Feature: "Sacro GRA" shines in Venice as 1st documentary to win Golden Lion
by Marzia De Giuli
VENICE, Italy, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- For the first time in the Venice Film Festival's history, a documentary won the top Golden Lion prize for best film on Saturday.
The documentary, "Sacro GRA", directed by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi, was one of the two documentaries in competition at the 70th Venice festival.
Rosi tells the tale of Rome's giant ring road or the Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA) of his country, filming the lives of a dozen characters there for over two years in a minivan.
"I never ever expected to win a prize of such importance for a documentary," he said at the awards ceremony held in the festival's main hall on its closing day.
"I think that all the jury felt the poetic force of this film and that is all there is to be said," jury president and iconic Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci said at a press conference.
Bertolucci said on the opening day that it was "a shared desire of the jury's members to see a really surprising movie as the winner." The win of "Sacro GRA" win was "an extraordinary signal" showing that documentaries have the same dignity as feature movies, Italian film director Sergio Basso told Xinhua.
"Documentaries have generally lower budgets, which on one side relieves directors from the obligation to expect the patronage of cinema audience, while on the other side forces them to find a way to reach their public by telling efficacious stories," he noted. For this reason, Basso added, "the documentary genre always has the most experimental films in store," he highlighted.
Many directors and actors at the Italian film festival recalled the important role played by new technologies in presenting traditional narratives with a more documentary approach.
The festival's director Alberto Barbera told Xinhua that after the new hand-held cameras enabled what came to be known as location- based direct cinema in the 1960s, "revolution now is all about accessibility. Once, documentaries were an elitist thing, while today it is a mass participation activity," he said.
Francesco Alinovi, a journalist from a cinema magazine, noted that besides the two documentaries in competition, in other sections there were also several movies that were a combination of fiction cinema and documentary genre.
"This is probably the trend of the future. Though a distinction will remain between fiction films and documentaries, there will be more and more interactions between the two," he told Xinhua.
The Silver Lion for best director among the 20 entries in the main competition at the world's oldest film festival went to Greek director Alexandros Avranas for "Miss Violence".
The story that unfolds in a family twisted beyond repair by poverty and despair, is based on a true story. Coppa Volpi won the Best Actor for his performance as film's main character Themis Panou, the abusive father.
Another movie inspired by a true story, "Jiaoyou" (Stray Dogs), won the prestigious new Grand Jury Prize, portraying the everyday life of a disgraced man who holds signboards for a living in Taipei's streets that are ever flowing with vehicles and pedestrians, and his only family are his two children.
The best actress award went to 82-year-old theater actress Elena Cotta for her role in Italian director Emma Dante's "Via Castellana Bandiera," a story about a fierce showdown between two women of different cultures who refuse to give way when their cars confront each other.
The story, based on a book written by Dante herself in 2008 and set on a narrow street that really exists in the Sicilian capital city of Palermo, again was "monstrously true," Dante said.
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