Israeli war drama takes top kudo at Lido

“Lebanon,” a hard-hitting look at war from inside a military tank by Israeli helmer Samuel Maoz, based on his experience as a young soldier during his country’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, took the 66th Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion on Saturday.

“I dedicate this award to all those thousands of people all over the world who came back from the war, like me, safe and sound … but inside them, the memories will remain stuck in their souls,” said the visibly moved Maoz as he was handed the statuette by jury prexy Ang Lee.

Reflecting a Lido edition marked by a panoply of pics depicting life through a political prism, the Silver Lion for director went to New York-based Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat for her first feature, “Women Without Men,” a feminist tapestry interweaving the vicissitudes of four women from different social backgrounds affected by political turmoil prompted by Iran’s 1953 CIA-backed coup.

Turkish-German helmer Fatih Akin’s ensemble laffer “Soul Kitchen,” set amid the hip and grungy multiethnic set in his native Hamburg, took the special jury prize.

Despite a strong U.S. presence, there were few American winners — in marked contrast with recent Venice editions.

Colin Firth scooped up best actor for his turn as a gay college professor grieving for his dead lover in former fashion guru Tom Ford’s directorial debut, “A Single Man.” Ford’s self-produced pic, set in early 1960s Los Angeles, is based on a seminal book by Christopher Isherwood.

The screenplay nod went to Todd Solondz for his dark comedy “Life During Wartime.”

Dutch helmer Alex van Warmerdam’s dark comedy “The Last Days of Emma Blank,” about a despotic old lady who drives the people around her crazy from her death bed, nabbed the sixth Venice Days Europa Cinemas kudos.

Paris-based Iranian helmer Nader Takmil Homayoun’s “Tehroun,” which depicts a twilight Tehran populated with prostitutes, beggars and gangsters, took the 24th Venice Critics’ Week honor, dedicated to first works.

The fest was generally praised for topper Marco Mueller’s wide-ranging selection of movies, comprising plenty of first works and genre films, in contrast with Cannes, which concentrated on name auteurs this year.

However, there were gripes about screening delays and interruptions due to technical troubles in synching subtitles and prints with the digital projection system.

WINNERS OF THE 66TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY

GOLDEN LION
“Lebanon” (Samuel Maoz, Israel-France-Germany)

SILVER LION
“Women Without Men” (Shirin Neshat, Germany-Austria-France)

GRAND JURY PRIZE
“Soul Kitchen” (Fatih Akin, Germany)

ACTOR
Colin Firth (“A Single Man,” US)

ACTRESS
Ksenia Rappoport (“The Double Hour,” Italy)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER
Jasmine Trinca (“The Big Dream,” Italy)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Todd Solondz (“Life During Wartime,” US)

TECHNICAL CONTRIBUTION
Sylvie Olive (“Mr Nobody,” Jaco Van Dormael, France)

OTHER JURIES

LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE
“Engkwentro,” (Pepe Diokno, Philippines)

VENICE HORIZONS
“Engkwentro” (Pepe Diokno, Philippines)

VENICE HORIZONS DOCUMENTARY
“1428,” (Du Haibin (China)

VENICE HORIZONS SPECIAL MENTION
“The Man’s Woman And Other Stories,” (Amit Dutta, India)

CONTROCAMPO ITALIANO
“Cosmonauta,” Susanna Nichiarelli (Italy)

SPECIAL MENTION
“Negli Occhi,” Daniele Anzillotti and Francesco Del Grosso (Italy)

LABEL EUROPA CINEMAS – VENICE DAYS 2009 PRIZE
“The Last Days of Emma Blank,” (Alex van Warmerdam, The Netherlands)

FIPRESCI (INTL. CRITIC’S ASSN) COMPETITION PRIZE
” Lourdes,” (Jessica Hausner, Austria)

FIPRESCI HORIZONS AND CRITICS’ WEEK PRIZE
“Adrift.” (Bui Thac Chuyen, Vietnam–France)

SHORTS

CORTO CORTISSIMO LION FOR BEST SHORT FILM
“First Born,” (Etienne Kallos, South Africa-US)

BEST EUROPEAN SHORT
“Sinner,” (Meni Philip Israel)

CORTO CORTISSIMO SPECIAL MENTION
“Felicità,” (Salome Aleksi, Georgia)

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