The American filmmaker Laura Poitras has an open ear for dissenting voices. She became known for a documentary about whistleblower Edward Snowden ("Citizenfour"), which won an Oscar. For her new work, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, she interviewed Nan Goldin, the photographer whose anarchic photos of outsiders first horrified, then delighted, New York's art scene.
Poitras was the only documentary film in the competition to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. For the third time in a row, the main prize on Saturday evening went to a female filmmaker - which had only happened extremely rarely since 1949, namely a total of seven times.
Julianne Moore looks ahead with confidence
This time, a female director also received the Grand Jury Prize. So do women filmmakers have equal rights now? "You just have to look at tonight's evidence," said Jury President Julianne Moore after the awards ceremony. "You see so many stories directed by women. Stories about women are celebrated. I think: yes - there is definitely a change. I think we can now put a lid on it and look ahead, and not always everything gendered. And just expecting that we should have every opportunity to tell our stories."
The decision for "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed" was clear, said Moore. Jury member Isabel Coixet put it this way: "It was the film we were waiting for." In it, Poitras tells of Goldin's fight against the Sackler family, the owners of a pharmaceutical company blamed for the opioid crisis in the United States. Goldin himself was addicted to a painkiller sold by the company.
Poitras interviewed Goldin many times for "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed". Goldin's stories lead through the film as a voice-over, videos and photos from the life of the artist, who was born in 1953, are also shown. Poitras says in the film that Goldin focuses on her relationships with her friends in her photos, and that's what makes her pictures so alluring.
Whether it's about her activism, her art or her life, everything, the photographer said in Venice, is actually dedicated to one thing - the fight against stigmatization. Be it drug addiction, domestic violence, non-heterosexual gender identities or illnesses. She devotes herself to topics that are often kept secret in society and packs them into artistically composed and powerful images. Poitras managed to make an equally powerful film about Goldin's life.
The political in the private
The film "Saint Omer", which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize - the second most important award of the festival - also looks for the political in the private sphere. It's based on a true story, said French filmmaker Alice Diop. She herself attended a trial in which a woman was accused of infanticide. In "Saint Omer" the writer and lecturer Rama (Kayije Kagame) also follows such a process. But the case against the Senegalese-French woman named Laurence Coly is causing emotional problems for Rama. Memories of the complicated relationship with her own mother shake her.
Among other things, the father of the dead child testifies, a much older, white man who has hidden his relationship with Coly and his paternity. In addition, in the course of the trial, racist ways of thinking among witnesses and observers of the trial become apparent. Some are surprised that the accused can express herself so well. The others believe that she has a different, "mystical" view of the law because of her origins. A cleverly told work that also won The Lion of the Future award for a debut film at the film festival.
Other honorees at this year's festival include Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who won the Silver Lion for Best Director for Bones and All, and imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who received the Special Jury Prize for No Bears. With Cate Blanchett ("Tár") and Colin Farrell ("The Banshees of Inisherin"), two big film stars received the awards for best actor. The award for best screenplay also went to "The Banshees of Inisherin" and thus to Martin McDonagh. What distinguished these different works in the end? "We were looking for movies that made our hearts beat faster," Moore said.