VENICE – Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas’s striking first feature “From Afar,” about a middle-aged gay man who cruises the streets of Caracas searching for young companions, won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion.
“I want to dedicate this prize to my amazing country, Venezuela. We’ve been having some problems, but we’re very positive. We’re an amazing nation and we’re going to start talking to each other more,” said the beaming debuting director.
The jury was presided by Alfonso Cuaron. This edition of the fest was marked by plenty of prizes going to Latin American cinema and also to debut directors. Cuaron said it’s the first time a Latin American film wins the Golden Lion.
Variety critic Guy Lodge called “From Afar” a “smart, unsensationalized examination of the slow-blossoming relationship between a middle-aged loner and a young street tough.”
Chilean veteran Alfred Castro (“No,” “The Club”) and newcomer Luis Silva both put in potent performances.
Earlier in the day fest topper Alberto Barbera said this year’s edition pointed to the strength of Latin American cinema. An aspect which Barbera had also pointed prior to the jury’s decision-making, after the lineup was announced in July.
Cuaron was asked if his being Latin American influenced the verdict. “My presence as president counted about as much as the King of Sweden,” he quipped. “Even if I wanted [to support Latin America], it would have had to be a bigger conspiracy.”
The unknown Vigas came to Venice with plenty of support from the Latin American film industry. Guillermo Arriaga (“Amores Perros, “21 Grams”) collaborated on the screenplay. Michel Franco, Edgar Ramirez and Gabriel Ripstein are executive producers.
Italian distributor Valerio De Paolis picked up “From Afar” shortly after it screened in Venice, a nice coup for his recently launched Cinema shingle after it acquired Berlin winner “Taxi,” and Cannes winner “Dheepan.”
Venice’s other big winner was U.S. first-time director Brady Corbet whose historical mystery drama ”Childhood of a Leader,” loosely based on a an eponymous Jean-Paul Sartre short story, scooped the Horizons’ section nod for best director and also the Lion of the Future, for best first work, awarded by separate juries. “Childhood” is the story of a young American boy living in France in 1918 whose father is working for the US government on the creation of the Treaty of Versailles. Top notch cast comprises Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin, Liam Cunningham and Berenice Bejo.
Corbet gave special thanks to Scott Walker who composed the score and also thanked the festival for making special last-minute arrangements for a 35mm print of “Childhood” to screen. “I think every filmmaker should have a right to celluloid!” he enthused.
The Silver Lion went to Argentine auteur Pablo Trapero’s crime saga “The Clan” about Argentina’s notorious Puccio family, which kidnapped their rich neighbors in order to extort ransoms from their relatives. Produced by the Almodovar brothers, “The Clan,” which has already done boffo box office at home, is segueing from Venice to Toronto. Italy’s 01 Distribuzione will release in Italy.
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion “Anomalisa,” about a man struggling with his inability to connect with other people, took the Jury Grand Prize.
“Duke and I have been working on this for three years. We were looking to make something emotional and true and affecting, which is not usual in animation,” said Kaufman at the presser.
In “Anomalisa,” an inspirational speaker in crisis checks into a fictional Cincinnati hotel called Al Fregoli and named for a delusional paranoid condition. The movie was initiated on Kickstarter, with the bulk of financing then coming from Snoot Entertainment and Starburns Industries.
The Marcello Mastroianni award for young performer went to newcomer Abraham Attah plays a child soldier in Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” about a West African guerrilla force of which Idris Elba plays the commander. Asked earlier in the fest how he felt playing opposite Elba Attah jokingly replied: “I felt like an ant.”
Italy’s Valeria Golino took the actress prize for her role as a resilient Neapolitan woman contending with her job in soap operas, three children, and a shady husband in Giuseppe Gaudino’s female empowerment drama “Per amor vostro.”
The actor nod went to popular French actor Fabrice Luchini for his role as a recently divorced French criminal court judge confronted with a juror he once loved in Christian Vincent’s “Courted” which also took the screenplay prize.
Turkish political thriller “Frenzy,” by writer-director Emin Alper took the Special Jury Prize.
U.S. director Jake Mmhaffy’s “Free In Deed,” set in the world of storefront churches in Memphis Tenesse, took the top prize in the Horizons section. Jonathan Demme headed the jury of that section, which is dedicated to fresher, more cutting edge fare.
As is always the case at festivals – and perhaps especially so in Venice – some fest faves, including Russian master Alexander Sokurov’s “Francofonia,” and Amos Gitai’s hot-button drama “Rabin, the Last Day,” were snubbed. Though Luca Guadagino’s “A Bigger Splash,” divided critics, a best actor award had been deemed likely for Ralph Fiennes who plays a rowdy motormouth music producer in this psychological drama/erotic thriller.
But this year’s verdict, which went over quite well – no booing – certainly bolstered Venice’s status as a launching pad for potent auteur cinema, and also for discoveries, while also not damaging its awards season cachet.
WINNERS OF THE 72ND VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL AWARDS
“From Afar” (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela, Mexico)
“The Clan” (Pablo Trapero, Argentina, Spain)
JURY GRAND PRIZE
“Anomalisa” (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, U.S.)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Frenzy” (Emin Alper, Turkey, France, Qatar)
Fabrice Luchini (“Courted,” France)
Valeria Golino (“Per amor vostro,” Italy, France)
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER –
Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation,” U.S.)
Christian Vincent (“Courted,” France)
LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE
“The Childhood of a Leader,” (Brady Corbett, U.S.)
“Free in Deed” (Jake Mahaffi, U.S., New Zealand)
Brady Corbet ”Childhood of a Leader” (U.S.)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“ Neon Bull” (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil, Uruguay, The Netherlands)
SPECIAL PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS
Dominique Leborne (“Tempete”) by Samuel Collardey (France)
“Belladonna,” Dubravna Turic (Croatia)
VENICE CLASSICS AWARDS
Best Documentary on Cinema
“The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin,” (Yves Montmayeur, France)
Best Restored Film
“Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom,” (Pierpaolo Pasolini, Italy)