First awards: Queer & Not so Queer (unless you consider all Europeans as Queer)
US indie The Speed of Life (Superheroes) from Ed Radtke won the first ever Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival, one of the first collateral awards handed out before the official Golden Lion awards ceremony this evening. The prize is given to a film that accurately depicts or deals with homosexual characters or themes. It is, if you will, the Venetian version of Berlin's long-established Teddy Award, which has helped such filmmakers as Pedro Almodovar and Gus van Sant earn early recognition before entering the arthouse mainstream. The Queer Lion special mention went to Kenneth Branagh's Sleuth (my review). In the picture above, the man behind the Queer Lion, Daniel Casagrande, shows off the plaque with the name of the winner on it (photo courtesy of Fabrizio Maltese).
The Polish film Sztuczki (Tricks) from Andrzej Jakimowski was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label, a prize that helps a European film with distribution in other European countries - a necessity because of the glut of US films on most European screens and the problems local films have to travel beyond their own borders. Past winners of the prize include Anton Corbijn's musical biopic Control, the documentary Darwin's Nightmare and the Romanian comedy 12:08 East of Bucharest.
Both The Speed of Life and Sztuczki are about manipulating the world, the former by having NYC street kids stealing cameras and creating new and faraway worlds with the obtained footage, the later by having Polish country kids make bets with or sacrifice to fate to obtain a desired result. Visually, both films are from two different worlds: the dirty smudges of VHS-quality necessary for Radtke's semi-autobiographic film are the complete opposite of Sztuczki's lyrical cinematography that bathes the Polish countryside in burnished summer yellows and browns during the day and cool blues and rich blacks during the night-time sequences.
I won't spend too much time on this now, since in two hours this post will be obsolete. Favorites for top prizes are four at the moment: Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah (I wonder what wager he's made with fate to be considered so awardable?); French immigrant drama La graine et le mulet (The Secret of the Grain); Russian legal drama 12, a remake of the Sidney Lumet film 12 Angry Men from 1957, and De Palma's Iraqi war drama Redacted. Outsider options: Greenaway's Rembrandt pic Nightwatching and Ang Lee's Se jie (Lust, Caution). [update: WINNERS ANNOUNCED]
Films I cannot wait to see again: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, La fille coupée en deux (The Girl Cut in Two), Se jie (Lust, Caution), Sügisball (Autumn Ball).
Films I wouldn't mind seeing again: En la ciudad de Sylvia, Sztuczki, Un baiser, s'il vous plait, The Nines, Nessuna qualità agli eroi.