French abortion drama wins top prize at Venice Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival has given its top prize, the Golden Lion, to the French drama Happening, about a young woman seeking an abortion during the 1960s, when it was illegal in France.

The French abortion drama Happening has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

“I feel heard tonight,” said director Audrey Diwan, as her adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s semi-autobiographical novel was honoured, in a move which is being seen as a striking pro-choice message at a time when abortion legislation is back at the forefront of public debate in the US.

The runner-up award, the Grand Jury Prize, went to the Italian Pablo Sorrentino for The Hand of God, who’s star, Filippo Scotti was named the best newcomer.

In the other acting awards, the Spanish star Penelope Cruz was named the Best Actress for her performance in Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, Parallel Mothers, while Best Actor went to John Arcilla, for On The Job: The Missing 8.

The Power of the Dog is Jane Campion’s first big screen outing since 2009

The Silver Lion for best director went to Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog, her first film in twelve years.

The actress Maggie Gyllenhaal won the best screenplay award for her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, which is based on an Italian novel.

A special jury prize went to Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il Buco, while Imaculat – a Romanian film about drug rehabilitation – won the Lion of the Future award for the best first feature.

Venice has – in recent years – become a useful indicator of films that might be in the running for Oscars, with the last for Golden Lion winners – Nomadland, Joker, Roma and The Shape of Water – all launched successful Oscar campaigns after achieving success in Venice, although it’s the English-language winners that have fared best.