For the first year ever, the Venice Film Festival included documentaries in its competition for the Golden Lion, the event’s top honor. And as it happens, one of these two nonfiction works actually won the award. Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA, which depicts life along the Grande Raccordo Anulare (the “Great Ring Road” around the perimeter of Rome), is also the first Italian film to take the prize in 15 years.
Bernardo Bertolucci headed the jury that picked the doc, and during the ceremony he remarked that he’d been looking to be surprised from this year’s slate and added that Sacro GRA is indeed “a surprising film.” The other doc contending for the prize was Errol Morris’s latest, The Unknown Known. And Bertolucci reportedly joked that its subject, Donald Rumsfeld, was almost chosen for the Best Actor trophy. Others on the jury included filmmaker Andrea Arnold and actresses Martina Gedeck and Carrie Fisher.
Narrative features Rosi’s film beat include Hayao Miyazaki’s final animated feature The Wind Rises, Stephen Frears’ Philomena, James Franco’s Child of God, Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, David Gordon Green’s Joe and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.
Rosi has been a winner at Venice before. Below Sea Level won both the Doc/It Award and the Venice Horizons Documentary Award in 2008. El Sicario, Room 164 won the Biografilm Award for Documentary and the FIPRESCI Prize in the Parallel Sections category in 2010.
Here are a couple brief clips from Sacro GRA, both without English subtitles: