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The 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival closed Saturday night with the top prize going to the villain origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Todd Phillips’ Joker took home the Golden Lion top prize in Venice on Saturday night, while Roman Polanski won the second place Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize for An Officer and a Spy.

Upon receiving the prize, Phillips thanked “Warner Bros. and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie.”

And of the film’s star Joaquin Phoenix, who joined Phillips onstage, the director said, “There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent.”

The 76th edition of the world’s oldest film festival wrapped Saturday night after 11 nights of world premieres. This year’s edition was one of the most sweltering in years, with festival-goers plagued by mosquitos and heat waves. Throngs of fans still came out to wait for a glimpse of Brad Pitt and Kristen Stewart, among others.

Among the top awards, Roy Andersson won the Silver Lion for best directing for About EndlessnessHe took home the Golden Lion previously in 2014 for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. 

Luca Marinelli won the Volpi Cup for best actor for his starring role in Martin Eden. And Ariane Ascaride won the Volpi Cup for best actress award for Gloria Mundi

Hong Kong director Yonfan won best screenplay for his film No. 7 Cherry Lane. He gave an impassioned speech, dedicating the award to his homeland. “I hope Hong Kong will be normal again so we can feel free again,” he said upon accepting the award.

Despite early controversies, the festival ran without a hitch, even welcoming demonstrators to the red carpet on its final day to protest against climate change. The protestors were given a shout-out by Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland, who are in town to promote the closing-night film, Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Burnt Orange Heresy. More than one viewer wondered why the film, about an art heist gone very wrong, was not given a competition slot.



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