The 64th annual Venice International Film Festival opened August 29, 2007, with the drama, Atonement, directed by Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) and closed September 8, 2007 with Alexi Tan's Blood Brothers, a co-production of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, with the coveted Golden Lion going to Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) for Lust, Caution.
Although it has an open submission, not every film can play in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Tradition dictates that all of the films competing for the Golden Lion must be showing for the first time as world premieres. This rule has been in place since the festival's restructuring during the Second World War. In fact, the Venice Festival is the oldest film festival in the world, which began under the fascist leader, Benito Mussolini in 1933. So, needless to say, there have been a few adjustments since its inception.
The grand award, the Golden Lion (Italian: Leone d'Oro) is the highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival. The prize was introduced in 1949 by the then organizing committee and is now regarded as one of the film industry's most prestigious and distinguished prizes given anywhere. Previously, the equivalent prize was the Gran Premio Internazionale di Venezia (Grand International Prize of Venice), awarded in 1947 and 1948. Before that, from 1934 until 1942, the highest awards were the Coppa Mussolini (yup, the Mussolini Cup) for Best Italian Film and Best Foreign Film.
Italian actress Ambra Angiolini (Saturn in Opposition) was acting host of this year's event. The international jurors for the Main Competition (Venezia 64) consisted of seven prominent members of cinema's elite, including Chinese film director, producer, writer and actor Zhang Yimou (who also fulfilled the role of Jury President), French filmmaker, novelist and professor of auteur cinema Catherine Breillat, New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director Jane Campion, Italian screenwriter and director Emanuele Crialese, Mexican film director, producer and screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu, Turkish-Italian film director and screenwriter Ferzan Özpetek, and Dutch director, screenwriter and producer Paul Verhoeven. That's rather a heady list of cinema's finest.
The following Official Awards were conferred at this year's festival: Golden Lionto Ang Lee's Lust, Caution (Se, Jie), the Silver Lion for Best Director went to Brian De Palma for Redacted, the Special Jury Prize (ex aequo) was bestowed upon Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, and Abdellatif Kechiche for The Secret of the Grain (La graine et le mulet). There's also the Volpi Cup for Best Actor handed to Brad Pitt for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress to Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There.
The Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress went to Hafsia Herzi for The Secret of the Grain, and Lust, Caution received a second prize with the Award for Best Cinematography for Rodrigo Prieto. The Award for Best Screenplay went to Paul Laverty for It's a Free World... and the Special Lion for Overall Work for Nikita Mikhalkov. And finally, Tim Burton received a Special Award for his lifetime of work.
Looking at this list makes me realize how many awards from around the world we just don't know about in the US, or even pay attention to, simply because they aren't American. Although the Oscars are the most well known, it's important to give credit to the value of the recognition provided by other competitions. It is the 21st century, after all. Hollywood needs to be more inclusive of the talent from around the world. If not, Hollywood runs the risk of becoming excluded.