A documentary on Poitras wins the first prize at the Venice Film Festival

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Laura Poitras’ epic documentary about photographer Nan Goldin and her activism against the Sackler family and their ties to art received the Golden Lion for Best Picture at the 79th International Film Festival of Venice.

Poitras, the American filmmaker behind Edward Snowden’s Oscar-winning documentary ‘Citizenfour’, thanked the festival for acknowledging that ‘documentary is cinema’ at the ceremony on Saturday night in Venice. Neon is set to hit theaters this fall, and HBO Documentary Films recently acquired it for TV viewing.

Second place went to Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer,” the documentary filmmaker’s first account of a young novelist observing the trial of a woman accused of infanticide.

Cate Blanchett and Colin Farrell won Best Actor awards. Blanchett won for his performance as a renowned bandleader in Todd Field’s “TÁR” and Farrell for playing a man who broke up with his longtime friend in Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin.”

“Thank you so much, it’s a huge honor,” said Blanchett, who just returned to Venice from the Telluride Film Festival where the film was also screened.

Her performance as a successful woman in the world of international music whose reputation is threatened has been almost universally acclaimed.

“I am shocked to understand this and thrilled,” Farrell said in a live video message. McDonagh was on hand to collect the award before securing one of his own for the script.

Luca Guadagnino won the Silver Lion for Best Director for the cannibalistic romance “Bones and All” starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, which also won for its Best Young Actress performance.

“I prepared a speech because I’m nervous,” Russell said. “I’m grateful beyond belief to be here. So many of my heroes are in this room.

Russell also thanked Guadagnino.

“He’s been a great friend to me and I love him so much,” Russell said.

The jury also awarded a Special Jury Prize to “No Bears”, by imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi. The acclaimed director was sentenced in July by Iran to serve a six-year prison sentence from ten years ago, which had never been served. The order came as the government seeks to silence critics amid economic turbulence and mounting political pressure.

Julianne Moore led the judging panel that selected Saturday’s winner from 23 films that included plenty of Oscar hopefuls. The Oscar-winning actor chaired a jury comprising French director Audrey Diwan, whose film “Happening” won the Golden Lion last year, author Kazuo Ishiguro (“Never Let Me Go”), who tried from his hotel room after testing positive for COVID-19, and Iranian actress Leila Hatami (“A Separation”). The main jury also included Italian director Leonardo Di Costanzo (“The Inner Cage”), Argentinian filmmaker Mariano Cohn (“Official Competition”) and Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“The Candidate”).

The premiere in competition at Venice has launched many successful Oscar campaigns in recent years, leading to nominations and even wins. Seven times in the past nine years, the Best Director Oscar has gone to see a film premiering at the festival, including Chloé Zhao, Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, twice, Guillermo del Toro and Damien Chazelle. It also debuted a handful of future Best Picture winners like “Nomadland,” “The Shape of Water” and “Birdman.”

Outside of the festival’s interim winners, Venice has cemented several films, actors and directors, as strong award contenders for the upcoming season. Brendan Fraser moved many to tears for his portrayal of Charlie, a reclusive English teacher who weighs 600 pounds and tries to fix things with his cruel daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.”

If the standing ovation timers are any indication of the reception, some of the festival’s best-loved were Andrew Domink’s “Blonde,” an evocative, semi-fictional account of the life of Marilyn Monroe, starring Ana de Armas, and ” The Banshees of Inisherin”. “Banshees” received a 13-minute standing ovation for “Blonde’s” 14-minute run, nearly double most other popular films.

Other movies have also made waves but returned awards empty-handed, like Netflix’s “Athena,” a heart-pounding French drama about the murder of a young boy who incites all-out war in the community, led by his other brothers. Another French film, quite different, also charmed audiences and critics: “Les enfants des autres” by Rebecca Zlotowski, about a childless 40-year-old woman (Virinie Efira) who dates a man (Roschdy Zem) with a young daughter.

Some were more controversial, like Iñárritu’s “Bardo (or False Chronicles of a Handful of Truths)”, a nearly three-hour surreal epic about a journalist who returns to his home country of Mexico for the first times in 20 years. Loosely based on Iñárritu’s experience of finding success in another country, the film was loved by some and not by others. Don DeLillo’s adaptation of Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” also received mixed reviews.

A major surprise was the generally negative reception of “The Son,” Florian Zeller’s sequel to his Oscar-winning “The Father,” which stars Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern.

Awards aside, it was a Venice for books, with great glamor from Timothée Chalamet, who stunned in a red halter top by Haider Ackermann, and Florence Pugh, looking like a movie star in sheer tulle on the Valentino shoulder that slyly evoked both classic romanticism and playful modernity, and big drama, mostly around Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling.” The behind-the-scenes intrigue of Wilde’s film led to excessive silliness as the world watched the cast’s every move for clues, from where people were seated, to who was watching whom at the premiere.

Chris Pine even became an unlikely meme for various photos of him looking zoned out at a press conference. Then came “spit-gate” where onlookers turned into amateur sleuths trying to figure out if Harry Styles spat on Pine before the film’s world premiere (he didn’t). As always, Venice gets people talking.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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For more information on the Venice Film Festival, visit: www.apnews.com/VeniceFilmFestival

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