Venice Film Fest 2008: Aronofsky’s The Wrestler Wins Golden Lion

Darren Aronofsky latest film “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Micky Rourke, who stars as washed up wrestler Randy Robinson, however, did not take the top acting prize because festival rules eliminate acting honors to the Golden Lion winning film — a rule sharply critizized by Jury president Wim Wenders. (The Coppa Volpi for actor went to Italy’s Silvio Orlando for his role as the overprotective father of an insane daughter in Pupi Avati’s “Giovanna’s Father.”)

Aronofsky praised Rourke’s performance in accepting the award, “We need to thank Mickey Rourke for opening up his heart and soul for the camera, and reminding the world what a great talent he is.”

Aronofsky’s last film “The Fountain” also opened at Venice in 2006 amd was a huge disappointment, making the win for “The Wrestler” all the sweeter. Rourke who with Aronofsky when he accepted the awaqrde thanked the Jury for making the right decision.

“The Wrestler,” co-produced by Wild Bunch, does not currently have US distribution, but the Venice win will likely assure a pick-up in Toronto.

The Silver Lion for director went to Russiaan director Alexei German Jr. picked up the Silver Lion for “Paper Soldier,” about the Soviet Union’s race to put the first man in space during the 1960s. The film also won a special cinematography prize for Alisher Khamidhodjaev and Mixim Drozdov.

Ethiopian hisotrical drama “Teza,” took the Special Jury Prize. Washington-based Ethiopian filmmaker Haile was also honored with the screenplay prize.

The festival was critizized for its lack of star power and lack-luster beginning, but second half of festival shored up selection choices. Winning films include:

International Competition Jury

GOLDEN LION “The Wrestler,” (Darren Aronofsky, US)
SILVER LION”Paper Soldier” (Aleksey German Jr., Russia)
GRAND JURY PRIZE “Teza,” (Haile Gerima, Ethiopia-Germany-France)
ACTOR Silvio Orlando (“Il Papa di Giovanna,” Italy)
ACTRESS Dominique Blanc (“L’Autre,” France)
BEST SCREENPLAY Haile Gerima (“Teza,” Ethiopia-Germany-France)
TECHNICAL CONTRIBUTION (Cinematography) Alisher Khamidhodjev, Maxim Drozdov (“Paper Soldier,” Russia)
SPECIAL LION FOR BODY OF WORK Werner Schroeter (Germany)

This years FIPRESCI (INTL. CRITIC’S ASSN) COMPETITION PRIZE was awarded tp “Gabbla” (“Inland”) (Tariq Teguia, Algeria). The FIPRESCI HORIZONS AND CRITICS’ WEEK PRIZE went to”Goodbye Solo” (Ramin Bahrani, US).

Other Jury winners:

LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE”Pranzo di Ferragosto,” (Gianni Di Gregorio, Italy)
VENICE HORIZONS”Melancholia” (Lav Diaz, Philippines)
VENICE HORIZONS DUCUMENTARY”Below Sea Level,” (Aleksey Fedortchenko, Russia)
VENICE HORIZONS SPECIAL MENTION”Un Lac,” (Philippe Grandrieux, France)
VENICE HORIZONS SECOND SPECIAL MENTION”Women,” (Huang Wenhai, China-Switzerland)