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‘The Woman Who Left’ by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz wins Venice Film Festival Golden Lion

Director Lav Diaz holds the Golden Lion award for Best Film for the movie “The Woman Who Left” during the awards ceremony of the 73rd Venice Film Festival. — AP/AFP photos
Director Lav Diaz holds the Golden Lion award for Best Film for the movie “The Woman Who Left” during the awards ceremony of the 73rd Venice Film Festival. — AP/AFP photos

“The Woman Who Left,” a revenge drama by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz about the struggle of a wrongly convicted schoolteacher in the outside world after 30 years behind bars, is the winner of the 73rd Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion. Shot in black and white and lasting nearly four hours “Woman Who Left” was praised by Variety critic Guy Lodge as a “powerful and, by his [Diaz’s] standards, refreshingly contained moral study.” “This is for my country, for the Filipino people; for our struggle and the struggle of humanity,” said Diaz, as he thanked the jury headed by Sam Mendes.

Tom Ford-directed romantic noir “Nocturnal Animals,” set in the LA art scene and the Texas criminal underworld, took the fest’s Jury Grand Prize. It is the second film directed by the fashion designer, following “A Single Man” which premiered in Venice in 2009. “I have a very beautiful memory of the warn reception my first film received here seven years ago,” the former Gucci guru said speaking in Italian. “To return here is for me the realization of a big dream.”

A dystopian fairy tale
Best director donors were split between Mexican helmer Amat Escalante’s eclectic mix of naturalistic drama and sci-fi erotica, “The Untamed,” and Veteran Russian auteur Andrei Konchalovsky’s Holocaust drama “Paradise.” The Special Jury Prize went to “The Bad Batch,” a dystopian fairy tale set in a Texas wasteland by Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour. Lodge called it a “blood-spattered mash-up of genres, from cannibal exploitation to spaghetti western.”

Amirpour thanked festival organizers for “bringing me and my weird, twisted fairy tale to Venice; it’s been a dream.” “I wish my mom and dad were here because they would really love this shit,” she added. Emma Stone scooped the best actress prize for her role as Mia, an aspiring actress and playwright with a passion for the magic of old movie stars,” in Damien Chazelle’s musical “La La Land,” itself a tribute to old Hollywood, which opened the festival on a decidedly positive note. Stone was not present at the awards ceremony.

The best actor prize went to Argentinian actor Oscar Martinez for his role as a Nobel-winning author who returns to his native village for inspiration in directorial duo Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s “The Distinguished Citizen (“El ciudadano ilustre”), a comedy about art, fame, and petty provincial jealousy. Noah Oppenheim won the best screenplay nod for “Jackie,” directed by Chilean director Pablo Larrain. Starring Natalie Portman as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, it reconstructs the four-day period right after President John F Kennedy was assassinated.

“One of the things I like most about the Venice Film Festival, and all festivals-and something I didn’t really understand from the outside-is that we can only give one award per movie,” Mendes said on stage. “Of course festivals serve the purpose of having certain films reach broader audiences,” Mendes later noted at the post ceremony press conference. “But we did not talk about this in our discussions. We talked about all movies in the same way.”

Best first work for drama
The Marcello Mastroianni award for best young performer went to German actress Paula Beer for her role as a World War I widow in French director Francois Ozon’s period drama “Frantz.” It was the first time she performed in French. Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim won the Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future for best first work for drama “The Last of Us,” which screened in Critics’ Week and has no dialogue. It tracks a Sub-Saharan man through the desert to North Africa where he steals a boat and embarks on an imaginary surrealistic odyssey.

The jury of the Horizons section dedicated to more cutting edge works awarded its top prize to “Liberami,” a documentary about exorcism in Sicily by Italy’s Federica di Giacomo. The Horizons Special Jury Prize went to Turkish director Reha Erdem for his dark drama “Big Big World.” The 73rd edition of Venice was one of the strongest in recent memory combining a diverse mix of potential Oscar contenders from the US with classic auteur and more esoteric fare from other parts of the world, and attaining a good batting average with relatively few letdowns. It reinforced the Lido’s status as a prime Oscar launching pad and an important sales springboard to closing deals in Toronto.

Winners of the 73nd Venice film festival official awards:

International Competition
Golden Lion

“The Woman Who Left” (Lav Diaz, Philippines)
Silver Lion Best Director (Tie)
“Paradise,” Andre Konchalovsky, Russia, Germany
“The Untamed,” Amat Escalante, Mexico

Jury Grand Prize
“Nocturnal Animals” (Tom Ford,)
Special Jury Prize
“The Bad Batch” (Ana Lily Amirpour, US)
Oscar Martinez (“The Distinguished Citizen,” Argentina, Spain)
Emma Stone (“La La Land,” US)
Marcello Mastroianni Prize for Young Performer
Paula Beer (“Frantz,” France)
Best Screenplay
Noah Oppenheim (“Jackie,” US)
Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of The Future
“The Last of Us,” (Ala Eddine Slim, Tunisia)
Horizons Jury
Best Film
“Liberami” (Federica di Giacomo, Italy)
Best Director
“Home” (Fien Troch, Belgium)
Special Jury Prize
“Big Big World” (Reha Erdam, Turkey)
Special Prize for Best Actor
Nino Lopes (“Sao Jorge”) by Marco Martins (Portugal)
Special Prize for Best Actress
Ruth Diaz (“The Fury of a Patient Man”) by Raul Arevalo (Spain)
Best Screenplay
“Bitter Money,” by Wang Bing (China)
Best Short
“La Voz Perdida,” Marcelo Mantinessi (Paraguay)
Venice Classics Awards
Best Documentary on Cinema
“Le Councours,” (Claire Simon)
Best Restored Film
“Break-Up-L’uomo dei cinque palloni,” (Marco Ferreri, Italy)–Reuters

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