Roma wins top prize at Venice film fest

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron with the Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron with the Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

VENICE • Few birthday dedications are as memorable as this.

On the day when Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron won the Golden Lion top prize at the Venice film festival for Roma, it was also the birthday of a woman who looked after him when he was a child.

Roma, which tells the story of a maid called Cleo, is based on that woman. "Today is her birthday. What a present," Oscar winner Cuaron told reporters.

Roma, named after the neighbourhood in Mexico City where he grew up, is a Spanish-language drama that critics almost unanimously described as "shimmering" due to its luscious black-and-white cinematography.

At a festival where only one of the 21 films selected to compete for the Golden Lion was directed by a woman, Roma was one of several that focused almost exclusively on female characters, in this case, Cuaron's mother and two maids who helped bring him up.

The victory last Saturday also brought Netflix its first major festival victory, sealing the online-streaming company's reputation as a big name in arthouse movies.

Another of its films, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, a comedy-western written and directed by the Coen brothers, bagged Best Screenplay.

The Favourite, which, like Roma, has a strong female focus, won the runner-up Grand Jury Prize.

Its star, Olivia Colman, received the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her uproarious portrayal of England's Queen Anne.


Willem Dafoe got the nod for Best Actor for his portrayal of artist Vincent van Gogh in the biopic, At Eternity's Gate.

Jennifer Kent, the only female director in the main competition, won the Special Jury Prize for The Nightingale, a revenge thriller set in 1825 in Australia whose male lead Baykali Ganambarr clinched Best Up-and-coming Actor/Actress.

Dedicating the award to the indigenous people of Tasmania, whose brutal treatment by the British is explicitly played out in the film, Kent said: "The feminine force is the most powerful and healing force on the planet, so I hope and I'm confident that next year, and the year after, and the year after, we'll see more and more women inhabiting this space."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Roma wins top prize at Venice film fest'. Print Edition | Subscribe