French abortion film wins Women’s Night at Venice Film Festival

A topical film about illegal abortions in the 1960s, France won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, closing a strong evening for women including Penelope Cruz and Jane Campion.

Audrey Diwan’s “Happening” comes as the abortion debate rages once again over new restrictions in Texas and its decriminalization in Mexico.

“I made this film with anger, with desire, with my belly, my guts, my heart and my head,” said Diwan, accepting the top prize for his delicately rendered, but hard-hitting drama.

It’s been a great year for female directors, with the best director going to iconic New Zealand author Jane Campion for her emotionally complex western “The Power of the Dog”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

And best screenplay went to Maggie Gyllenhaal for her directorial debut “The Lost Daughter,” a flawless look at the struggles of balancing career and motherhood with British Oscar winner Olivia Colman.

“There’s a change in the air,” Campion said of the MeToo movement and its effects on the film.

“It’s like the fall of the Berlin Wall for women. It was like the end of apartheid. There is a new feeling for what women think, what they say, what they do . “

– Roaring return –

With a plethora of stars and a selection of high-caliber films, Venice’s glitzy seaside Lido festival has come back to life this year after the pandemic sucked the glamor out of the 2020 edition.

Second place for the Silver Lion went to beloved Italian director Paolo Sorrentino for his very personal “Hand of God” on his youth in the southern city of Naples, which also won the Young Newcomer Award. star Filippo Scotti.

But gender issues seemed dominant.

The festival closed with “The Last Duel”, performed out of competition, a medieval jousting drama starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck which carried heavily its historic message of injustice towards women.

“I think every reasonable, humane, empathetic and reasonable person should be a feminist,” Affleck told AFP in an interview.

Meanwhile, Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” turned the misogyny of Swinging Sixties London into a slasher horror flick.

One woman who looks destined to make headlines in the months to come is Kristen Stewart, who made the Oscar buzz in her turn as Princess Diana in “Spencer.”

But it was Spanish megastar Penelope Cruz who took home the Best Actress award for her latest collaboration with veteran author Pedro Almodovar.

“Parallel Mothers” is a surprisingly political turning point for the flamboyant filmmaker, exploring the trauma of the 1930s Spanish Civil War alongside the story of two mothers sharing a motherhood.

“Thank you Pedro. This is 100 percent yours. Thank you for trusting me once again, inspiring me every day with your search for the truth, outside and inside,” said said Cruz, accepting the price.

The best acting gong was less expected, going to Filipino star John Arcilla for the crime thriller “On the Job: The Missing 8”.

– Celebrities –

The Golden Lion was selected by a jury headed by “Parasite” director Bong Joon-Ho.

Success in Venice has become a key springboard for Oscar campaigns in recent years.

The last four winners – “Nomadland”, “Joker”, “Roma” and “The Shape of Water” – have all won an Oscar.

Pandemic precautions – including mandatory masks, vaccine passes and 50% capacity in theaters – continued to make this year’s festival shine.

But the glamor was sure to be back, with a dazzling Hollywood guest list capped off by Affleck’s appearance with his old / new girlfriend Jennifer Lopez to the delight of gossip magazines everywhere.

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