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The Shape Of Water takes Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival (2017)

The Shape of Water

Story by Jack Foley

GUILLERMO del Toro’s The Shape of Water has taken the Golden Lion Award, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (2017).

A Cold War-set parable that stars Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon, the film focuses on the unlikely attraction that develops between a mute Baltimore cleaner and a mysterious aquatic creature.

It was among the best reviewed films of the festival and marked the first time that the popular Mexican filmmaker has won the Golden Lion.

Upon picking up his prize, del Toro said: “I’m 52-years-old, I weigh 300 pounds, and I’ve done 10 movies. There is a moment in every storyteller’s life, no matter what age you are, you risk it all and go and do something different.”

“I believe in life, I believe in love and I believe in cinema,” he then declared amid a thundering standing ovation.

del Toro has won at festivals before but The Golden Lion marks his first honour since Pan’s Labyrinth took the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2006.

The festival’s second most prestigious honour, the Grand Jury Prize, went to Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz for Foxtrot, which marks his first feature since scooping the Golden Lion for 2009’s autobiographical war drama Lebanon.

The best director prize went to Frenchman Xavier Legrand for his first feature Custody, a tough-minded examination of a couple’s divorce and its effect on their children, as custody negotiations turn acrimonious.

And in the acting stakes, Kamel El Basha, one of the two male co-leads in Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri’s courtroom drama The Insult, won Best Actor, while British veteran Charlotte Rampling was crowned best actress for her portrayal of a woman coping with her elderly husband’s shocking imprisonment in Italian director Andrea Pallaoro’s Hannah.

Rampling beat Oscar-tipped turns by the likes of Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins.

Rounding out the competition winners, indigenous Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton took the Special Jury Prize for his racially charged Outback western Sweet Country, while British-Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh won Best Screenplay for the fast verbal fireworks of the darkly comic revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Winners at a glance…

Golden Lion
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro

Grand Jury Prize
Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz

Silver Lion for Best Director
Xavier Legrand, Custody

Volpi Cup for Best Actress
Charlotte Rampling, Hannah

Volpi Cup for Best Actor
Kamel El Basha, The Insult

Best Screenplay
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Special Jury Prize
Sweet Country, Warwick Thornton

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Young Performer
Charlie Plummer, Lean on Pete