Italian director and screenwriter Francesco Rosi has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 69th Venice International Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia (29 August – 8 September 2012).
The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale chaired by Paolo Baratta, upon recommendation by the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto Barbera.
Francesco Rosi is considered a symbol and innovator of socially-committed Italian filmmaking, the author of important and meaningful films such as Le mani sulla città (Hands over the City), winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 1963, Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair), Golden Palm at Cannes in 1972, and Salvatore Giuliano, Silver Bear in Berlin in 1961.
Francesco Rosi, who will turn 90 on November 15th this year, will be given the award on August 31st, on the occasion of the screening of the restored copy of his masterpiece Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair, 1972), a restoration completed by Martin Scorsese’s non-profit organization, The Film Foundation, with support from Gucci.
The Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, has stated: “In his long though not very prolific career, Rosi has left an indelible mark on the history of Italian filmmaking after World War II. His work has influenced generations of filmmakers around the world for its method, style, moral severity and the ability to bring urgent social issues onto the screen. For this reason he has repeatedly been associated with post-war Neorealism and is considered the founding father of the activist film movement that was so important to our national production in the Sixties and Seventies. In comparison with Neo-realism, which was so influential in his cultural education, Rosi’s cinema went much further in its deliberate intent to combine a keen proclivity for narrating real events, people and places with what Fellini defined as “the great crafting heritage of good American cinema”. As for the political filmmaking that came after him, Rosi has an unquestionable merit: to the ideological simplification of many of his followers, he always preferred the incredibly demanding process of research and documentation that provided the basis for his formidable masterpieces such as Salvatore Giuliano, La sfida, Le mani sulla città (Hands over The City), Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair), and Lucky Luciano. A precise lesson in history that coincides with a sophisticated lesson in style, which brought vitality and substance to his other unforgettable works, the most significant of which are Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli), Cadaveri eccellenti and Tre fratelli (Three Brothers)”.
Francesco Rosi has stated: “I am honoured and very happy to receive this extremely prestigious acknowledgment, which has been awarded in the past to many great authors whom I love and admire. I wish to thank the President of the Biennale Paolo Baratta and the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto Barbera for recalling my contribution to Italian cinema and to the art of filmmaking in general”.
Francesco Rosi (Naples, 1922) established his reputation as an author at the Venice International Film Festival in 1958 with La sfida, which won the Special Jury Prize. In that film, shot in the fruit and vegetable market of Naples, like the subsequent I magliari (1959, winner of an award at San Sebastiàn), set among the fabric and carpet vendors living on the edge of legality, he displays the journalistic approach that, filtered through fictional drama, constitutes the peculiarity of his films. In Salvatore Giuliano (1961), the use of repertory material characterized a remarkably effective style of investigative reporting, inaugurating a new type of political cinema supported by documentation and exposing the most controversial realities, investigating the present on the basis of historical material.
In 1963 Francesco Rosi was definitively consecrated when he won the Golden Lion in Venice for Le mani sulla città (Hands over the City), a film-exposé about the real-estate speculation and scandals that arose during the years of the reconstruction and economic boom. He returned to the Venice Film Festival in 1970 with another politically committed film, Uomini contro (Many Wars Ago), inspired by Un anno sull’altopiano by Lussu, which took a non-rhetorical look at World War I.
Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair, 1972) marked his return to a journalistic style with a reconstruction of the case of the president of the ENI oil company (interpreted by Gian Maria Volonté, who won a Special Mention at Cannes), through his death in circumstances that have never been fully explained, casting a shadow over the collusion between political authorities and economic powers. His next film, Lucky Luciano (1975), also starring Gian Maria Volonté, is a reconstruction of the last years of the gangster’s life, spent in Italy deftly fleeing the countless raids by the authorities seeking to capture him.
For his later films distinguished by their outstanding social commitment, Rosi often turned to literature. In Cadaveri eccellenti (1976), winner of the David di Donatello prize for Best Film and Best Direction and based on Il contesto by Sciascia, he addressed political compromise during the years of the “strategy of tension”. Based on the book by Carlo Levi he made Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ stopped at Eboli, 1979), winner of the David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Direction, winner of the Moscow Festival, winner of the Best Foreign Film award at the Bafta, the British “Oscars”. Rosi’s next film was Tre fratelli (Three Brothers, 1981), a reflection on the terrorist years (David di Donatello for Best Direction and Best Screenplay with Tonino Guerra, Nastro d’Argento for Best Direction), followed by Carmen (1984) from the opera by Bizet (David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Direction). This was followed by Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1987), based on the novel of the same name by Màrquez (in competition at Cannes), Dimenticare Palermo (1990), written with Tonino Guerra and Gore Vidal, and La tregua (The Truce, 1997) based on the book by Primo Levi, also in competition at Cannes, and winner of the David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Direction.
Close to the exponents of post-war Neapolitan culture as a young man (Patroni Griffi, La Capria, Ghirelli), before La sfida Francesco Rosi trained with Luchino Visconti, serving as his assistant director for La terra trema; he later served as assistant director to Michelangelo Antonioni and Mario Monicelli.