The 78th Venice Film Festival wrapped up on September 11, a year after the COVID pandemic took center stage, forcing the 2020 iteration to adopt a “more restrained” format. This year’s jury was helmed by South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho, whose Parasite took top honors last year. The jurors wrapped up the two-week extravaganza by bestowing its Golden Lion award on Happening, a drama about a French college student seeking an abortion in the 1960s.
“We really loved this film and it was a unanimous decision,” said Bo in announcing the prize.
The award was widely interpreted as an endorsement of a woman’s autonomy in the light of recent developments worldwide, including the abortion restrictions in Texas and the persecution of women in Afghanistan under the resurgent Taliban. The award for Best Director went to a woman also: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog, a “neo-Western” she created for Netflix, her first feature in a dozen years.
Accepting her award, Happening director Audrey Dirwan exclaimed, “I feel heard tonight!” She based her film on the eponymous novel by Annie Ernaux.
Other women taking top honors included Spanish actor Penelope Cruz and U.S. director Maggie Gyllenhaal. Cruz won the Best Actress prize for her performance Parallel Mothers, a melodrama by Pedro Almodovar. Gyllenhall was honored for her screenplay for The Lost Daughter, based on the book by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.
Venice 2021 was a smashing success for Netflix, which saw three of its offerings take top honors. In addition to the Campion and Gyllenhall films cited above, The Hand of God won a Silver Lion award for Pablo Sorrentino and a Best Young Actor nod for Filippo Scotti.
Here’s the list.
Golden Lion: “Happening” (dir. Audrey Diwan)
Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize: “The Hand of God,” Paolo Sorrentino
Silver Lion for Best Director: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Best Actress: Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
Best Actor: John Arcilla, “On the Job: Missing 8”
Best Screenplay: “The Lost Daughter” (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
Special Jury Prize: “Il Buco” (dir. Michelangelo Frammartino)
Best Young Actor: Filippo Scotti, “The Hand of God”