Tilda Swinton accepted her Golden Lion for career achievement at the Venice Film Festival with a touching love letter to cinema, which she punctuated with “Wakanda Forever,” in a nod to “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman.
The British actor accepted the prize from Venice jury president Cate Blanchett during the festival’s opening ceremony on Wednesday evening, where the festival kicked off with a tribute to Italian composer Ennio Morricone — complete with nine-piece orchestra on the stage of the Sala Grande — and a united message heralding cinema from European festival directors.
Swinton has been to Venice for countless films including all four of her collaborations with Luca Guadagnino, “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash” among them, as well as films such as Sally Potter’s “Orlando” and Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Burn After Reading.” Taking the stage, the actor said there have been “two things I’ve been wondering about lately: one, how much exactly cinema means to me. Two, how to be able to accept this overwhelming honor with a straight face.”
“Cinema is my happy place, my true motherland. Its fellowship is my heart’s family tree. The names on the list of those awarded this honor, meanwhile, they are the names of my masters. They’re the elders of my tribe. The poets of the language I love above others. I sing their songs in the bath. I’m the punk kid film nut hitching a ride to the station to get to the foothills of the heights of their achievements.”
Swinton then declared, “By the way, I am only just beginning,” to enthusiastic applause from the audience, all seated with one empty place between them in the auditorium.
“So when I ask myself how I might adequately express my honor, words fail me. I’m all out. Just know it’s major,” she said.
The Oscar winner said to “be in a room with living creatures and a big screen,” and to see a film in Venice, is “pure joy.” “It’s so beautiful to see all your eyes open and ready. Eyes, ears, don’t need this [pointing to her mouth],” she joked.
Swinton also thanked Venice, which she described as “the most venerable and majestic film festival on Earth,” for persevering in an impossible year and “[reminding] us that some things are going nowhere.”
“We can continue to rely on the great, elastic, wide, wild, bouncy, boundary-less and perpetually inclusive state of cinema,” ended Swinton.
“We have everything we need. The magic carpet is flying still and ever shall be — the best possible personal protective equipment for the soul. Viva Venezia. Cinema cinema cinema. Wakanda Forever. Nothing but love,” exclaimed Swinton, who received a standing ovation.
Early in career in 1991, Swinton scooped the prize for best actress in Venice for her performance in “Edward II” by British director Derek Jarman, one of seven films they made together. More recently Swinton has been on the Lido with Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love” in 2009; and with Guadagnino’s “A Bigger Splash,” in 2015, and “Suspiria” in 2018.
Swinton’s more recent work includes Wes Anderson’s Cannes Label 2020 “The French Dispatch,” as well as the second part of British director Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir,” and also “Memoria,” by Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Swinton recently shot English-language short “The Human Voice” with Pedro Almodóvar during lockdown, and is also filming Australian director George Miller’s “Three Thousand Year of Longing,” alongside Idris Elba.
Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui, the groundbreaking helmer behind “The Secret” (1979) and “Boat People” (1982), will also be honored with a Golden Lion later in the festival.