Laura Poitras wins the Golden Lion with a documentary about AIDS and the opioid crisis

In an edition of Venice where egomaniac style exercises have been experienced such as Bard and Blonde (both financed by Netflix and both by two men), the winners have hit the table betting on political, forceful, honest and direct works. The jury, chaired by Julianne Moore and including the Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, has bet heavily on awarding the Golden Lion to the documentary about AIDS and the opioid crisis in the US directed by Laura Poitras. All the beauty and the bloodshed was, since its screening, a critical favorite and the third woman in a row to achieve it.

'Tar', a brilliant look at the abuse of power with a colossal Cate Blanchett conquers Venice

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Poitras' work builds a narrative arc that links AIDS in 1980s and 1990s New York with the current opioid crisis. She does it thanks to the figure of the photographer Nan Goldin. Through his artistic work, he unites both moments, turning his documentary into a beautiful work and a slap in the face to the American dream. An insider's look at New York's counterculture and activism over the last few decades. A decision that is, in itself, a political act. Rewarding a documentary at a time when cinema is dominated by big, empty and innocuous super productions. To do it in the same edition in which the Future Award for Best First Feature went to a filmmaker who had directed several documentaries before, as if the documentary didn't count. If Netflix's void is added to that decision, in the midst of the discussion about the defense of movie theaters, the record seems to send a clear message.

The second prize in importance, the Silver Lion (Grand Prize of the Jury) went to another political work and another of the favorites in all the pools. Saint Omer -which also won the Future Award for Best First Feature as it was Alice Diop's fiction debut- is a film that, through the real case of a Senegalese woman who abandoned her 15-month-old son in a beach reflects on racism and the reasons why a mother can commit one of the most horrible crimes for society. A powerful film that does not offer any concessions to the viewer, basing its bet on long and fixed shots of the trial of the case. And finally, another award that is directly activist and necessary, the Special Jury Prize for Jafar Panahi, imprisoned by the Iranian regime and serving a six-year sentence, for No Bears.

A film where the director plays himself again in a matryoshka of intertwined stories. The Panahi of fiction is found in a town on the border of Iran and Turkey, a country in which its actors are shooting a film based on their lives, those of two people who want to flee their country. A game of mirrors begins about fear, the need to flee and the commitment and consequences of cinema and art. The need to continue telling has made Panahi turn his own ordeal into a breeding ground for the most political and committed cinema that has now been rewarded with an award that knows little for one of the best films of this festival.

The one that gave the surprise was Bones and All, the Luca Guadagnino film that won the award for best director and the Marcello Mastroianni award for best young actor for Taylor Russell. A teen romantic drama with the novelty that they are both cannibals. A game of genres that promises more than it delivers, remaining an irregular and flat exercise. Guadagnino recalled, as Poitras did later, he remembered the imprisoned Panahi and dedicated his award “to subversion”.

The favorite for the Volpi Cup for best actressCate Blanchett, did well in the pools and took her prize for Tar, little credit for one of this edition's best films, a brilliant dissection of abuses of power with Blanchett as a ruthless conductor. It is true that the film rests on the colossal interpretation of the Australian and that there has not been a performance that comes close to Blanchett's work, but it is a pity that a film as precise and complex as Todd Field's did not achieve something more. Blanchett went on stage and said that she did not want to "be a narcissist" and she preferred to say that she had seen very good cinema and that Bardo, absent from the list of winners, had seemed like a masterpiece.

The favorite for the Volpi for Best Actor, Brendan Fraser, saw how Colin Farrell took away an award that almost everyone took for granted. Farrell wins his first major award in a competition for Martin McDonagh's new The Banshees of Inisherin. One of the best-received films that also won the award for Best Screenplay, the same award that McDonagh won at this festival for Three Billboards Outside. One of the most applauded titles of the Mostra, Argentina 1985, had to settle for the FIPRESCI awarded by international critics. The film about the trial of the Argentine dictatorship directed by Santiago Miter did not convince the jury, but its great reception predicts that it will have a long career that could point to the Oscar for Best International Film.

A list of winners that left out the two most egotistical exercises of the edition, those of Andrew Dominik and Alejandro González Iñárritu. The former once again locks up Marilyn Monroe under the male gaze in Blonde, a disappointing adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' great fictionalized biography that stands out for the work of Ana de Armas. The second is buried by her desire to shock and transcend her most personal film, Bardo, which seemed to be Netflix's great bet for this Venice. The platform went empty. None of his four films won a prize in a contest from which he had always come out on top for the awards season. There was no luck for Spanish cinema either. Neither Penélope Cruz, who opted for a double entry, nor Juan Diego Botto won a prize, although In the margins left a very good taste in the mouth in its debut before its premiere on October 7.

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