Chinese woman, Chloe Zhao, wins top prize at Venice

The first major cultural event to have taken place in person since the Covid pandemic brought the world to its knees – the Venice film festival – has come to an end with the top prize going to a film directed by a Chinese woman, less than a week after the Academy behind the Oscars setting out new diversity criteria for its own top prize.

Frances McDormand stars in Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland

Nomadland – an American docu-drama from Chloé Zhao – will be hoping to follow the festival’s three most recent winners, The Shape of Water, Roma and last year’s Joker onto Oscar’s Best Picture shortlist.

The jury, led by the actress Cate Blanchett, chose Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, from a list of contenders that included a record eight directed by women. Zhao is the first woman to win the Golden Lion at Venice since Sofia Coppola, for Somewhere in 2010, and the first ethnic minority woman to win since Mira Nair in 2001, with Monsoon Wedding.

At a festival with less of the Hollywood glitz and glamour than usual, and with smaller audiences as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to Mexico’s Michel Franco for his dystopian thriller New Order. The Silver Lion for Best Director went to Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa for the wartime spy film Wife of a Spy.

The British Actress Vanessa Kirby was named the best actress for Pieces of a Woman – one of two films she was starring in at the festival.

The Best Actor award went to Italy’s Pierfrancesco Favino for Padrenostro.