The 2021 Venice Film Festival awarded Audrey Diwan’s French abortion drama Happening its top prize, the Golden Lion for best film, in a move that could be interpreted as a strong message for women’s rights and the right of female filmmakers to be celebrated.
As she accepted her historic award, Diwan responds by saying, “I feel heard tonight!”
The film Happening, based on Annie Ernaux’s novel of the same name, tells the storey of a bright college student in early 1960s France whose emancipation is threatened when she becomes pregnant. She tries to find a way to illegally abort because she has no other legal options. Given the current political climate in the United States, particularly in light of Texas’ new anti-abortion laws, the Venice Jury, led by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, appears to have sent a clear pro-choice message with its Golden Lion selection.
Jane Campion won the Silver Lion for best director for her Netflix neo-Western The Power of the Dog. Campion’s first feature film in 12 years, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst. For his well-received autobiographical drama The Hand of God, Italian director Pablo Sorrentino won the grand jury prize, while the film’s star, Filippo Scotti, was named Best Young Actor.
Penelope Cruz, a Spanish actress, has won Venice’s best actress award for her role in Pedro Almodovar’s new melodrama Parallel Mothers. For her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal won best screenplay. “My life as a director and writer was born here, in this theatre,” Gyllenhaal said, referring to Venice’s Sala Grande, where she married and had her first child. Gyllenhaal’s drama, which also stars Olivia Coleman, is based on an Italian novel by Elena Ferrante.
For his role in On The Job: The Missing 8, John Arcilla was named best actor. Imaculat, a film about a young woman who enters drug rehab from Romanian directors Monica Stan and George Chiper-Lillemark, won the Lion of the Future award, the Luigi de Laurentis award, for best first feature.
Teemu Nikki’s The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic won the first prize of the evening, the Audience Award Armani beauty, a new prize for Venice’s new Horizons Extra sidebar. Pilgrims, a Lithuanian crime drama directed by Laurynas Bareisa, won the best film award in the Horizons section. Full Time, a French drama directed by Eric Gravel, took home two Horizons awards: best director for Gravel and best actress for Laure Calamy. For his starring role in Kavich Neang’s Cambodian drama White Building, Piseth Chhun won best actor in the Horizons section.
107 Mothers, directed by Peter Kerekes and co-screenwriter Ivan Ostrochovsky of Ukraine, won best screenplay in the Horizons section, while Los huesos, directed by Cristobal Leon and Joaquin Cocina of Chile, won Best Short. The Great Movement, directed by Bolivian director Kiro Russo, received a special jury award.
End of Night by David Adler won the Best VR Story award in Venice’s VR Expanded section, while Blanca Lee’s Le bal de Paris won the Best VR Experience award. The Grand Jury Prize for Best VR Work went to Goliath Playing with Reality, directed by Barry Gene Murphy and May Abdalla. Venice has established itself as a forerunner for the Academy Awards. Nomadland, Joker, Roma, and The Shape of Water, the last four Golden Lion winners, all used the Lido as a springboard to Oscar success.
Venice Film Festival Winners
Here is the full list of Venice Film Festival Winners.
Golden Lion for Best Film
Happening, dir. Audrey Diwan
Grand Jury Prize
The Hand of God, dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Jane Campion, for The Power of the Dog
John Arcilla for On The Job: The Missing 8
Penelope Cruz for Parallel Mothers
Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter
Best Young Actor
Filippo Scotti for The Hand of God
Special Jury Prize
Il Buco, dir. Michelangelo Frammartino
Lion of the Future for Best Debut Film
Imaculat, dirs. Monica Stan, George Chiper-Lillemark
Pilgrims, dir. Laurynas Bareisa
Eric Gravel for Full Time
Special Jury Prize
The Great Movement dir. Kiro Russo
Piseth Chhun for White Building
Laure Calamy for Full Time
Peter Kerekes, Ivan Ostrochovsky for 107 Mothers
Best Short Film
Los huesos, dirs. Cristobal Leon, Joaquin Cocina
Audience Award Armani beauty
The Blind Man Who Didn’t Want to See Titanic, dir. Teemu Nikki
Best VR Story
End of Night, dir. David Adler
Best VR Experience
Le bal de Paris, dir. Blanca Lee.
Best VR Work
Goliath Playing with Reality, dirs. Barry Gene Murphy, May Abdalla
So, here is the entire list of winners at the Venice Film Festival Stay tune for more!