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8 Sep, 2007 22:36

Russian film wins special jury award in Venice

With twenty-three films in the official competition of the 64th International Venice Film Festival, a special prize has gone to the Russian film 'Twelve' directed by Oscar-winning Nikita Mikhalkov.

Style and cinema went hand in hand at the closing ceremony of the Venice Film Festival. But for Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov it was all about numbers rather than looks.

A remake of Sidney Lumet's 1957 feature 'Twelve Angry Men', Mikhalkov's film 'Twelve' has little to do with the old classic except for that both films focus on a murder trial.

An 18-year-old Chechen boy is charged with killing his step father, a Russian officer. Twelve jurors are locked in the gym of a Moscow school to decide his fate. The decision has to be unanimous but when somebody's life is at stake, there's always room for hesitation, and tensions escalate.

Mikhalkov said he was desperate to make this movie and couldn’t help mentioning his favourite Federico Fellini.

“In Federico Fellini's ‘Eight and a Half’ Marcello Mastroianni’s character says something amazing that is: I would like to speak the truth, which I don’t know, but which I am seeking. And I agree with that – I am also trying to do that,” he explained.

Mikhalkov plays one of the jurors – he has done it in order to get under the skin of the film and communicate with the actors during the shooting.

Nikita Mikhalkov was pleased with the enthusiastic reception of his film at the festival.

“Our picture was shown on the last day when the festival was practically over, and minds were already made up. The film causeda real outpour, so the jury had to find a special solution. There has only been one other case when a special Golden Lion was awarded, and it was six years ago. It is unbelievable, our little picture turned the whole festival upside down. This is the first time I watched the film and when I saw the audience’s reaction I was stunned. I would have expected this response from Russians who are familiar with the situation in Chechnya but not from foreigners,” he commented.

Nikita Mikhalkov is one of the leading figures in Russia's cinema industry.

Born into an outstandingly artistic family, it was perhaps inevitable that Nikita Mikhalkov would make a significant contribution to modern Russian culture.

His father Sergey Mikhalkov is best known as a children's writer and the author of the lyrics for the Soviet and Russian national anthems.

Mother Natalya Konchalovskaya was a poet and the granddaughter of a prominent artist, Vasily Surikov.

Nikita Mikhalkov's first big acting experience was in 1963. While still a student, he starred in one of Russia's favourite movies 'I Walk through Moscow'.

All in all, he appeared in over 30 films and directed nearly 20.

'Dark Eyes' starring Marcello Mastroianni brought him his first international recognition in the late 80s.

Mikhalkov's most famous production is 'Burnt by the Sun'. The film received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar for the best foreign language film in 1994. Now the renowned director is filming the sequel.

It is not the first time Mikhalkov has presented his work at the Venice film Festival. In 1991 his film 'Urga', set in Mongolia, received the Golden Lion.

Nikita Mikhalkov is also a leading figure in Russia's cinema industry. He is the President of the Russian Society of Cinematographers and has been running the Moscow International Film Festival since the year 2000.

Meanwhile, the top prize of the 64th Venice Film Festival went to Ang Lee’s 'Lust, Caution' – an espionage thriller set in WW2-era Shanghai.

The Silver Lion went to Brian de Palma and his film ‘Redacted’ which focuses on U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq.

What does it take to be human in the world of wars and conflicts? That is exactly the question Nikita Mikhalkov’s film ‘Twelve’ has got an answer to.