Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Venice Film Festival: Lourdes

A little note first on how film festivals work. Apparently there are several hundred different film festivals around the world each year. Some of them are competitive in the sense that films are entered in a competition and then judged to receive awards such as "best film", "best actor" etc. In these cases, the organisers of the festival assemble a jury to judge the films and award what might be termed the "official awards" of the festival. These awards are prestigious for those in the industry, and success in competition can help a producer or company considerably.

As well as designating their official juries, these competitive festivals also welcome a jury from the International Film Press (FIPRESCI) organisation and, in many cases, a jury from SIGNIS, the World Catholic Organisation for Communication. [Aside: at a number of festivals SIGNIS collaborates with representatives of other Christian denominations to provide an "ecumenical jury".]

On the website of the 2009 Venice Film Festival, the "official jury" awards can be found by following the link to "66th Festival: the official awards". The FIPRESCI award and the SIGNIS award can be found by following the link to "66th Festival: collateral awards".

Now, Lourdes did not win any of the "official awards", though one can speculate that it was perhaps a runner up to the film Lebanon which won the Golden Lion as "best film".

Lourdes did much better in the "collateral awards". It received the FIPRESCI "best film Venezia 66" - ie "best film" of those entered into the main official festival competition. And it received the SIGNIS award (Lebanon receiving a "special mention", which is why I speculate that Lourdes was a runner up to it in the official awards). These are probably the most prestigious of the "collateral awards". Lourdes also received two other collateral awards, the details about which I have not been able to find.

I still can't work out whether Lourdes is what you might call a film that is sympathetic to Lourdes, or has perhaps a more critical intent. It does appear to offer a pretty accurate glimpse of the experience of visiting Lourdes - what I have read in different on-line reviews rings true to my own experience of visits to Lourdes. It is due for general release in December, but who knows if a French language film will make it across the channel to the UK?

Another interesting "collateral award" is way down at the bottom of that page: the Gianni Astrei Award. This is a pro-life award awarded, I think, by the Italian Movement for Life. The film Lo spazio bianco won this award - see trailer below (but you need Italian to follow it)! The synopsis from the Venice Film Festival site is as follows:
Maria is waiting for a little girl; she is no longer pregnant but is waiting anyway. She is waiting for her daughter to be born or to die. If there is one thing Maria is unable to do, it is to wait. This is why these three months that she has to face, alone, waiting for her daughter Irene to come out of the incubator, have caught her unawares. Used to relying exclusively on herself and taking all decisions by herself, Maria forces herself into a passive state of apnea, excluding the whole world and imprisoning herself in the white space of waiting. However, this effort at painful isolation consumes the last ounce of strength she has: The bubble of isolation Maria has closed herself in is put to the test and finally explodes. Maria has to save herself if she is to
save the child.


berenike said...

Er, not much sign of civil war here, nor a single black person, nor do the building give any hint whatsoever of not being in Europe ...


Joe said...


Thank you. I have now (finally) got round to checking out my original post and correcting it.