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Colin Farrell wins best actor at Venice International Film Festival

Martin McDonagh takes best screenplay for The Banshees of Inisherin, which stars Farrell

Colin Farrell has won best actor at the 79th Venice International Film Festival for his performance in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin. McDonagh took best screenplay for a film that received rave reviews and tumultuous ovations following its premiere early last week. The Golden Lion, Venice’s top prize, went to Laura Poitras for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, a documentary on the American photographer Nan Goldin. Cate Blanchett, already a favourite for the Oscar, took best actor for her turn as a megalomaniac conductor in Todd Field’s TÁR.

The Banshees of Insherin, set on a remote island in the west of Ireland, casts Farrell opposite Brendan Gleeson as two friends who fall out inexplicably while the Civil War rumbles on the mainland. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also appear in a ribald, dark comedy that recalls McDonagh’s early work for the theatre. Farrell was unable to attend, but gave a speech on video from Los Angeles. “I’d like to thank my dance partner Brendan Gleeson,” he said before grabbing a bunch of bananas in lieu. McDonagh then accepted the actual Volpi Cup — the festival’s acting award — in person before returning to grab his writing prize. Farrell is the first Irishman to take Volpi since Michael Fassbender won for Shame in 2011.

The Venice Film Festival, after Cannes the second-most important such event in the world, is seen as the opening shot in the long awards season that stretches out to the Oscars next March. Farrell must now be in a strong position to secure his first Academy Award nomination. Gleeson is also likely to compete — either in best actor or in best supporting actor. The two men reunite with McDonagh for the first time since working together on the much-admired In Bruges 14 years ago.

“I can’t imagine ever passing on anything he writes because he’s such an extraordinary writer,” Farrell said of the writer-director earlier in the festival. “[Farrell’s] caterpillar eyebrows have never seemed more boyishly worried, his open smile never more hopeful or eager to please,” Variety said in its review of Banshees. There were few dissenters among the attending press. The Irish actor beat presumed favourite Brendan Fraser, much admired for his turn as 42-stone depressive in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, to the Copa Volti, but there will be many rematches between the two as awards season continues.


Blanchett was a mighty frontrunner for her overpowering, bone-rattling performance in TÁR. She is now 10/3 favourite with the bookies for the Oscar. Should she triumph there she will become only the fourth woman to win three acting awards.

Poitras’s win for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed was seen as a minor upset. Punters had fancied Alice Diop’s courtroom drama Saint Omer, but that French director had to settle for the Grand Jury Prize and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for a debut film. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed cleverly intertwines the story of Goldin’s rise among New York bohemia with her contemporary campaign to force the Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharma, to take responsibility for the US’s ongoing opioid classic.

The awards, presented by Jury president Julianne Moore, brought a successful festival to a close. Other high-profile titles in the competition included Luca Guadagnino’s Bones & All, Andrew Dominik’s Blonde and Noah Baumbach’s White Noise. The event will, however, also be remembered for the press furore surrounding Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling and for endless speculation on the length of standing ovations. Attention now moves to the continuing Toronto International Film Festival.


Golden Lion: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed by Laura Poitras

Grand Jury Prize: Saint Omer by Alice Diop

Silver Lion: Bones & All by Luca Guadagnino

Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Cate Blanchett for TÁR

Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Collin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin

Golden Osella for Best Screenplay: The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh

Special Jury Prize: No Bears by Jafar Panahi

Marcello Mastroianni Award: Taylor Russell for Bones & All

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist