Tilda Swinton and Ann Hui to receive Venice International Film Festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

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Ann Hui [Photo provided]

Critically acclaimed filmmaker Ann Hui and iconic actress Tilda Swinton will each be awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 77th Venice International Film Festival, which is set for Sept. 2-12.

The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia upon recommendation of the director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, according to a news release.

“I am so happy to receive this news and honored for the award! So happy that I feel I cannot find the words. I just hope everything in the world will turn better soon and everybody can feel again as happy as I am in this moment,” Hui said in a statement.

Hui studied at the University of Hong Kong and at the London Film School in the early 1970s. Upon her return to Hong Kong, she worked as the assistant director to martial arts film master King Hu.

Her debut feature film “The Secret” (1979), starring Sylvia Chang, made Hui one of the key figures in the Hong Kong New Wave film movement that she contributed shaping together with Tsui Hark, John Woo, and Patrick Tam among others. Since then, she has directed 26 features, two hourlong documentaries, several shorts and has been the associate producer for other major directors such as Yim Ho and Xie Jin.

Her films have been screened at major international film festivals since the early stages of her career, including “Boat People” (1982) and “Song of the Exile” (1990) in Cannes, “Summer Snow” (1995) and “Ordinary Heroes” (1999) in Berlin and “A Simple Life” and “The Golden Era” (2014) in Venice.

She has won more best director awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards than anyone else with six awards, and she is the only director having won the Grand Slam for Hong Kong Film Awards, meaning that a film won best picture, best director, best screenplay and best actor and actress at the same time.

Her ability in directing actors and carving memorable female characters interpreted by major film stars, including Maggie Cheung (“Song of the Exile”), Deanie Ip (“A Simple Life”) and Tang Wei (“The Golden Era”), among others, is testified by the several prizes for best actresses that her films have received. Her career has confirmed her as one of the best female directors in Asia.

“Ann Hui is one of Asia’s most respected, prolific, and versatile directors of our times; her career spans four decades and touches every film genre. From the outset, she has been acknowledged as one of the pivotal figures of the so-called Hong Kong New Wave – the film movement which revolutionized Hong Kong’s movies during the 1970s and ’80s, transforming the cosmopolitan city into one of the most energetic, creative centers of the decade,” Barbera said in a statement.

“She has directed very different types of films, from melodramas to ghost stories, from semi-autobiographical movies to adaptations of major literary works, without forgoing family dramas, martial arts movies, and thrillers. She has been one of the first directors on the Hong Kong scene to bring documentary material into fiction films. Although she has paid attention to the commercial side of movies and has garnered widespread success with the public, the cinema of Ann Hui has never abandoned an auteurist approach. In her movies, she has always shown particular interest in compassionate and social vicissitudes, recounting – with sensitivity and the sophistication of an intellectual – individual stories that interweave with important social themes such as those of refugees, the marginalized, and the elderly. In a trailblazing fashion, through her language and her unique visual style, not only has she captured the specific aspects of the city and the imagination of Hong Kong, she has also transposed and translated them into a universal perspective.”

Tilda Swinton [Photo provided]

In accepting her Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, Swinton said in a statement, “This great festival has been dear to my heart for three decades: to be honoured by her in this way is extremely humbling. To come to Venice, this year of all years, to celebrate immortal cinema and her defiant survival in the face of all the challenges that evolution might throw at her – as at us all – will be my sincere joy.”

Swinton started making films with the director Derek Jarman in 1985 with “Caravaggio.” They made seven more films together, including “The Last of England” (1987), “The Garden” (1990), “War Requiem” (1989), “Edward II” (for which she won the Best Actress award at the 1991 Venice International Film Festival) and “Wittgenstein” (1993), before Jarman’s death in 1994. She gained wider international recognition in 1992 with her incomparable portrayal of “Orlando” (1992), based on the novel by Virginia Woolf under the direction of Sally Potter.

She has established rewarding ongoing filmmaking relationships with Jim Jarmusch – including “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013) and “The Dead Don’t Die” (2019) – as well as Joel and Ethan Coen (“Hail, Caesar!,” 2016) Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin,” 2011) and Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love,” 2009; “A Bigger Splash,” 2015; and “Suspiria,” 2018). She also has worked with Bong Joon Ho in the international hits “Snowpiercer” (2013) and “Okja” (2017).

She has featured in the critically acclaimed comedy “Trainwreck” (2015) from Amy Schumer directed by Judd Apatow, played the iconic White Witch in the “Narnia” films and co-starred as the Ancient One in Marvel Studio’s blockbuster “Doctor Strange” (2016), a role she reprised in last year’s “Avengers: Endgame.” She received both the BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress of 2008 for Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” (2007).

Tilda recently finished shooting with Wes Anderson on “The French Dispatch” – their fourth film together – as well as the second part of “The Souvenir” with Joanna Hogg and “Memoria” with Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

In 2008, with co-founder Mark Cousins, Tilda launched the 8 ½ Foundation, a world cinema initiative for children. She has curated and co-curated handmade film festivals from the Scottish Highlands to Thailand to Beijing to the Pilgrimage in 2009 – which involved pulling a mobile cinema across Scotland.

To date, she has worked as a producer on “Derek” (2008), a portrait of Derek Jarman; “I Am Love, The Seasons in Quincy” (2016), a film of four portraits of her friend John Berger, one of which she directed and another which she wrote; “We Need to Talk About Kevin”; “Okja”; and the series “Women Make Film” (2018).

Swinton, who lives in the Highlands of Scotland and is the mother of twins, is currently working on projects with Pedro Almodóvar and with George Miller.

“Tilda Swinton is unanimously recognized as one of the most original and powerful performers to establish herself at the end of the last century. Her uniqueness lies in her commanding and incomparable personality, uncommon versatility, and an ability to pass from the most radical art-house cinema to big Hollywood productions, without ever eschewing her inexhaustible need to bring to life unclassifiable and uncommon characters,” Barbera said in a statement.

“Her every portrayal is a fearless challenge to conventions, be they artistic or social; the outcome of a need to put herself continuously on the line without ever being satisfied with the results she achieves; and the desire to explore new implications in behavior and human emotions, which Swinton never limits herself to conveying but instead personifies in the most surprising and challenging way. She has worked with some of today’s major directors, but above all she is faithful to a few filmmakers, for whom she has been a muse more than just a favorite actress. Take, for example, her working relationship with Derek Jarman; she performed in every film he made from 1985 until the English director’s death in 1994. Or Luca Guadagnino, with whom she has made four movies, sharing his project to bring to life an unconventional type of cinema. In this sense, Tilda Swinton confirms herself as a star of contemporary film par excellence, who doesn’t settle for simplicity and fashionable dictates, but instead aspires to the impossible.”


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