Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” a black-and-white drama drawn from the director’s memories of growing up in Mexico City in the early 1970s which marks his return to Spanish-language filmmaking, is the winner of the Venice Film festival’s Golden Lion.
“Roma,” which is clearly Cuaron’s most personal work, is centered around two domestic workers, both from Mixteco heritage, who tirelessly take care of a small family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma.
“This award and this festival are incredibly important to me,” said Cuaron who thanked producer David Linde and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Scott Stuber.
He also thanked his crew and actresses Marina De Tavira, Yalitza Aparicio and Nancy Garcia “for your courage, generosity and immense respect in portraying the women who raised me,” he said.
Cuaron was last in Venice with 3D sci-fi film “Gravity” in 2013 which screened out-of-competition and went on to win 7 Oscars.
“Working with Alfonso on ‘Roma’ has already been an amazing journey for everyone at Participant, and we are beyond thrilled that his brilliant film has been honored with the Golden Lion,” said Linde in a statement. “This film is a gift to all audiences, transcending language and cultural barriers and inspiring compassion across the globe.”
The Netflix release, produced by Participant Media, took the top prize among 21 entries competing in one of the Lido’s strongest editions in recent memory, winning over a jury headed by Guillermo Del Toro who at the start of the fest had assured he would be doing no favors for his amigo.
Speculation of favoritism on Del Toro’s part is unlikely to be much of an issue, since “Roma” was a major festival favorite, topping Italian critics’ lists and getting glowing reviews across the board.
“Now let me see if I can pronounce the winners’ name correctly!” joked Del Toro, as he announced the top prize.
“I had one vote, just like all the others [jurors]” he said at the post ceremony presser, adding that it was a unanimous decision.
“The Favourite,” Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s darkly comic period English-language piece, scored a double whammy, winning the Grand Jury Prize, the fest’s second-most prestigious prize, and also scooping the best actress Coppa Volpi which went to Olivia Colman for her hilarious, and also moving, performance as ailing 18th century Queen Anne a dysfunctional monarch who suffers from gout and only occasionally rises out of her four-poster bed to go around her palace by wheelchair.
Colman will be playing Queen Elizabeth II in the new season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” which is in production.
Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” which was the sole title in the competition directed by a woman, also scored a double whammy. The revenge thriller won the Special Jury Prize and also the Marcello Mastroianni nod for best young actor which went to Baykali Ganambarr. In this sometimes violent film set in 19th century Tasmania a 21-year-old Irish convict woman and an Aboriginal tracker (played by Ganambarr) pursue the British army officer who wronged her family. The pic prompted a screamed sexist insult against the director during the press screening which in turn caused the sexist screamer to have his press credentials pulled.
“I would also like to say to all those women out there wanting to make films, please go and do it. We need you. The feminine force is the most powerful and healing force on the planet,” Kent said accepting the award. “I’m confident next year and the year after we’ll see more and more women inhabiting this space.”
French director Jacques Audiard took best director for his witty English-language Western starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as sibling hitmen.
Best actor honors went to Willem Dafoe for his tour-de-force performance as Vincent Van Gogh during the artist’s artistically illuminated but mentally dark final period in Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate.”
Joel and Ethan Coen won best screenplay for their Western “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” originally conceived as a TV series, also from Netflix.
Netflix has had a major presence at the Venice, with six titles, and this edition marks the giant streamer’s first major prize on the major festival circuit.
Aside from being an edition set to go down in the annals as having one of the strongest lineups, Venice this year also upped the game of its new concept market, which is known as the Venice Production Bridge which saw a 19% rise in attendance compared with 2017 with 2,470 registered industry executives.
WINNERS OF THE 75TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL AWARDS
Golden Lion: “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron
Silver Lion for Best Director: Jacques Audiard, “The Sisters Brothers”
Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Best Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
Special Jury Prize: “The Nightingale” Jennifer Kent
Marcello Mastroianni Award for Young Performer: Baykali Ganambarr “The Nightingale”
Best Film: “Manta Ray,” Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
Best Director: Emir Baigazin, “The River”
Special Jury Prize: “The Announcement,” Mahmut Fazil Coskun
Best Actress: Natalya Kudryashova “The Man Who Surprised Everyone”
Best Actor: Kais Nashif “Tel Aviv on Fire”
Best Screenplay: “Jinpa,” Pema Tseden
Best Short Film: “Kado,” Aditya Ahmad
LION OF THE FUTURE: “The Day I Lost My Shadow,” Soudade Kaadan, Syria
Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Film:
Best Documentary on Cinema: “The Great Buster: A Celebration,” Peter Bogdanovich
Best Restored Film: “The Night of the Shooting Stars,” Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
VIRTUAL REALITY COMPETITION
Best Virtual Reality: “Spheres,” Eliza McNitt
Best Virtual Reality Experience: “Buddy VR,” Chuck Chae
Best Virtual Reality Story: “Isle of the Dead,” Benjamin Nuel