IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Affleck wins top acting prize at Venice Film fest

'Still Life' takes Golden Lion; Mirren named top actress for 'The Queen'
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Chinese movie “Still Life,” a surprise entry set against the backdrop of China’s gigantic Three Gorges Dam project, on Saturday won this year’s Golden Lion — the top award at the Venice Film Festival.

Helen Mirren and Ben Affleck took the top acting awards.

Mirren was named best actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frear’s “The Queen.” Affleck won best actor for his role in Allen Coulter’s “Hollywoodland,” which dramatizes an investigation into the death of George Reeves, star of the 1950s TV show “Adventures of Superman.”

“The Queen” also took the prize for best script.

Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke’s “Still Life” or “Sanxia Haoren” was a surprise entry late in the festival, and trumped candidates like Emilio Estevez’ “Bobby,” about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and “The Queen,” about the week that followed Princess Diana’s death.

“Still Life” was shot in the old village of Fengjie, which has been destroyed by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, and tells of people who go back there.

More than 1.13 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for the dam, many of them complaining of bleak prospects in their new homes above the waterline or in other parts of China.

“We were told there would be a surprise film at the end of this festival, and we didn’t have a lot of discussion,” French actress Catherine Deneuve, who headed the jury that awarded the top prize, told reporters after the ceremony.

“The beauty of the cinematography and the quality of the story, without getting political, the characters, we were very touched and we were very moved,” Deneuve added. “We know it’s a very special film.”

The Silver Lion for directing went to Alain Resnais for his film “Private Fears in Public Places.” Resnais returned to the Venice Film Festival 45 years after his film “Last year at Marienbad” won the Golden Lion.

Resnais’ new film is an adaptation of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s play of the same name, and tells the overlapping stories of six people’s search for identity, spun around alcohol, sex and religion.

Spike Lee won the Horizons documentary prize for “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” about the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The film debuted on HBO last week, a year after Katrina devastated New Orleans.

The movie “Nuovomondo” (“Golden Door”) won the Silver Lion for revelation, an award that the jury does not have to hand out. The movie follows the voyage of a Sicilian family in the early 1990s from their homeland to America.

The festival’s special jury prize went to “Daratt,” Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s movie about revenge in the civil war-scarred nation of Chad. It was the first African film to compete for the Venice Film Festival’s top Golden Lion award in 19 years.

Other awards handed out included:

—Alfonso Cuaron’s “The Children of Men” for photography.

—The Marcello Mastroianni prize for an emerging young actor to Isild Le Besco for her role in “L’Intouchable.”