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Syrian civil war doc “Still Recording,” directed by Ghiath Ayoub and Saeed Al Batal, is the winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week prize.

It follows art students Saeed and Milad, who in 2011 decide to leave Damascus and go to Douma, a suburb under rebel control and take part in the Syrian revolution. Amid revolutionary enthusiasm, they launch a local radio station and a recording studio. War, siege and famine follow. 

The directing duo (pictured) shot more than 500 hours of footage over four years spent in the besieged city. “Recording” also won the section’s best technical contribution nod. The powerful doc does not yet have a sales agent.

The winner of the Critics’ Week prize is chosen by the audience.

The independently run Venice section dedicated to first works also gave out a prize known as the Verona Film Club Award to Franco-Swiss directorial duo Alexia Walther and Maxime Matray’s “Blonde Animals,” a surreal comedy involving the former star of a short-lived TV sitcom.

The Verona prize goes to the film deemed the most innovative in the section by a jury of film buffs who belong to one of Italy’s oldest arthouse cinema organizations. “Blonde Animals” is being sold by France’s Ecce Films.

In a statement, artistic director Giona Nazzaro underlined how this year’s selection combined “the pleasure of diversity and the search for new gazes.”

“At a time when politics are closing doors we wanted to open all the windows,” he said, “and invite viewers to think about today’s contradictions and work for a combative cinema.”

All Venice Critics’ Week entries will compete for the fest’s Lion of the Future prize alongside titles in the official selection. 

The Venice Film Festival’s official selection prizes will be announced Saturday.