Abortion Drama 'Happening' Wins Top Venice Film Festival Award

Published September 12th, 2021 - 06:29 GMT
Audrey Diwan’s abortion drama “L’Evenement” (“Happening”)
Audrey Diwan’s abortion drama “L’Evenement” (“Happening”) (Twitter)
A hard-hitting French drama about illegal abortion in the 1960s.
The Venice Film Festival unveiled its award winners on Saturday night.
By Ewelina Lepionko

The Venice Film Festival unveiled its award winners on Saturday night.

Gut-punching drama wowed viewers with a portrayal of a young woman desperate to arrange a termination when it could mean a prison term or death. Director of the film Happening Audrey Diwan said she made the film with her heart and head.

A timely film about illegal abortions in 1960s France won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion on Saturday, capping a festival rife with female-focused themes.

Diwan's film about a French college student who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy on a search for an abortion was the unanimous choice from the prestigious jury that included recent Oscar winners Bong Joon Ho and Chloé Zhao.

“I did this movie with anger. I did the movie with a desire also. I did it with my belly, my guts, my heart, my head,” Diwan said. 

The virtue of Audrey Diwan’s Happening, which has just won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is that it builds a picture, stone on stone, of what the predicament of pregnancy meant to a young woman’s life in 1963. 

In the film, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a bright young student with a promising future ahead of her. But when she becomes pregnant, she sees the opportunity to finish her studies and escape the constraints of her social background disappearing. With her final exams fast approaching and her belly growing, Anne resolves to act, even if she has to confront shame and pain, even if she must risk prison to do so. The film is adapted from the book by Annie Ernaux.

"Happening" arrives just as the abortion debate is raging again after new restrictions in Texas, and with the MeToo movement starting to make its mark in the film industry.

Audrey Diwan is a French film director of Lebanese origin. Prior to becoming a film director she worked as a journalist and a screenwriter. She is a member of Collectif 50/50, a French NGO promoting equality between men and women in the film industry.

The 2021 Venice Film Festival that marked the second consecutive year a film directed by a woman has won the top prize following Chloe Zhao’s triumph for Nomadland in 2020.

Paolo Sorrentino’s film “The Hand of God” won the second place prize known as the Silver Lion. In the acting categories, Cruz won Best Actress for Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” and John Arcilla won Best Actor for “On the Job: The Missing 8.” Campion won the Silver Lion for Best Director for her film “The Power of the Dog.”

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