On Venice Opening Night, Roberto Benigni Gives Somber Ceremony Its Spark

And the rest is yours, especially the wings because if I've been able to soar, it's thanks to you."” /> I will take the tail, to express my joy, to show you my cheer. "We've done everything together for 40 years," Benigni said. "So I can't dedicate the Lion to you, but we can split it.
He also saluted Italian President Mattarella, whose term ends next year, and asked him to stay a few more years because he brought the country luck. Italy won this year's European Championship so having him in charge would help the country also win the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
"Please, all of you at the festival, be ready to fall in love and know that no matter what, life is beautiful, because Bob proved it," Campion told the opening-night audience.
Venice has been forced to place a wall-like outer barrier shielding the long catwalk entirely, in order to avoid close-knit crowds. But that did not diminish the balmy evening's glamorous mood, pervaded with a spirit of restart.
The 78th Venice Film Festival opened on Wednesday with the world premiere of Pedro Almodóvar's "Parallel Mothers," starring Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit, who strutted down the walled-in red carpet alongside other top talent, and Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella.
I was flabbergasted, discombobulated. Thank you very much. It's so funny, incredible. "These words will always remain in my heart. It was incredible, unforgettable," Benigni said to Campion in English.
The ceremony was hosted by Italian actor and singer Serena Rossi, who in her opening speech paid tribute to the crisis in Afghanistan.
And predictably, it was Benigni who gave the otherwise somber ceremony its spark. Roberto Benigni received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.
Jury president Bong Joon Ho, after taking the stage, said, "We all believe the Corona COVID [crisis] will be over soon, yet the cinema will remain with us forever."
Benigni then moved to the dais, where he delivered a long speech in Italian in which he said that when Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera called him, he "danced a naked rhumba" and pointed out that he comes "from poverty."
The crisis will be a focal point for discussion at Venice, with an official panel on how Afghan filmmakers are being impacted as the Taliban takes power, and the need for them to be granted political refugee status.
And I want to tell you: You are not alone," Rossi went on to proclaim. "I also think about artists and film directors from that country and their families that are running a huge risk, and that over the years have been building a cultural scene centered on respect and equality.
"He performed that miracle with his Oscar-winning film, turning a Holocaust story into a dark, divine comedy of self-sacrifice," Campion added. "And then he topped it by scooting over the seats of the celebrities' chairs, leaping on to the stage to give a performance of an acceptance speech unparalleled in the Academy's history."
Declaring herself grateful that the festival "drew him out of the cave," Campion — whose own film "The Power of the Dog" premieres in Venice on Thursday — called Benigni "a comic genius with heart and sincerity who can embody joy as if he were a bottle of Prosecco exploding.”
"My thoughts to Afghan mothers, to those skinny arms on the barbed wire; to mothers ready with an extreme gesture to separate from their children," she said.
Benigni then thanked his wife, Braschi, and said they would split the Lion.
Introducing Benigni was "The Piano" director Jane Campion, whose astute observations about the actor suggested a close friendship with both him and his wife, producer and actor Nicoletta Braschi.

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