Venice has seen a luxurious week on the occasion of the 75th annual film festival. The opening film First Man about a famous astronaut was introduced in person at the showcase by its star Ryan Gosling. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to actress Vanessa Redgrave and director David Cronenberg. The drama Roma by Mexican Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron took home the Golden Lion, while the best actor awards went to Colman and Dafoe.
After eight days, the luxurious film festival in Venice has come to an end the Golden Lions have found their owners. The winners were chosen by a jury chaired by Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, whose fantasy thriller The Shape of Water won the festival award last year. The main star of the film showcase, in addition to Ryan Gosling (famous from the Oscar-winning blockbuster La La Land), was American pop star lady Gaga. She presented the out-of-competition film A Star is Born by actor and director Bradley Cooper, which is a remake of the 1954 film starring Judy Garland.
The main award for the best feature-length film went to Roma, which deals with the life of a Mexican middle-class family at the start of the 1970s. The film was named after the neighbourhood in the capital of Mexico, here Cuaron grew up, and has been termed an “engrossing bath of the most luxurious black-and-white images you have ever seen”. The director created something entirely different from the film Gravity with Sandra Bullock, for which he won an Academy Award in 2014. The awards for best actor and best actress at the festival went to Olivia Colman and Willem Dafoe.
This year, audiences saw many politically-engaged films directed against racism or terrorism. Unlike the festival in Cannes, France, the organisers allowed the participation of films produced by the American streaming service Netflix. On the other hand, there was no lack of political escapades here either. The stars at the Venice Film Festival called on Russia to release Ukrainian director Sencov. In August 2015, the court in Moscow sentenced Sencov to 20 years for terrorism, because in spring 2014 he and his accomplice attempted to set fire to the offices of the United Russia government party in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. The director, known for his criticism of the annexation of Crimea, rejected the accusation of terrorism as construed. He has been on a hunger strike in prison since 14 May of this year, and also demands the release of 64 Ukrainians whom he considers to be political prisoners. In its statement on Friday, the jury of the Venice Film Festival declared that it is “highly disturbed by the physical condition of the director sentenced by the Russian military court to 20 years behind bars, who is already serving his fourth year in a prison in Siberia.” According to the jurors, the sentence was meted out in an unfair trial, which did not acknowledge his right to defence. Sencov has lost 30 kilograms since 14 May, when he stopped eating. According to the media, his health has deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks.
A number of countries have called on Russia to release Sencov, including the USA, France and the entire EU. The Czech ministry of foreign affairs also backed the demand. The director also enjoys strong support among filmmakers. Directors Pedro Almodóvar, Wim Wenders, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi, Aki Kaurismäki and Andrzej Wajda as well as acting stars like Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep have repeatedly spoken in his favour in letters to the Kremlin. The jury at the Venice Film Festival called on Russia to release the imprisoned director Oleg Sencov. Nine jury members including the chairman, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, called on Moscow to “not let Sencov starve to death.”