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The Return (Vozvrashchenie) wins Golden Lion

Story by: Jack Foley

A RUSSIAN film about a father and son has taken the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.

Vozvrashchenie (or The Return) marks the directorial debut of Andrey Zvyagintsev and is a highly personal tale about two adolescent boys who are subjected to a harsh regime when their strict father returns after a 10-year absence.

The film was marked by a real-life tragedy when, shortly after filming was concluded, one of its stars, 15-year-old Vladimir Girin, drowned in the lake where some of the scenes were shot.

Zvyagintsev dedicated the prize to Garin and said: "On this podium you see two actors, but there were three."

He accepted the award with his 14-year-old star, Ivan Dobronravov, and Konstantin Lavronenko, who plays the father.

In what proved a memorable and poignant night for the 39-year-old Russian, he also took the Dino De Laurentiis Award for the best first film by a director.

The runner-up Grand Prix Silver Lion went to Lebanese-born, Randa Chahal Sabbag, for her film, The Kite, which tells of love and separation on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Of the other notable winners at the film festival, Sean Penn was named Best Actor for his performance in 21 Grams, Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film about three people thrown together by an accident.

"Anyone that saw the film knows the emsemble that I'm part of," he said, in reference and tribute to his co-stars, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.

Japanese director, Takeshi Kitano, won best director for Zatoichi, his film about a blind swordsman in 19th Century Japan, while the Best Actress award went to Katja Riemann for Rosenstrasse, which deals with the deportation of Jews in 1943 Berlin.

The Outstanding Individual Contribution was given to Marco Bellocchio for the script of Buongiorno, Notte (Good Morning, Night), a movie which revisits the 1978 kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister, Moro Aldo, by the Red Brigades, while Najat Bessalem was named best young actress.

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