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Excellence in Film on Display at the Cultured Focus Awards during the 79th Venice Film Festival

Cultured Focus Magazine honored film leaders from around the world during their 79th Venice Film Festival event—with American filmmakers making their presence known.

This year’s Cultured Focus Awards Ceremony and Diversity in Film Symposium was not an event to be missed by industry leaders. Still, we have the recap for those who couldn’t book their flight to the world’s longest-established film festival.

Take a Glimpse into the Star-Studded Event

The event took place at the Hotel Danieli, a luxury hotel overlooking the Venice Lagoon. It was hosted by Taylor Re Lynn—an American actress, producer, and philanthropist. She’s best known for her producer credits in Love Gilda (2018) and The Fencer (2015).

Award-winning American actress, producer, and writer Francesca Van Horne was the first to take the stage as the event’s moderator. She’s best known for her roles in FBI (2018) and Rumba Love (2021). Van Horne led the compelling discussion between a panel of film industry leaders, with numerous celebrities watching in the audience.

The Excellence in Film Award

American director, producer, and cinematographer Evgeny Afineevsky is no stranger to winning some of the most prestigious film awards in the world. His passion for storytelling goes far beyond a country’s borders: he visits some of the most dangerous places in the world for his documentaries. Many of his documentaries capture harrowing accounts of wartime; he isn’t afraid to push boundaries to share meaningful stories.

His film Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) earned him an Oscar and Emmy nomination in 2016. More recently, he has earned four Emmy nominations for his movie Cries in Syria (2017). In total, his documentary films have earned him almost 40 notable awards.

The follow-up to his award-winning film Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is similarly titled Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. It premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival this past week. Afineevsky attended the premiere with journalist Natalia Nagorna, his film’s main subject. He told the audience that every voice should be heard—now more than ever.

Cultured Focus Award 2022 Recipients

Cultured Focus Innovation in Film Award

American director, writer, and media artist Ainslee Alem Robson was honored with the Cultured Focus Innovation in Film award. Her film KANDAKA was featured during this year’s Venice Film Festival—telling the story of a strong female African leader who led her people into battle against the Romans. She calls her storytelling style both “experimental and emancipatory.”

Her innovative approach to conveying her message in film combines both film and emerging digital art techniques. She has also received the Special Jury Prize for Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR at the New Images Festival in France.

Cultured Focus Lifetime Achievement Award

While American film leaders seemingly swept the award ceremony, it was Italian actor and producer Pino Calabrese who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He began his career in 1972 as a theater actor but ultimately uncovered other diverse talents—working on musical works, dramatic theater, comedic theater, cabaret, and feature films. He holds an award from the Sorrento Film Festival for his work in the Italian film Respiri (2018).

Calabrese’s career has spanned more than five decades. He has starred in more than 30 movies throughout his time as an actor. He’s best known for his roles in Five Moons Plaza (2003), The Unknown Woman (2006), Respiri (2018), and Weekend per due (con delitto) in 2022.

Calabrese left the event’s audience with this impactful statement: “I would like to imagine a future in which each person could be represented on screen. Diversity is wealth. We should never forget it.”

Cultured Focus Visionary in Film Award

Afro-Italian screenwriter, director, and actor Daphne Di Cinto received the Cultured Focus Visionary in Film award. You may know her from her work in the ultra-popular Netflix series Bridgerton.

This isn’t Di Cinto’s first time receiving an esteemed award. She won Best Short Film at the Italian Black Movie Awards and Best Director of a Foreign Short Film at the Madrid International Film Festival for Il Moro (both written and directed by Di Cinto).

The award-winning film was screened during the 79th Venice Film Festival—inspiring the audience with the film’s true story. Di Cinto spoke about her inspiration for the film online.

She said, “Italy had a black head of state. It was Alessandro de’ Medici, the first Duke of Florence, in 1530. His story could have helped change the perception of the world, but it has been buried for centuries. His resting place in Florence doesn’t even bear his name. My dream is to turn the film into a TV series, so we can tell his story even louder.”

These stellar recipients that were honored based on their accomplishments in film are a testament to excellence not only in America, but internationally. We salute them and look forward to many more groundbreaking films from them ahead. The Cultured Focus Awards are a platform to recognize artists who through their work question and challenge the status quo.

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