Venice Film Festival

Long tale of revenge, forgiveness takes the prize

Actress Emma Stone took Best Actress for the musical La La Land.
Actress Emma Stone took Best Actress for the musical La La Land.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Director Lav Diaz.
Director Lav Diaz.

VENICE• A nearly four-hour-long black-and-white movie from the Philippines about a schoolteacher's thirst for revenge and her feelings of forgiveness after 30 years in jail for a crime she did not commit won the Venice Film Festival's top prize last Saturday.

Director Lav Diaz has described The Woman Who Left as a testimony to the struggles of the Philippines after centuries of colonial rule.

"This is for my country, for the Filipino people, for our struggle, for the struggle of humanity," the 57-year-old said as he accepted the Golden Lion for Best Film.

His film - nominally inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1872 short story God Sees The Truth, But Waits - plays with the theme of moral accountability within a narrative coloured by kidnappings, transgenderism and poverty.

Diaz, who at the Berlin Film Festival in February had premiered a film that ran more than eight hours, said he hoped the latest recognition would create more appreciation for longer movies.

"Cinema is still very young, you can still push it," he said.

The runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to Tom Ford's romantic revenge thriller Nocturnal Animals, the second feature by the celebrated American fashion designer.

Best Director was shared by Russia's Andrei Konchalovsky for the Holocaust drama Paradise and Mexico's Amat Escalante for the extraterrestrial sex drama The Untamed.

Commenting on The Untamed, which opens with a naked woman being pleasured by a tentacled creature, jury member and Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas said the movie affected all the judges emotionally.

"We liked the lack of sentimentalism. We felt he really took risks making the film. It's a film that pushes the medium forward," he said.

American Emma Stone took Best Actress for the musical La La Land and Argentine Oscar Martinez was named Best Actor for the comedy- drama The Distinguished Citizen.

"I wish I could be there to make sure it's not an elaborate prank," quipped Stone in a video message, saying she could "think of no better place in the world than Venice to premiere La La Land".

German actress Paula Beer received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for an emerging performer, for her role in the post-war drama Frantz.

Jackie, a drama starring Natalie Portman as the grieving widow of United States president John F. Kennedy, took Best Screenplay for Noah Oppenheim.

The Special Jury Prize went to the cannibal love story The Bad Batch by American director Ana Lily Amirpour, dubbed "the new Tarantino" by fans. While the film earned mixed reviews, the jury appreciated its spirit.

Sam Mendes, director of the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall, headed the jury. He said of The Bad Batch: "Someone has made a very individual, very personal vision, whatever you think of it; that alone, the act of making that film is astonishing."

All the movies that won awards were examples of directors' "lack of compromise, imagination, original vision, daring and a kind of pure identity", he said. "It's taken me out of my comfort zone."

He said he hoped the awards would help the films get distributed.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Long tale of revenge, forgiveness takes the prize'. Subscribe