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‘Pigeon’ Soars, ‘Birdman’ Snubbed at Venice Awards

VENICE – Swedish director Roy Andersson’s “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” an absurdist pic consisting of intersecting beautifully composed vignettes, won the 71st Venice Golden Lion.

“Pigeon” is “the final part of a trilogy on being a human being,” in the words of the cult director known to cinephiles for his sophisticated comic absurdity. The previous two installments are “Songs From The Second Floor” and “You, the Living.”

“Number one on my list concerning influence is Vittorio De Sica,” said the visibly moved auteur in receiving the top nod, paying tribute to the Italian neo-realist master.

Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” toplining Michael Keaton, which opened the fest to great acclaim, prompting Oscars buzz, was noticeably snubbed.

Asked why, juror Tim Roth quipped: “There is nothing better than seeing Michael Keaton kick ass not in a bat suit but in a bird suit.” Jury prexy Alexandre Desplat said the jury picked films “with a humanistic and poetic dimension.” Not that “Birdman” lacked either, but Venice tends to favor more offbeat pics.

SEE ALSO: Venice: Q&A With Saverio Costanzo, Director Of Adam Driver-Starrer ‘Hungry Hearts’

Adam Driver took the best actor award for his role as a young father in New York worried about his young child’s nutritional regime in Italian director Saverio Costanzo’s dark and topical “Hungry Hearts.” Pic marks the first lead role for Driver, who is in Toronto, where “Hungry” also screens. He did not make the trek to the Lido.

“Hungry Hearts,” which is centered around new age nutritional ways, natural birthing techniques, and different takes on whether children should take anti-biotics, scored a rare double thesping whammy. It also scooped the best actress nod for Italy’s Alba Rohrwacher who plays Mina, an Italian woman who obsesses about the same young child’s food regimen. The jury clearly thought they have great chemistry in this potent English-language parenthood pic.

The Silver Lion went to Russian maestro Andrei Konchalovsky’s “The Postman’s White Nights,” a drama rooted in the reality of a remote lakeside Russian village about a charismatic postman who is the locals’ sole connection to the outside world, feauturing a largely non-pro cast.

SEE ALSO: Venice: Russian maestro Andrei Konchalovsky on Digital Filmmaking

The Grand Jury Prize went to Joshua Oppenheimer’s docu “The Look Of Silence,” his follow-up to “The Act of Killing” which shifts the focus to the victims of Indonesia’s communist purge. Roth compared the emotion of watching “Silence” to “watching your children being born.” Oppenheimer was stuck in Chicago due to a storm.

The Special Jury Prize went to Turkish director Kaane Mujdeci “Sivas,” a stark coming-of-age pic set in remote Anatolia centered around a boy and a dog whose life he saves.

The best screenplay award went to Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s “Tales,” a compilation of stories which depicts social ills in Iran. Bani-Etmad called the nod “an immense present to all Iranians who love cinema,” also noting that “film is the language that joins all people together.”

The Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future for best first work in all sections of the festival, worth $100,000 went to “Court” by Indian helmer Chaitanya Tamhane.

“Court” also scooped the best picture prize in the fest’s more cutting edge Horizons section.

Produced by Vivek Gomber’s Zoo Films in India, and mostly using non-pro actors, Tamhane’s Mumbai-set feature is a subversion of the classic classic courtroom drama which kicks off with the body of a sewage worker being found in a manhole.

The Marcello Mastroianni award for best emerging actor went to French actor Romain Paul for his role as a trailer park teen who becomes enamored with classical music in Alex Delaport’s “The Last Hammer Blow.”

This was a somewhat subdued edition of Venice, with many regulars noting that there were fewer crowds. Excitment was intermittent, though there was no lack of solid titles, in a disparate array of genres.

Still, overall attendance was on a par with last year, according to organizers, as was press presence, with some 2,350 accredited press corps, more than half of which are from Italy.

A new European Gap-Financing Co-Production Market strenghthened the budding boutique Venice Film Market, at its third year, where trading, often in preparation for Toronto, was steady, including a U.S. pickup for “Look of Silence” by Drafthouse Films/Participant Media.

COMPLETE WINNERS OF THE 71TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL AWARDS

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION

GOLDEN LION

“A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence” (Roy Andersson Sweden, Germany, Norway, France)

SILVER LION
“The Postman’s White Nights” (Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia)

JURY GRAND PRIZE
“The Look Of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Norway, U.K.)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Sivas” (Kaan Mujdeci, Turkey, Germany)

ACTOR
Adam Driver (“Hungry Hearts,” Italy)

ACTRESS
Alba Rohrwacher (“Hungry Hearts,” Italy)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER–
Romain Paul (“The Last Hammer Blow,” France)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Rakhshan and Farid Mostafavi (“Tales,” Iran)

LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE
“Court,” Chitanya Tamhane (India)

HORIZONS JURY

BEST FILM
“Court,” Chitanya Tamhane (India)

BEST DIRECTOR
“Theeb” Naji Abu Nowar (Jordan, U.A.E., Qatar, U.K.)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Belluscone” (Franco Maresco, Italy)

SPECIAL PRIZE FOR BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS
Emir Hadzihafizbegovic (“These Are The Rules,” Croatia, France, Serbia, Macedonia)

HORIZONS PRIZE FOR BEST SHORT
“Maryam” (Sidi Saleh, Indonesia)

VENICE CLASSICS PRIZES

BEST DOCUMENTARY ON FILM

“Animata Resistenza,” (Francesco Montagner, Alberto Girotto, Italy)

BEST RESTORED FILM

“Una Giornata Particolare,” (Ettore Scola, Italy)

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