Sunday, September 13, 2009

Israeli Film Wins Lion at Venice


The 66th Venice International Film Festival (Le Biennale di Venezia)(VIFF), which ran from 2 - 12 September, wrapped yesterday evening with a somewhat surprising list of winners, and only two for the USA. The awards ceremony in the Sala Darsena was followed by the screenings of LOVE YOU (Chengdu, wo ai ni, China) by Fruit Chan and Jian Cui, and RAMBO (Director's Cut) by Sylvester Stallone.

Director Ang Lee, two-time Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro) winner, served as head of the Jury that selected the top prizes, and he personally awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film. He first won the Golden Lion in 2005 for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and again for the World War II drama LUST, CAUTION in 2007. His latest movie, TAKING WOODSTOCK, screened out of competition at Venice.

The festival top prize, the Golden Lion for Best Film went to LEBANON (Levanone, Israel), a debut feature film for director Samuel Maoz. Set in June, 1982, the start of the Israel-Lebanon War, four young Israeli soldiers operate a tank that is assigned to go into a Lebanese village to clear it of PLO terrorists, the first tank to cross the border in what was supposed to be a one-day mission. It turns into much more than that.

Director Maoz was only 22 when he fought in the Israel-Lebanon War. He spent years in after-combat distress, suffering outbursts of anger and extended episodes of depression. After 25 years, he decided that creating a fictionalized version of his experiences might help him, and others.

The buzz started early at the Festival for this film as a contender for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® for Israel, and it will now kick into high gear. That remains to be seen, as much will depend upon what it does at Toronto, and what distributor picks it up for the U.S. Market.

Shirin Neshat was awarded the Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento) for Best Director for WOMEN WITHOUT MEN (Zanan Bedone Mardan, Germany), and another coveted award, the Special Jury Prize was awarded to SOUL KITCHEN by Fatih Akin (Germany). Note to myself: Films about cooking are coming out of the woodworks this year from a variety of countries on the heels of the Julia Child take-off, JULIE AND JULIA.

The Volpi Cup (Coppa Volpi) for Best Actor / Actress went to British actor Colin Firth for his role in Tom Ford's debut film, A SINGLE MAN (USA), and Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport for her role in the film THE DOUBLE HOUR (La doppia ora, Italy) by Giuseppe Capotondi. A SINGLE MAN is based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, and the buzz is that this could be Firth's Oscar year. This role is, after all, a strait man who portrays a gay. Again, a lot depends on what happens at Toronto and with the film's yet-to-acquire distributor.

Todd Solondz is bringing home to the USA the "Osella" for Best Screenplay for LIFE DURING WARTIME (USA). Joe Dante will do the same with a Persol 3-D Award for the Best 3-D Stereoscopic Film of the Year (Prize awarded on 11th September 2009) for THE HOLE, a film described as a, "Kiddie horror film." The prize is given to a film that best explores (the) new cinematic frontier” of 3-D. These were the only two Venice Festival awards for the USA.

The Horizon's Award (Orizzonti) went to ENGKWENTRO by Pepe Diokno (Philippines). China's Du Haibin received the Horizon Best Documentary award for 1428. THE MAN'S OTHER WOMAN AND OTHER STORIES (Aadmi ki aurat aur anya kahaniya, India) by Amit Dutta received a special mention.

For list of all awards, click title of this post.

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