VENICE -Italo helmer Gianfranco Rosi’s fresh docu “Sacro GRA,” about people living on the fringe along the ring road around Rome, is the winner of the Venice Film Festival’s 70th edition which wrapped on an innovative note Saturday and saw Italy scooping the Golden Lion after going empty-handed for 15 years.
This edition marked the first time docus where included in the main Venice competish. “Sacro GRA,” with its intriguing slices of humanity on the edge, resonated with jury prexy Bernardo Bertolucci who had said at the start of the fest that he wanted to lionize a film that “surprised” him.
At the post-awards presser Bertolucci said that “the entire jury felt the poetic force of this film,” which he called “pure and Franciscan” in the way it approaches its characters. Most in the audience seemed to agree, though there were a few boos.
“For me it was a great accomplishment being in competition in Venice with a documentary,” said Rosi who won the Venice Horizons nod in 2008 with his previous docu, “Below Sea Level.”
Rosi thanked the jury and fest artistic topper Alberto Barbera for breaking down the barrier between docus and fiction films.
Rosi, who is not related to Italian master Francesco Rosi, dedicated his Lion to all of his pics’ characters “who let me into their life with immense generosity.”
Italy, which had not won a Golden Lion since Gianni Amelio’s “The Way We Laughed” in 1998, also scooped the best actress nod, which went to stage star Elena Cotta for her powerful largely mute role as mule-headed old widow in Emma Dante’s drama about Sicilian society “A Street in Palermo.”
Venice’s other big winner was dark family drama “Miss Violence,” by Greek helmer Alexandros Avranas, at his second feature, which took the Silver Lion for best director. “Violence” also scored the best actor nod for Themis Panou for his role as a psychopatic patriarch in this pic with severe sequences of domestic and sexual abuse.
The Grand Jury prize went to Taiwan-based auteur Tsai Ming-liang’s experimental “Stray Dogs,” a very slow pic almost entirely devoid of narrative which follows a homeless family and paints a picture of the awfulness of life in contemporary Taipei.
“I love you, Mr. Bertolucci,” said a visibly moved Tsai, who has repeatedly announced that “Dogs” will be his last pic due to commercial constraints he can’t deal with as an artist.
The Special Jury Prize went to another tale of domestic violence: “The Police Officer’s Wife,” directed by Germany’s Philip Groening.
The only U.S. nod went to thesp Tye Sheridan for his role opposite Nicolas Cage in David Gordon Green’s Texas-set two-hander “Joe.” Sheridan has appeared previously in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and Jeff Nichols’ “Mud.”
Fest crowdpleaer “Philomena” by Steven Frears was awarded the best screenplay nod which co-scribes Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope did not make the trek from Toronto to pick up.
The Luigi de Laurentiis Lion of the Future award for best first work went to “White Shadow,” a drama about intolerance towards albinos in Tanzania, helmed by Noaz Deshe, who in based in Los Angeles and Berlin. Ryan Gosling is executive producer on “White Shadow,” a Critics’ Week entry which is an Italy-Germany-Africa co-prod, produced by Ginevra Elkann and Francesco Melzi d’Eril. Lucrative nod comes with a $100,000 check to be split between the director and the producers.
This was a rather smooth edition of Venice, with no major organizational snags. Barbera’s slimmed-down lineup went over quite well with critics due to a high average quality level, though it lacked pics that really set the Lido on fire.
The new Venice Film Market, at its second year, drew a larger industry crowd. Overall attendance was on a par with last year, as was press presence, with some 3,000 accredited journos, 2,000 of which from Italy.
COMPLETE WINNERS OF THE 70TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL AWARDS
“Sacro GRA” (Gianfranco Rosi, Italy)
JURY GRAND PRIZE
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“The Police Officer’s Wife” (Philip Groening, Germany)
Themis Panou (“Miss Violence, Greece”)
Elena Cotta (“A Street in Palermo,” Italy)
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER–
Tye Sheridan (Joe, David Gordon Green, U.S.)
Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope (Philomena, U.K.)
LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE
“White Shadow” (Noaz Deshe, Italy, Germany, Tanzania)
“Still Life” (Uberto Pasolini, U.K., Italy)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Ruin” (Michael Cody, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Australia)
SPECIAL PRIZE FOR INNOVATIVE CONTENT
“Mah Va Gorbeh” (Shahram Mokri, Iran)
HORIZONS PRIZE FOR BEST SHORT
“Kush” (Shubhashish Bhutiani, India)