'Philomena' dominates preliminary Venice awards, as 'Tom at the Farm' takes critics' prize
When I said in yesterday's predictions piece that "Philomena" was the most broadly well-liked film of the festival, I wasn't kidding. Stephen Frears' gentle dramedy, widely tipped to win Best Actress for Judi Dench at tonight's Competition awards ceremony, handily leads the way in the festival's vast array of preliminary awards from alternative juries. Its eight wins include Best Film from the festival's Youth Jury, an INTERFILM award for "promoting interreligious dialogue," even a Cinema for UNICEF mention. No one's singled it out yet for walking on water, but it's only a matter of time.
Most surprisingly of all, the film won the Queer Lion in recognition of its sympathetic portrayal of gay issues. Fair enough, though it must surely be the least queer film ever to have won the award. I can only imagine that Xavier Dolan -- whose stylish, haunting thriller about rural homophobia, "Tom at the Farm," is a Competition highlight -- is feeling slightly shortchanged.
Or perhaps not, since Dolan did win the most significant preliminary award of all, the FIPRESCI Critics' prize for best film in Competition -- beating the bookies' Golden Lion favorites "Stray Dogs," "The Wind Rises" and "Night Moves." Have we underestimated his chances in tonight's ceremony? More often than not, the FIPRESCI winner goes on to win at least one major jury award -- recent winners at Venice include "The Master" and "Shame" -- though you have to go back to 2000 and Jafar Panahi's "The Circle" to find the last time the Golden Lion and the critics' award went to the same film. (Incidentally, you can read my full thought on Dolan's review in my Variety review.)
Meanwhile, does this bode well for "Philomena" taking something bigger than Best Actress? My instinct says that this jury -- which includes such distinctive auteurs as Bernardo Bertolucci and Andrea Arnold -- will go for something harder-edged, but the British film could be a compromise choice if they're split on more avant-garde options. We'll know in a few hours.
In the meantime, here's the long, long, long list of preliminary awards, which also includes the winners of the Critics' Week and Venice Days sidebars. (The winner of the latter, strong political thriller "Bethlehem," is in the frame to be Israel's Oscar submission.) Further down, there's something for almost everyone, including "Gravity," "Joe" and even (gulp) "The Zero Theorem."
Check out the full list on the next page.