The Italian Almanac

Marco Bellocchio

Golden Lion

Recalling the days before he was famous, iconic Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio once said that the great advantage of first films is the director's anonymity. "You're nobody and you have no history," he said. "You have the freedom to risk everything".

Today, Bellocchio is somebody, and the Venice Film Festival has noticed, awarding Bellocchio the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, to be presented by none other than fellow Italian film great Bernardo Bertolucci, who won the same award in 2007. "I am honored and moved by the fact Bernardo Bertolucci will award me the Lion," says Bellocchio. "Even though we have followed different paths, there have always been mutual interest, esteem and affection between us".

"With every new film, Marco Bellocchio takes us to destinations ever different from those we thought we'd reached and discovered," says Marco Mueller, Venice Film Festival Director, calling the auteur a "tireless traveller" and a "ferryman of ideas". Known for his politically militant cinema, he was a friend of Pasolini and made a significant impact on radical Italian cinema throughout the 1970s.

Bellocchio, 72, who is also an actor and screenwriter, made his directorial debut in 1965 with I Pugni in Tasca (Fists in the Pocket). His most recent film, Vincere (To Win), released in 2009, was based on a story about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's secret lover and illegitimate son and won international acclaim, placing Bellocchio among "the major Italian screen directors still active today.

Previous winners of the Golden Lion career prize include David Lynch, Clint Eastwood, Tim Burton, Francis Ford Coppola and Charlie Chaplin. Last year's prize last was won by cult Hong Kong film director and producer John Woo.