Judi Dench’s ‘Philomena’ Beaten by Documentary in Venice

“Sacro GRA,” a documentary filmed by Gianfranco Rosi on Rome’s lengthy ring road, won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award last night, defeating Stephen Frears’s “Philomena” starring Judi Dench.

“Philomena” -- popular with Venice reviewers -- walked away with the best screenplay award. The script was co-written by the film’s co-star Steve Coogan and by Jeff Pope.

The best director prize went to Greek director Alexandros Avranas for “Miss Violence,” a story of domestic abuse that opens with an 11-year-old girl jumping to her death on her birthday.

It was one of two prizes for the film, whose male lead Themis Panou won the best-actor trophy.

The best actress prize -- which many critics thought would go to Dench’s portrayal of an Irish woman in search of her long-lost son -- rewarded Italy’s Elena Cotta, for her role in “Via Castellana Bandiera,” directed by Emma Dante.

The Grand Jury Prize went to Tsai Ming-liang for “Stray Dogs,” about an impoverished father and his two children who roam the streets of Taipei and its outskirts in a struggle for survival.

The Special Jury Prize went to another tale of domestic violence: “The Police Officer’s Wife,” directed by Germany’s Philip Groening.

The only U.S. contestant to win one of the main Venice awards this year was 16-year-old Tye Sheridan. He took the Marcello Mastroianni Prize given to young actors for his role as Nicolas Cage’s co-star in “Joe’’ (directed by David Gordon Green).

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