In a move that could be seen as a strong message for women’s rights, and for the right of female filmmakers to be celebrated, the 2021 Venice Film Festival gave its top honour, the Golden Lion for best film, to Audrey Diwan’s French abortion drama ‘Happening’.
“I feel heard tonight!” a near-ecstatic Diwan said accepting her historic award.
‘Happening’, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Annie Ernaux, tells the story of a bright college student in early-1960s France who sees her emancipation threatened when she gets pregnant. With no legal options available, she tries to find a way to illegally abort.
Given the current climate in the United States, following the restrictive new anti-abortion laws passed in Texas, the Venice Jury, headed by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, appears to have sent a clear pro-choice message with its Golden Lion pick. The best director honour, the Silver Lion, went to Jane Campion for her Netflix neo-Western ‘The Power of the Dog’. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, the film is Campion’s first feature in 12 years.
Italian director Pablo Sorrentino won the grand jury prize for his well-received autobiographical drama ‘The Hand of God’, with the film’s star, Filippo Scotti, taking the Best Young Actor honour.
Spanish star Penelope Cruz has won Venice’s best actress honour for her performance in Pedro Almodovar’s new melodrama ‘Parallel Mothers’.
Maggie Gyllenhaal won best screenplay honor for her directorial debut ‘The Lost Daughter’. Noting that she married and had her first child in Italy, Gyllenhaal said, “my life as a director and writer was born here, in this theater,” referencing Venice’s Sala Grande.
Gyllenhaal’s drama, starring Olivia Coleman, is based on the novel by Italian writer Elena Ferrante. “This film is Italian in its bones!” Gyllenhaal said.
John Arcilla won best actor honour for his performance in ‘On The Job: The Missing 8’. Il Buco, Michelangelo Frammartino’s cinematic exploration of one of the world’s deepest caves, won a special jury prize.
In the Horizons section, Lithuanian crime drama ‘Pilgrims’ from director Laurynas Bareisa took the best film honour.
Eric Gravel’s French drama ‘Full Time’ won two Horizons prizes: best director for Gravel and best actress for Laure Calamy. Piseth Chhun won best actor in the Horizons section for his starring performance in Kavich Neang’s Cambodian drama ‘White Building’, according to Hollywood Reporter.