A late and unexpected entry has won the top prize at the Venice film festival. Still Life, directed by 36-year-old Jia Zhang-Ke, swept aside several hot favourites for the Golden Lion. Actress Catherine Deneuve, who headed the jury, described it as “a very special film”. It tells the story of a miner and a nurse who return to a town that is being submerged by the construction of the giant Three Gorges Dam. The director says he wanted to highlight the continuing problems faced by people displaced by the project.
There was also a surprise in the award for the best actor which went to Ben Affleck for his starring role in Hollywoodland – a film about the mysterious and untimely death of 1950s Superman actor, George Reeves. But there were no raised eyebrows over the award for best actress which went to Dame Helen Mirren for her portrayal as Britain’s monarch in “The Queen”. “The mother and father of our film are Peter Morgan – the father – Stephen Frears, the mother our wonderful director, and I’m just a bit of the DNA of the film,” she said in her acceptance speech. The film is about how Princess Diana’s death in 1997 threw Britain’s Royal family into crisis. It was the only British film in competition, and also picked up best screenplay.