For the second time in the history of the Venice Film Festival, a documentary film has won the Golden Lion. The American Laura Poitras received the award for her work "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed" about the photographer Nan Goldin. This is the third time in a row and the seventh time since 1949 that a woman has received the main prize at the festival.
After the award ceremony, Poitras and other filmmakers recalled the situation of the imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who won the special jury prize in absentia. Other important awards went to France's Alice Diop for "Saint Omer" (Grand Jury Prize), as well as to Cate Blanchett and Colin Farrell.
Poitras, 58, is best known for "Citizenfour," an Oscar-winning documentary about whistleblower Edward Snowden. "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed" follows Goldin's family, her artistic endeavors and her struggle against the Sackler family, known for marketing the addictive drug Oxycontin and sponsoring culture. Goldin was dependent on it himself. The 68-year-old became famous with intimate photographs that deal with topics such as sexuality, illness, desire or violence.
"I think it's a beautifully told story about a woman who felt excluded and managed to create art out of it," said jury president Julianne Moore after the award ceremony. The film tells "not only her story, but also the story of the opioid crisis in the United States. How a woman uses her power to bring about change."
Stories from Goldin's life
Poitras and Goldin did interviews for "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed". Goldin's stories lead through the film as a voice-over, videos and photos from Goldin's life are also shown. Among other things, the photographer tells that a doctor prescribed her Oxycontin a few years ago. Goldin became heavily addicted to it, eventually going into rehab and beginning to research the drug.
She learned that the pharmaceutical company Purdue and the Sackler family, who own Oxycontin, are accused of having marketed the painkiller with ruthless and aggressive methods while concealing the dangers of addiction. The drug is believed to have contributed to the rampant drug addiction and drug epidemic in the United States. Thousands of lawsuits are pending against the company.
With "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed" the jury awarded an emotional film that is as personal as it is political. He tells of social developments that are often kept silent. And about the inspiring life of an exceptionally courageous artist.
Special price for Jafar Panahi
The same can be said about Jafar Panahi. The imprisoned Iranian filmmaker was honored in absentia with the special prize of the jury for "No Bears". In it, the 62-year-old plays himself. He has recently been staying in a small Iranian village near the border in the film. He is not allowed to leave his country because of an exit ban. From a distance, he and a team in Turkey shoot a film via video link about a couple who want to leave Iran. In addition to this story, it is also about what is happening in the village of which Panahi has recently become a resident.
Panahi was arrested in Iran in July. "I want to remind everyone in the room that Jafar Panahi cannot be here with us and that we must all fight for his freedom," Poitras said after the award ceremony, also recalling other filmmakers who have been imprisoned.
Guadagnino receives lions for best director
Italian director Luca Guadagnino received the Silver Lion for Best Director for "Bones and All" - a love story about two young cannibals. The Best Actress award went to Cate Blanchett for her role in "Tár" (directed by Todd Field). She plays the fictional first chief conductor of a major German orchestra named Lydia Tár, whose life spirals out of control due to allegations of abuse. Colin Farrell won Best Actor for The Banshees of Inisherin.
Alongside the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlinale, the Venice Film Festival is one of the most important in the world. In this year's competition, 23 works competed for the prizes.