Israeli war film "Lebanon" wins top prize in Venice

Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:31pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - Hard-hitting Israeli war movie "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion for best picture at the Venice film festival on Saturday.

Director Samuel Maoz shot almost the entire drama, featuring graphic and disturbing scenes of violence, from inside a tank to communicate the claustrophobia and fear he experienced as a young Israeli conscript during the 1982 war.

He was so traumatized by his memories that it took him 25 years to gather the strength to make the movie, which the New York Times called "an astonishing piece of cinema."

"I dedicate this award to the thousands of people all over the world who, like me, come back from war safe and sound," the director told the closing ceremony in Venice. "Apparently they are fine, they work, get married, have children. But inside, the memory will remain stabbed in their soul."

Ang Lee, president of the jury and two-time Golden Lion winner, told reporters:

"We all come from different countries but we are happy that we are not inside that tank. It could be any tank and any war in the world, that's what is so precious about the film.

"Although it's a narrow point of view, that of Israeli soldiers, the ripple is incredible."

The announcement brought the curtain down on 11 days of movies, publicity and parties along the Lido waterfront, where George Clooney, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Viggo Mortensen and Omar Sharif walked the red carpet.   Continued...

<p>Samuel Maoz, director of "Lebanon", receives a Golden Lion for Best Film during the closing ceremony of the 66th Venice Film Festival September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>