A four-hour Filipino revenge drama wins best picture at the world’s oldest film festival

Golden Lion.
Golden Lion.
Image: EPA/Ettore Ferrari
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Film-lovers in the Philippines are giddy with national pride this weekend after a Filipino film won the top prize at the 73rd Venice Film Festival.

With a running time of 3 hours, 46 minutes, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) tells the story of a school teacher’s search for revenge after being imprisoned for 30 years for a crime she didn’t commit. Director Lav Diaz says the film, which he shot himself in black and white, is an allusion to Filipinos’ recovery after centuries of colonial rule.

“This is for my country, for the Filipino people, for our struggle, for the struggle of humanity,” the 57-year old director said upon receiving the Golden Lion trophy at a glitzy ceremony at the Sala Grande theater.

The historic win is a boost to the the country’s flourishing independent film industry. Bolstered by affordable digital film technology, free social media promotion channels and a vibrant local indie film festival, lower budget, independent movies are eclipsing mainstream films in the Philippines when it comes to audience and revenue.

The film festival’s international jury was chaired by British director Sam Mendes. The second-place award went to Tom Ford for his thriller Nocturnal Animals; Emma Stone won best actress for her performance in La La Land opposite Ryan Gosling.

Founded in 1932, the Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia is the world’s oldest film festival and considered among the most prestigious industry awards programs along with the Cannes Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival.