Special Report By Moira Sullivan
The 58th Venice Film Festival ended on September 9 with the Golden Lion going for the first time to a woman for Monsoon Wedding made by Mira Nair from India. Nair started out as a documentary filmmaker first, then branched into feature films and is currently working on an HBO production called Hysterical Blindness with Uma Thurman and Gena Rowlands. The film about an arranged Punjabi wedding in New Delhi with last minute complications was a 90% female production including producer Caroline Baron. Nair won the Camera d'or and the Prix du publique at Cannes for Salaam Bombay in 1988 which was also nominated for an academy award for best foreign film. Critics took the opportunity to vent anti Hollywood attacks at Nair for living in America and making an HBO production but she diplomatically defended herself as not being tied to any one place and for her love of making good films wherever she was. During the week in Venice she sang Punjabi songs with her extended family on the canal boats, much to the joy of fellow travelers.
Other awards in the first string international competition went to films which were unique in their subject matter. Austrian director Ulrick Seidl won the Grand Prize for Dog Days, a film following a documentary method about a no-mans land in Vienna where people go to warehouses and lead a monotonous life in tract homes. The critics wondered if Austrian films were big in his country or if people just saw Jurassic Park to which he replied that national films have problems getting enough financing.
Two young men shared the Marcello Mastrioni prize for acting, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for the Mexican film Your Mother as Wellby director Alfonso Cuaron. The film is about Julio and Tenoch, two men who go on a car trip to a beach called 'Heavens Mouth' with Louisa, a 28 year old woman who seduces them. It turns out that they have slept with each others girlfriends including one of their mothers, sport together, compete together so Louisa eventually helps them to acknowledge their physical attraction for each other. The best screenplay award was one by film director Cuaron.
A special directors prize went to the Iranian Babak Payami for Secret Ballot , a film set in a mythical seashore in Iran, where an Iranian woman together with a soldier goes around from village to village to help people to vote. The absurdity of voting in areas which have their own laws calls into question relations between the sexes and the rights for women, as well as the nature of democracy. A traffic light placed in the middle of the desert is one absurd way this is brought into question.
The festival jury was headed by Nanni Moretti who won the Palme d'or at Cannes in May. Big budget US films such as AI, John Carpenters Ghost from Mars and the Tom Cruise produced - Alejandro Amenabar directed The Others were films which drew large audiences including guest appearances by the stars. 2000 journalists were on hand to cover the event . Next week more on the festival and its films.
This is Moira Sullivan for Movie Magazine International, Venice Italy
© 2001 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 9/01
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