From a hot field of 21 films in competition, where any one of five films could have easily scooped the prize, it was the stunningly conceived and moving lyrical fairy tale, The Shape of Water, that took out the top prize. Guillermo Del Toro was the first Mexican director to win the Golden Lion. The filmmaker explained his approach: “I’m 52 years old, I weigh 300 pounds, and I’ve done 10 movies. There is a moment in every storyteller’s life, no matter what age you are, you risk it all and go and do something different. To every Latin American filmmaker dreaming of doing something in the fantastic genre, it can be done.”
The Shape of Water is a fantasy film that is also a love letter to cinema, particularly classic Hollywood movies and politically charged films. It operates on multiple levels and will attract different types of audiences and hopefully the censorship ratings in different countries will ensure that kids can see this dark but beautiful love story.
In a big win for Australia, Warwick Thornton took out the Special Jury Prize for the extraordinary neo-western, Sweet Country. The film clearly translated well for an international jury despite engaging with Indigenous history and a very dark story that inspires righteous fury. The sold-out screenings and standing ovations were a testament to the success of the film with the press and the general public alike.
Other worthy winners include the fantastic dark comic thriller Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, for which writer-director Martin McDonagh took out the Best Screenplay award. The script is pitch-perfect, featuring startling revelations, low exposition, and a great wit along with superb plotting and development. The script was given great service in the fine hands of cast members Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, who owned their characters. The film was a favourite amongst critics.
The other major winner was Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz’s Israeli family tragedy drama, which took out the Grand Jury Prize. This is an incredibly powerful and cinematic film about a family’s grief when they learn of their son’s death while out on patrol. It is complex and unexpectedly surreal in parts and is superbly acted, leaving audiences speechless and disorientated.
Other major prize winners included Xavier Legrand who took out both the first film award and the Silver Lion – Award for Best Director for Jusqu’a La Garde (Custody), Charlotte Rampling for Best Actress in Hannah, Karmel El Basha for Best Actor in The Insult and Charlie Plummer for Best Young Actor or Actress in Lean on Pete.
The jury was chaired by Annette Bening, and also included Ildikó Enyedi, Michel Franco, Rebecca Hall, Anna Mouglalis, Jasmine Trinca, Edgar Wright, Yonfan and our very own David Stratton.