'Poetic' Italian documentary takes top honor at Venice filmfest

Sat Sep 7, 2013 4:38pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - The Italian film "Sacro GRA" about people living along the ring road around Rome was chosen as the first documentary ever to win the Golden Lion for best film on Saturday at the 70th Venice Film Festival.

It also was the first Italian production in 15 years to win the top prize at the world's oldest film festival.

"I didn't know that it has been 15 years before an Italian won in Venice this award," director Gianfranco Rosi told Reuters as he left a news conference after the awards ceremony presided over by jury president and veteran Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci.

"The last one was won by (director Gianni) Amelio and the previous one by Bertolucci so for me it's an incredible honor. And tonight I saw the maestro and he was extremely moved when he gave me the award and this makes this even more important."

"Sacro GRA", whose name is a pun on the ring road's name which evokes the Italian for Holy Grail - delves into the lives of a dozen characters.

They 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.

"There is also drama in my film," Rosi said. "Reality becomes drama, makes drama from the ordinary. So there is drama. There is a narrative structure. I thought about cinema when I made this film."

Despite great differences this year among critics and audiences about the 20 films in competition, Bertolucci said he did not recall any juror opposing the award to "Sacro GRA".   Continued...

Director Gianfranco Rosi (2nd R) poses with his cast during a red carpet for the movie "Sacro Gra" at the 70th Venice Film Festival September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi