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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Indian film scoops top Venice prize
Mira Nair accepts her award
Mira Nair is the first woman to win Venice's top prize
An Indian film, Monsoon Wedding, has won the Golden Lion award at the 58th annual Venice Film Festival in Italy.

The film, directed by Mira Nair, is a comedy about an extended family reuniting from around the globe for an arranged marriage in India's capital, Delhi.


This is one for India, my beloved India, my continuing inspiration

Mira Nair
Miss Nair earned international fame with her earlier films Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala and shot Monsoon Wedding in a month using hand-held cameras.

It is the first time a woman has won the top prize at the world's oldest film festival, and the first time an Indian film has won since 1957's win for Satyajit Ray's Aparajito.

"This is one for India, my beloved India, my continuing inspiration," Miss Nair said as she accepted the small Golden Lion statuette.

Controversial issues

Monsoon Wedding, which was a favourite at the Cannes Film Festival, depicts a colourful and exuberant family wedding in India's Punjab state.

The director described it as "love song to Delhi," the city where she was educated.

Miss Nair is renowned for her provocative films that often deal with controversial issues and Monsoon Wedding is no different.


I didn't expect anything from this film really. I wanted to make a small thing, but I am so very happy to say that it has become big

Mira Nair

In it the family's preparations for the wedding are marred by long suppressed revelations of incest.

"I like to push the envelope... I believe that movies are there to provoke and get under your skin," Miss Nair said after winning the award.

The film was shot on a hand-held camera to give it a more documentary feel.

"I just wanted to explore something very personal about my family and families in general, in a free way," Miss Nair said.

Visionary

Despite being described as a visionary by Nanni Moretti, the head of the Venice jury, Miss Nair played down the acclaim.

"I didn't expect anything from this film really. I wanted to make a small thing, but I am so very happy to say that it has become big," she said.

She was equally modest when asked about being the first ever female to take the top prize.

"I am not one to hold a flag. If we win and we happen to be women, then wonderful," she said.

The 58th annual Venice festival's Grand Jury Prize went to Hundstage, by Ulrich Seidl.

Iranian director Babak Payami won best director for the Iranian-Italian production Secret Ballots.

The jury awarded Alfonso Cuaron best screenplay for Y tu Mama Tambien, (And Your Mother Too), a box office hit in Mexico about friendship and sensuality.

Italian actors picked up the best actor and actress categories - Luigi Lo Cascio won for Luce dei miei Occhi (Light of My Eyes), about a lonely young man and his obsession with a single mother.

Best actress went to Italian Sandra Ceccarelli for her role in the same film by Giuseppe Piccioni.

The Marcello Mastroianni prize for the best young actor or actress went to Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for Y tu Mama Tambien.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Hepker
"Miss Nair shot Monsoon Wedding in a month"
See also:

24 May 01 | Film
Moretti on Venice jury
29 Aug 01 | Film
Kidman causes stir in Venice
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