A storm in the Venetian teacup | hollywood | Hindustan Times
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A storm in the Venetian teacup

The 67th Venice Film Festival came under fire when it was found that some of the top awards went to moviemakers closely associated with the president of the jury, Quentin Tarantino.

hollywood Updated: Sep 14, 2010 19:21 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

The 67th Venice Film Festival may have ended the other night in a blaze of Golden and Silver Lions, but their roars seemed to have weakened into growls when it was found that some of the top awards went to moviemakers closely associated with the president of the jury, Quentin Tarantino. He is himself a celebrated auteur with films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and, more recently, Inglorious Basterds in his wonderfully feathered cap.

Until the closing night, the Festival was highly praised for its strong lineup and 23-entry Competition of exclusive world premiers, most of whose helmers were young. Their average age was 47 in a Festival that is the oldest anywhere.

Sofia Coppola, Tarantino’s former girlfriend, won the Festival’s main prize, the Golden Lion, for her father-daughter drama, Somewhere.

Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
"A Sad Trumpet Ballad" from long-time Tarantino friend Alex de la Iglesia won two awards, including the Silver Lion for Best Director. Monte Hellman, Tarantino's mentor, won a Special Career Prize created by the jury this year. Hellman's film Road to Nowhere screened in Competition.

These choices were termed controversial, because none of the movies were considered good enough to clinch the Festival’s celebrated honours. In fact, De La Iglesia’s work was panned. Paolo Mereghetti, the chief film critic for one of Italy’s large newspaper, Correre della Sera, wrote: "The presidency of Quentin Tarantino runs the risk of turning into the most obvious conflict of interest possible if you remember that Somewhere and Road to Nowhere were charming and interesting in their own ways, but nothing more than that."

The unusually large contingent of Italian films drew a blank on the awards night. Asian movies, despite earning critical appreciation, could garner only minor kudos.

Reacting to the accusations, Tarantino said he found nothing inappropriate. Somewhere was the unanimous choice of the jury, and he thought that A Sad Trumpet Ballad, a Spanish Civil War story, despite being booed by the critics, was undoubtedly the best directorial effort.

As for Hellman, Tarantino quipped: "I remember talking to him [Hellman] in 1992 at the Sundance Film Festival, when I was there with Reservoir Dogs. I actually had a friend on the jury and he told me that a friend on the jury is your worst enemy as he would be too embarrassed to give you a prize. I wasn't going to let anything like that effect me."

Now here are some of the other prize winners. Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing, about an Afghan prisoner who escapes in Europe, won the Festival's Special Jury Prize, while the movie's protagonist, Vincent Gallo, was given the Coppa Volpi Cup for Best Actor. Attenberg star Ariane Labed won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress.

Mila Kunis -- who starred opposite Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan -- was given the Mastroianni Prize for the Best Emerging Actor. Kunis and Portman played rival ballet dancers in the work, which opened the Festival on the island of Lido, off Venice, on September 1.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering the Venice Film Festival for 10 years.)