• Festivals

Venice 2022: The Triumph of Venice’s Lioness

In recent years, the film industry has made strides in showcasing female voices on and off screen. The 79th Venice Film Festival was no exception. As a part of the La Biennale di Venezia, it went hand in hand with an Art Exhibition theme that focused this year on “the re-envisioning of life through the prism of the imagination and where everyone can change, be transformed, or become something else.” The Venetian Lioness that represented the 79th Film Festival embodied the same idea by becoming a symbol of hope, a rejection of aggression and ferocity.

The fact that the head of this year’s jury was a woman, actress Julianne Moore, set the tone for the festival. At the beginning of the festival, Moore stressed the importance of curation at film festivals. She confessed that when she was 10 years old, she went to the movie theater and saw Minnie and Moskowitz directed by John Cassavetes. The film made her question her place in the world and wonder what else there was to discover outside of her perceived reality. “And that’s what I appreciate so much about Venice, where there has been such incredible curation,” Moore said.

French director Audrey Divan, who won the Golden Lion last year for her abortion drama, The Happening, and Iranian actress Leila Hatami, known for her work on A Separation, joined Moore on the jury council. After the Awards Ceremony, the jury held a press conference.

“We wanted to pick movies that made our hearts beat faster, that make us feel alive, that we were seeing the world you were living in. I think there’s some very, very, very strong feelings for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – it’s a beautifully told story about a woman who felt marginalized by life and managed to create art out of it,” Moore said. “And it tells the story not only of her but of the opioid crisis in the US and how she used her power to effect some change. It’s very complicated and very touching and I think we all responded to that.”

The jury emphasized again how difficult the selection process had been, as there were so many phenomenal films and they wanted to make sure that they honored the work of all the filmmakers. Ultimately, they concluded that they felt confident in their choices.

This year, two of the festival’s top three prizes were awarded to women. The festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion for Best Film, went to American filmmaker Laura Poitras’s film, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. This marks only the second time that a documentary has taken home the top prize, the first being Sacro Gra in 2013. Laura Poitras’s film focuses on activist and photographer Nan Goldin as she attempts to hold the Sackler Family, well known for their involvement in multiple pharmaceutical companies accountable for the American opioid epidemic. Prior to winning the Golden Lion, Poitras won an Oscar in the Documentary Feature category for her film Citizen Four, which followed Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal.


At the press conference, Poitras modestly stated, “It’s an absolute honor to receive this award as a woman director and a documentary filmmaker. I’m really speechless. And as I said, I just want to remind everyone in the room that the director of one of the films which has been awarded the Special Jury Prize award, Jafar Panahi, can’t be with us, and we all need to fight for his freedom. “

The Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize was awarded to French filmmaker Alice Diop for her film Saint Omer. The film tells the story of a journalist who attends a criminal trial in Saint Omer to use as inspiration to write a modern retelling of the myth of Medea. Diop is known for making films about contemporary society in France and won the best short film award at the Cesar Awards in 2017 for her work Towards Tenderness.


The idea of Saint Omer came to the actress after she attended the trial of

Fabienne Kabou. “It was quite honestly a very, very staggering, very, very powerful experience. And I was confronted with things that I had not suspected before,” Diop explained. “I was completely carried away by a lot of emotions, feelings, my relationship to my mother, my relationship to my son. I experienced very intimate and very personal things.” When Diop realized that many of the spectators, journalists, lawyers, associate judges were women, the idea of the film began to click into place. She was interested by the observation that everyone, including herself, was silently moved by the same emotions. “There was something profoundly universal there and that beyond the simple violence of a sordid news item as always happens, this film was a receptacle to summon something much larger which is the relationship to motherhood. And it was from there that I was convinced that there was material to make a film.”

Diop, who also won the Lion of the Future award for Saint Omer, spoke to Poitras about her top-prize-winning film. “The Golden Lion for your movie seems to show that there is no difference between fiction and documentary. We continue to make fiction movies, starting from my experience as a director of documentaries. There is no difference, I think, among the two types of movies. I’m glad about the award you have received, I’m convinced that it is cinema, and I am even more happy for what has been done.”

Cate Blanchett, who received Copa Volpi for Best Actress for her performance in Tár by Todd Field, continued: “I think that there’s so much of what has been shown within the last ten days, two weeks, has been cinematic. And there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen because on the big screen, the ideas are big. The experiences are big. The feelings are big.” Even though she agreed that cinema can still be experienced on the small screen, Blanchett insisted on “the right to be able to have that cinematic experience.” Assuming that everyone would like this cinematic experience, she pointed out, “Festivals like these are vitally important because you can’t put the cart before the horse in terms of awards. “


Taylor Russell, who won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress performing in Bones and All by Luca Guadagnino, answered a question about her thoughts on winning a very prestigious award by saying, “I am looking at Cate (Blanchett) because I feel like she’s going to give me some advice in her eyes. What I’ve been thinking during listening to everybody at this table talk is – how did I get here among these people? Anything that could happen is a gift beyond belief in so many ways. I mean I am not expecting much but it’s great to be here in the present and celebrate a film that I love so much.”


The Italian screenwriter and director Tizza Covi, who won the Best Director Award at Orizzonti for her movie Vera, had not one but two reasons to celebrate the film that she co-directed with Rainer Frimmel.

The Italian actress, Vera Gemma, who plays a fictionalized version of herself, won the Best Actress award in the Orizzonti section. Being a daughter of a famous Italian actor who is best known for his work in Spaghetti Westerns, she lived for a long time in his shadow. The film is a complex character study of a woman undergoing various crises, who had grown during the process of searching for her own identity. Gemma confessed: “I dedicate it to my father Giulino.”


The Syrian director Soudade Kaadan won the Armani Beauty Audience Award for her film Nezouh, an allegorical tale about young women discovering the outside world during the Syrian civil war in Damascus. On her Instagram, Kaadan wrote: “Proud to announce for the second time, my second fiction feature film won in Venice and this time it is the audience Armani Beauty Award.”