Iran's 'Circle' Critics' Choice As Venice Fest Ends
By Jennifer Clark
VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Hollywood film stars provided the glitter,
but a dark Iranian movie about the oppression of women proved the critics'
favorite on the last day of competition at the Venice Film Festival on
Friday. Photo here
``The Circle'' by prize-winning Iranian director Jafar Panahi tells
the story of eight women living in Iran, 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.
The film starts in a delivery room, where the birth of a girl is greeted
with disappointment by waiting relatives and ends in prison, where the
paths of the 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
``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.
Another critics' favorite for the festival's top Golden Lion award
was Chinese director Jia Zhangke's ``Platform,'' which, like ``The Circle,''
was made without official government support.
``Platform'' is a slow but sensitively-told story about rebellious
youths growing up in provincial China in the 1980s as popular culture begins
to seep into local life.
Spaniard Tipped For Best Actor
Critics said Spanish actor Javier Bardem is tipped for best actor's
prize for his starring role in ``Before Night Falls,'' in which he plays
best-selling Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas, whose work was censored
by the Cuban state.
The film, directed by painter Julian Schabel, will be released in the
United States by year's end.
Stephen Frear's ``Liam,'' a child's-eye view of his family's fall into
poverty in Britain in the 1930s, was also well received during screening
Some of the most popular films were screened outside the main competition.
U.S. scriptwriter Kenneth Lonergan, whose writing credits include ``Analyze
This'' and ``Rocky and Bullwinkle,'' generated strong word of mouth with
his first feature film, family drama ``You Can Count on Me.''
And Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, whose debut feature ''Show Me
Love'' was nominated Best European Film in 1999 by the European Film Academy,
had a crowd pleaser on his hands with the popular ``Together.''