"Vera Drake" Triumphs at Venice Festival
by Brian Brooks
With an acceptance speech that included a dig at the Cannes Film Festival, Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" won the Leone d'Oro for best film, closing out a controversial edition of the Venice Film Festival marked with some organizational snafus. The event, which was padded with Hollywood fare, sparked grumbling among some cineastes who created their own alterna-fest by the sea called Global Beach.
Accepting his prize on Saturday in Venice, Leigh said, "I want to thank most sincerely the Cannes Film Festival for rejecting this film, so that it might be here this evening. Thank you, Venice!"
Alejandro Amenábar took the jury grand prize for "The Sea Inside" (Mar Adentro) and Javier Bardem won the best actor award for his work in the film, while a special award for best direction went to Kim Ki-duk for his film "3-Iron."
In other prizes, Imelda Staunton took the best actress nod for her role in "Vera Drake," and the "Marcello Mastroianni" award went to Marco Luisi and Tommaso Ramenghi for the film "Lavorare con lentezza - Radio Alice 100.6 Mhz" by Guido Chiesa. The fest's "Luigi De Laurentiis" award for a first feature film was presented to "Le Grand Voyage" by Ismaël Ferroukhi and the Venezia Cinema Digitale award went to "20 angosht" by Mania Akbari.
Leigh's films will next screen at the New York Film Festival -- distributor New Line decided to pass on playing the picture in Toronto. Company insiders said Sunday that they see the award for Staunton as a boost for their campaign to seek awards nominations for the actress.