Iranian film scoops Venice festival top prize
By Jennifer Clark
September 10, 2000, VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - ``The Circle,'' a dark
Iranian movie about the oppression of women, won the Golden Lion award
for best film at the closing of the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
The movie, directed by Jafar Panahi, emerged as a clear critics' favorite
after its screening earlier this week.
It chronicles the daily lives of eight women in a country where they
are not allowed to smoke in public, stay in a hotel on their own, or ride
in a car driven by a man who is not a relative.
``Obviously the film met with a few problems as we were making it,''
Panahi told a news conference after he accepted the prize. ``It was born
after a long labor and I wouldn't want to go through it again. But I'm
happy to have given birth to this film.''
It starts in a delivery room, where the birth of a daughter is greeted
with disappointment by relatives, and ends in prison where the paths of
the eight women finally cross.
``I got the idea for the film from a story in a newspaper about a woman
who killed her two daughters and then committed suicide,'' the director
said this week.
``There was nothing about the reasons for the crime. Perhaps the newspaper
did not see the need ... since the freedom of women is so limited it seems
as if they are in a big prison.''
The film was made with money from Italian and French backers and partly
financed by Panahi himself.
``Before Night Falls'' Wins Two Prizes
U.S. painter and director Julian Schnabel took home the Jury Grand Prix
for best director for ``Before Night Falls,'' a movie tracking the life
of gay Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas, a victim of Cuban censors.
``This is unbelievable for me, I'm speechless -- and that's very rare
for me,'' Schnabel joked as he accepted the award, wearing a sarong and
a sports jacket over an open-necked shirt.
``I'm a painter, so it's an honour for me to share the stage with these
The film, which will be released in the United States by year's end,
also picked up the Volpi Cup for best male acting performance for Spanish
actor Javier Bardem's intense portrayal of Arenas.
The Special Director's Award went to Indian director Buddhadeb Dasgupta
for his film ``The Wrestlers,'' a lyrical portrayal of the devastating
impact of violence on a small town in rural India.
Australian Rose Byrne won the award for best actress in the Australian
film ``The Goddess of 1967'' by Clara Law. She plays a blind 17-year-old
girl who leads a Japanese man on a strange and erotic journey through the
Australian countryside in search of the seller of a 1967 Citroen.
Voltaire Wins - Platform Doesn'T
French movie ``La Faute a Voltaire'' (''It's Voltaire's Fault''), by
Tunisian-born Abdel Kechiche, won the $100,000 prize for best directorial
debut for his tale of a Tunisian illegal immigrant navigating the ins and
outs of Paris.
Italy's ``The Hundred Steps,'' a true story about a courageous anti-Mafia
crusader in 1960s Sicily, won top prize for best script for a screenplay,
written by director Marco Tullio Giordana, Claudio Fava and Monica Zapelli.
Another critics' favorite, Chinese director Jia Zhangke's ``Platform,''
went empty handed. The film is a sensitively related story about rebellious
youths growing up in China's provinces in the 1980s as popular culture
began to seep into local life.
Some of the most popular films were screened outside the main competition,
such as U.S. scriptwriter Kenneth Lonergan's first feature film ``You Can
Count on Me.''
The world's oldest film festival last week honored U.S. actor and director
Clint Eastwood with a Golden Lion for career achievement, and his latest
film, ``Space Cowboys,'' kicked off the festival on August 30 with a star-studded