The film director Mira Nair has become the first Indian woman to win the prize for best movie at the 58th Venice Film Festival with her work Monsoon Wedding.
The film, which was shot in just one month using hand-held cameras, depicts the four-day preparations for a wedding being held by an affluent family in Punjab, India. It is a tribute to India's global diaspora, showing relatives flying in from points as far apart as Sydney, Australia, and Silicon Valley, California.
Nair, who teaches cinema in America, made her feature film debut in 1988 with Salaam Bombay!, which highlights the pressures on single women in a caste society.
Collecting her Golden Lion award, she said: "This one is for India, my beloved India, my continuing inspiration."
However, her relationship with her mother country has often been problematic. A tendency to highlight controversial issues has brought Nair before the censors, most notably for Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love in 1996. Nor doesMonsoon Wedding avoid controversy. The wedding preparations are marred by long-suppressed revelations of incest.
"I like to push the envelope," Nair said after accepting the award. "Movies are there to provoke and get under your skin. I just wanted to explore something very personal about my family, and families in general, in a free way."
Despite being hailed as a visionary by Nanni Moretti, the head of the Venice jury, Nair remained modest. "I didn't expect anything from this film really," she said. "I wanted to make a small thing, but I am so very happy to say that it has become big."
On being the first woman to win the prize, she said: "I am not one to hold a flag. If we win and we happen to be women, then wonderful."
L'Emploi du Temps (The Use of Time), by Laurent Cantet, depicting the true story of a man who resorts to murder to protect his fictitious life, won a new Golden Lion award for "Cinema of the Present".
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