'Vera Drake,' Imelda Staunton: Abortion Drama Tops Venice Film Festival

Vera Drake Imelda Staunton abortion movie'Vera Drake': Abortion drama with Imelda Staunton, Daniel Mays and Philip Davis.

'Vera Drake,' Imelda Staunton Win at Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion goes to Mike Leigh's abortion drama

Mike Leigh's drama Vera Drake, starring Imelda Staunton as a kind-hearted abortionist in 1950s England, was turned down by the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Lucky film: At least partly thanks to its Cannes' snub, Vera Drake is the 2004 Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion winner. Additionally, Leigh's film earned Imelda Staunton, a potential Academy Award contender, the Best Actress Silver Cup.

Venice 2004's Best Actor winner was Javier Bardem – another potential Oscar nominee – for Alejandro Amenábar's Spanish right-to-die drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro. Kim Ki-Duk was the Best Director for 3-Iron / Bin-jip.

Among this year's other Venice Film Festival winners are Young Actor Award recipients Tommaso Ramenghi and Marco Luisi for Working Slowly / Lavorare con lentezza; Silver Lion for Best Short Film winner Signe d'appartenance, directed by Kamel Cherif; and Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best First Film recipient Le Grand voyage, directed by Ismaël Ferroukhi.

Veterans Manoel de Oliveira (The Letter, Anxiety, The Convent) and Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade) were handed the festival's Career Golden Lion.

Nativist Italian media angry at perceived Venice 'snub'

“Venice disappoints our cinema,” Rome's La Repubblica complained on its front page. Apparently, some in the Italian media want a clause added to the Venice Film Festival's voting rules and regulations to ensure that local product will somehow emerge victorious every few years.

In fact, La Repubblica had stated on Saturday – prior to the announcement of this year's winners – that Venice heads Marco Muller and Davide Croff could be axed “by vindictive powers” if Gianni Amelio's The Keys to the House / Le chiavi di casa, a family drama starring Kim Rossi Stuart and Charlotte Rampling, didn't take home the Golden Lion. As it turned out, The Keys to the House – surprisingly – didn't win a single Official Competition Award. Amelio's film did, however, take home several of the "lesser" Venice prizes, including the Sergio Trasatti Award and the CinemAvvenire Award for Best Film.

Now it remains to be seen whether or not Muller and Croff will keep their heads (or be drowned in the lagoon, as per Harvey Weinstein's threat). Either way, future Venice Film Festival jurors better beware.

The Venice Film Festival 2004 Grand Jury was led by veteran British filmmaker John Boorman (Point Blank, Hope and Glory). The other jury members were Wolfgang Becker, Mimmo Calopresti, Scarlett Johansson, Spike Lee, Dusan Makavejev, Helen Mirren, Pietro Scalia, and Feng Xu.


La Repubblica quote via the BBC.

Image from Mike Leigh's abortion drama Vera Drake with Imelda Staunton, Daniel Mays, and Philip Davis: Momentum Pictures.

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