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Italian documentary wins Venice Film Festival top prize

Italian director Gianfranco Rosi has taken the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for his documentary which portrays the lives of real people living in Rome. The world's oldest film festival featured 20 films.

Gianfranco Rosi's "Sacro GRA," a documentary about lives of people living and working along the highway that encircles Rome, has won the Golden Lion for best film at the 70th edition of the Venice Film Festival.

It was the first time that Venice included documentaries in its main competition. Rosi's entry was also the first Italian production in 15 years to win the top prize.

Rosi's protagonists include a weevil-fighting tree scientist, ambulance drivers, an eel fisherman and an intellectual down on his luck and living in a tiny one-room flat with his studious daughter.

Taipei tale

Venice awarded its Grand Jury Prize to "Stray Dogs," directed by Tsai Ming-liang. The only Chinese-language picture in the competition, it tells the tale of a homeless family living on the margins of society in contemporary Taipei.

Its long, hypnotic shots and minimal action drew some criticism from audiences, some of whom walked out complaining that it was boring.

The director responded by saying: "I am not interested in making films for audiences who do not have the patience to appreciate my slowness."

Greek portrayal

The Silver Lion for best director went to Alexandros Avranas of Greece for "Miss Violence," a brutal tale of incest, which starts with the suicide of an 11-year-old girl, set against the gloomy background of crisis-stricken Greece. Greek actor Themis Panou won the best actor prize for his leading role in the film.

Italian actress Elena Cotta won best actress for her role in Emma Dante's "A Street in Palermo," (Via Castellana Bandiera) during Saturday's ceremony. The film debut for Italian theatre director Dante is about a Western-style traffic duel between two Sicilian women who each refuse to give way as their cars come head to head in a street in Palermo.

The Marcello Mastroianni Award for best new young actor or actress went to Tye Sheridan, in "Joe." The film starred Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who hopes to redeem himself for past sins by saving a teenage boy from an unemployed, violent and alcoholic father.

Best Screenplay was awarded to Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for "Philomena," the true tale of a mother's search for her son after he is given up for adoption by Catholic nuns in Ireland. The film stars Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and comic actor Steve Coogan as the ex-BBC journalist who helps her.

The Special Jury Prize went to the German film "The Police Officer's Wife," directed by Philip Gröning, a domestic violence drama structured around 59 randomly timed chapters. The film runs for three hours.

Bernardo Bertolucci, best known for his 1972 film "Last Tango in Paris," presided over the jury that decided the prizes capping the 11-day festival. Also on the jury were British director Andrea Arnold, known for his film "Red Road," German actress Martina Gedeck who is best known for "The Lives of Others" and US actress Carrie Fisher.

jm/kms (Reuters, AFP)