“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” directed by Laura Poitras, was awarded the Golden Lion for best film at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on Saturday by a competition jury led by Julianne Moore. The film, about the photographer Nan Goldin, was the rare documentary to win the Golden Lion and won over strong competitors.
“I’ve never met anyone like Nan,” Poitras said in her acceptance speech, praising Goldin as “courageous” in her protests against the Sackler family, whom Poitras described as “ruthless.” The film examines Goldin’s art, life and her activism in protesting the family and Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for their roles in the opioid crisis. Poitras, whose 2014 film “Citizenfour” won the Oscar for best documentary, thanked the festival for recognizing that “documentary is cinema.”
Poitras also called for the release of Jafar Panahi, the imprisoned Iranian director who directed “No Bears,” which premiered at the festival, and encouraged “all of us to do whatever we can.” She also spoke of the memory of the late influential documentary executive, Diane Weyermann.
The 79th edition of the festival opened with Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise,” an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. Other prominent films included “The Whale,” “Blonde,” “Tár,” “Bones and All,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Un Couple,” “Bardo,” “The Son” and “The Eternal Daughter.”
Unlike many other festivals, the Venice Film Festival continued in person during the past two years, despite the pandemic. But this year, the Venice event especially thrived. Stars like Timothée Chalamet and Ana de Armas enthralled the robust crowds, and critical debate and red-carpet buzz were never in short supply. (Still, Covid remained a presence: Absent at the ceremony was one competition jury member, the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, who Moore explained had tested positive.)
The Silver Lion Grand Jury prize went to Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer,” her feature about a novelist who becomes engrossed in the trial of a woman accused of leaving her baby on a beach to perish — a story based on a true tale. The Silver Lion award for best director went to Luca Guadagnino for “Bones and All,” the first Lion for the Italian film director.
The Special Jury prize went to Panahi for “No Bears.” His award was accepted by two of the film’s actors, Mina Kavani and Reza Heydari, in his absence. The audience gave a standing ovation.
The Volpi Cup for best actress was awarded to Cate Blanchett, who played the fictional famous composer at the center of “Tár,” directed by Todd Field. The best actor award went to Colin Farrell for his portrayal of an Irishman whose pal abruptly ends their friendship in Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Taylor Russell won the Marcello Mastroianni Award, which recognizes an outstanding emerging actor, for her performance as a young cannibal in “Bones and All.”
The best screenplay honor was given to McDonagh, who wrote and directed “The Banshees of Inisherin” and who won the same honor in 2017 for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Diop’s “Saint Omer” also received the Lion of the Future Award for best debut feature. (Diop has already directed an acclaimed feature, the documentary “We,” which won a top award at the Berlin Film Festival.)
In the Orizzonti section of the awards, which runs parallel to the primary competition, the top honor was given to Iranian filmmaker Houman Seyedi’s “World War III.” The film also featured a best actor award winner in Mohsen Tanabandeh, who played the protagonist.
This edition’s Golden Lions for lifetime achievement went to Paul Schrader, whose film “Master Gardener” played out of competition, and to Catherine Deneuve. A Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker Award went to Walter Hill, whose film “Dead for a Dollar” played out of competition.