (dir. Maurizio Sciarra, Italy)

Special Jury Prize

“Delbaran” (Abolfazl Jalili, Iran-Japan)

Silver Leopard (Young Cinema)

“L’Afrance” (Alain Gomis, France)

Silver Leopard (New Cinema)

“Love the Hard Way” (Peter Sehr, Germany)

Bronze Leopard (Best Actress)

Kim Ho-jung (“Butterfly,” S. Korea)

Bronze Leopard (Best Actor)

Andoni Gracia (“Off to the Revolution by a 2CV”)

Special Mentions

“Baby Boy” (John Singleton, U.S.), “Conjugation” (Emily Tang, H.K.), “The Milk of Human Kindness” (Dominique Cabrera, France), “The Lawless Heart” (Neil Hunter & Tom Hunsinger, U.K.)

Other main awards:

Video Competition Golden Leopard:

“Late Night Talks with Mother” (Jan Nemec, Czech Rep.)

Leopards of Tomorrow Golden Leopard:

“Deux” (Franz-Josef Holzer, Switzerland)

Fipresci (Intl. critics’ assn.) Award:

“Miss Wonton” (Meng Ong, U.S.)

Ecumenical Jury Award:

“L’Afrance”

Critics’ Week 2001 Award:

“Venus Boyz” (Gabriel Bauer, Switzerland)

Audience Award:

“Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” (Ashutosh Gowariker, India)

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