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Jun 25th 2015

Late August, Early September

When is the best time to visit Venice? Better go there during the final days of summer or the first days of fall. It's sunny, but not too warm. It gets a bit cold at night. Tourists don't crowd this seaside gem during this time of the year, but expect the stars coming.

The Venice Film Festival, founded in 1932, is one of the oldest film festivals in the world. It runs from late August to early September, but this year's event will be on September 2-15. The best film is awarded the Golden Lion Award. The past recipients achieved international stardom. ("Rashōmon" was the winner of the Golden Lion Award in 1951. Japanese movies were sought afterwards.) Let's have a look at some of the past winners:

Vagabond (1985) by Agnès Varda. Mona left her office job in Paris and wandered the countryside. She wanted to be free from responsibility. Varda penned a thought-provoking tale, prompting viewers to question their priorities. The events took place many years before the backpacking lifestyle became a phenomenon, which Mona might try. It would be easy to judge this young woman, lamenting the opportunities she passed up. But there were lots of what ifs.

The Story of Qiu Ju (1992) by Zhang Yimou. In an unnamed rural town in China, a man was kicked in the groin by the village head. His pregnant wife wanted justice, but she found out that the case could be a Catch-22. Many would applaud her resolve, as the film was a subtle attack on the bureaucracy. It was a risky, if not foolish, move by Zhang Yimou, confirming what the West had long suspected of the Chinese government. A number of scenes revealed the idiosyncrasy in China's rural regions, both amusing and baffling at the same time.

Before the Rain (1994) by Milčo Mančevski. Three different stories were related to one another. A young monk left the monastery to save an Albanian girl accused of murder. A married editor fell in love with a disillusioned war photographer. The same man saw his hometown in Macedonia torn by the Balkanization of Yugoslavia. Three tragic affairs revealed the bitter truth about the conflict in the Balkan region. No one could tell how it started and where it would end. This was Mančevski's debut feature, which earned him an Academy Award (for Best Foreign Language Film) months later. His lyrical work spoke of despair and death.

Cyclo (1995) by Trần Anh Hùng. The image of Ho Chi Minh, the largest metropolis in Vietnam, seemed to be far from the colonial days. Gone were the thousands of dead bodies, the price this Southeast Asian country must pay to achieve their independence. And the future looked promising, as tourists were drawn to the landmarks that revealed its storied past. But Trần's feature revealed a disturbing image. There was another side of Saigon, where the poor struggled to find their place in this burgeoning city. Many scenes have little dialogue, which made the message loud and clear.

The Magdalene Sisters (2001) by Peter Mullan. During the 19th century, the Magdalene Asylums were the place for disgraced women. Many were unwed mothers, hoping that the nuns who ran the institutions would provide them hope and comfort. It turned out to be the opposite. Mullan's story was based from one such asylum in Ireland, and how the Roman Catholic faith betrayed these young women. Perhaps it was too late for an apology, but the movie would stir another debate.

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