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‘Nomadland’ Wins Golden Lion Award at Venice Film Festival

17 September

The  77th Venice International Film Festival wrapped up this week, marking the first major film industry event since COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. On the final day of the successful socially distanced festival, its international jury lead by this year’s president, Aussie favourite Cate Blanchett, handed out its awards and while there was no shortage of well-received films, it was Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland that took out the Golden Lion Award for best film. Zhao is the first female filmmaker to win Venice’s top prize since Sofia Coppola triumphed with “Somewhere” in 2010 and the first woman of colour to take the honour since Mira Nair in 2001.

Nomadland is the third feature film from director Chloé Zhao who received critical acclaim for her Cannes-premiered 2017 film “The Rider” and stars Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as a widow from a collapsed Nevada mining town who packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. Apart from McDormand and David Strathairn, the rest of the supporting actors in the film are actual “nomads” that Zhao cast after her own travels through the American West. The documentary-influenced award contender will be coming to Australian theatres on January 7, you can watch the teaser trailer here.

The festival’s lineup had seemed unpredictably competitive until Nomadland put on a triple premiere the day before jury prizes were awarded, debuting in competition in Venice, holding a gala premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and celebrating a Telluride-supported U.S premiere at drive-in screenings in LA. The film received roaring applause and acclaim, garnering strong notices for Zhao’s direction and McDormand’s lead performance, the overwhelmingly positive reviews have established the Searchlight release as the one to beat in the upcoming delayed awards season.

The runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to Michel Franco’s urgent, dystopian social thriller “New Order” while Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa nabbed best director for his WWII period drama, “Wife of a Spy”. Over the course of the festival, the hotly contested best actress category was widely discussed, with a number of films in the selection driven by powerful female performances. Ultimately, British actor, Vanessa Kirby took top honours for her devastating performance as a woman coming to terms with a recent stillbirth in Kornél Mundruczó’s “Pieces of a Woman”.

Complete list of jury award winners below:

Golden Lion: “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao

Grand Jury Prize: “New Order,” Michel Franco

Silver Lion for best director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, “Wife of a Spy”

Best actress: Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”

Best actor: Pierfrancesco Favino, “Padrenostro”

Best screenplay: “The Disciple,” Chaitanya Tamhane

Special Jury Prize: “Dear Comrades,” Andrei Konchalovsky

Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor: Rouhollah Zamani, “Sun Children”

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