Alfonso Cuarón wins top prize at Venice for Mexican film Roma

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival

The director of one of the biggest films of recent years, the multi-Oscar-winning Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón, has won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for a small, black-and-white, Spanish-language drama, Roma, named after the area of Mexico City in which he grew up.

The Golden Lion win presents a boost for Roma’s distributor Netflix, giving it its first major festival success; the streaming giant is unable to screen its films at Cannes, because of French laws which make distributors wait three years after releasing a film in cinemas before they can show it on demand online.

The president of the jury, last year’s winner Guillermo del Toro – a fellow Mexican and personal friend of Cuarón – stressed that the choice of the nine-strong panel had been made “entirely unanimously.”

The latest film from The Lobster‘s Yorgos Lanthimos,  the hotly tipped The Favourite received the runner-up Grand Jury Prize, with its star, the British actress Olivia Colman, being named the festival’s Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Anne.

Frenchman Jacques Audiard was named the Best Director for his English-language western The Sisters Brothers.

The Best Actor prize went to Willem Dafoe for his depiction of the artist Vincent Van Gogh, in Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate.

Collecting her Special Jury Prize, for her bloody revenge thriller The Nightingale, the only woman in the competition, Jennifer Kent, had a message for women who want to become film-makers: “Please go and do it. We need you.”

Her lead actor, Baykali Ganambarr, was name the festival’s best up-and-coming star.

As the first major festival of the autumn, the winners of the top awards are likely to feature prominently in the upcoming Awards Season; last year’s Golden Lion winner, del Toro’s The Shape of Water, went on to dominate the Oscars.