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Shirin Neshat Wins Best Director Award at Venice Film Festival

09/13/09 By Sabina Castelfranco, VOA, Rome

Iranian video artist Shirin Neshat won the Silver Lion for best director for "Women Without Men" at the 66th edition of the Venice film festival on Saturday. The film chronicles the lives of four women from different walks of life against the backdrop of Iran's foreign-backed coup in 1953.

Shirin Neshat

Thanking the jury for the award, she said this film has been a labor of love for six years. She said it is a film that speaks to the people of Iran fighting to find democracy and it speaks to the government of Iran. She added, "I plead to this government to give the people what they should have - basic human rights, freedom and democracy. Make peace with the people of Iran."

Israeli Film On '82 Lebanon War Wins Best Picture Prize

Israeli war movie "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion for best picture.

The Golden Lion Award for best film went to the Israeli film "Lebanon" by Samuel Maoz. The director shot almost the entire film from inside a tank to communicate the claustrophobia and fear he experienced as a young Israeli soldier during the 1982 war.

Maoz was so traumatized by his memories that it took him 25 years to gather the strength to make the movie. He was a young man when he served in the Israeli armed forces during the invasion.  The occupation led to a two-decades long occupation by Israel.

Accepting the prize the director said, "I dedicate this award to all those thousands of people all over the world who come back from the war, like me safe and sound."

He said they appear to be fine but the memory of war remains stuck inside their souls.

Entertainment magazine Variety described the film as the "boldest and best of the recent mini-wave" of Israeli movies. The awards jury, directed by Ang Lee,  himself a Golden Lion winning director, announced the prizes at the end of 11 days of screenings.

U.S. director Todd Solondz's dark comedy "Life During Wartime" picked up best screenplay.

British actor Colin Firth won best actor - as expected - for his turn as a gay professor mourning the loss of his lover in fashion designer Tom Ford's debut picture "A Single Man", based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood.
Russian Ksenia Rappoport picked up the best actress award for her part in Giuseppe Capotondi's Italian competition entry "La Doppia Ora".

German director Fatih Akin took the special jury prize for his comedy "Soul Kitchen", about a young restaurant owner who struggles to keep his business going while maintaining a long-distance relationship and dealing with his criminal brother.

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