Pro-abortion film wins Golden Lion Award at Venice Film Festival

Audrey Diwan
French filmmaker Audrey Diwan accepts a Golden Lion Award for "Happening" at the Venice Film Festival, Sept. 11, 2021. |

As the abortion debate intensifies in the United States, a pro-abortion film has received the top prize at the 78th annual Venice Film Festival. 

The French film “Happening” won the Golden Lion Award, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival held in Venice, Italy, from Sept. 1–11. According to the Internet Movie Database, “Happening,” marketed as “L’Evenement” in France, is based on a novel written by French author Annie Ernaux that looks back “on her experience with abortion when it was still illegal in France in the 1960s.” 

In her acceptance speech, director and screenwriter Audrey Diwan lamented the “silence around the theme of abortion.”

“I did this movie with anger,” she said. “I did the movie with desire also. I did it with my belly, my guts, my heart and my head.”

“I wanted ‘Happening’ to be an experience. I wanted to try to make the journey in the skin of this young woman,” she added. 

Speaking of the main character of the film, Diwan recalled that “On the set, I was always thinking, ‘let’s not look at Anne, let’s be Anne. And tonight, thanks to you … I know that the journey can be made whether you are a woman or a man.” She concluded her speech by saying, “I feel heard tonight.”

At a press conference Monday, those involved with the film praised it for its portrayal of the abortion debate. Actress Anamaria Vartolomei, who played the main character in the film, used her platform at the internationally renowned film festival to express support for the pro-abortion movement: “I found out about clandestine abortion thanks to #LEvenement.”

“I live in France, where abortion is legal today: it isn’t so in others [sic] countries. We should keep fighting for this right. We are all involved in this discussion,” she added.

Actress Anna Mouglalis also praised her character in the film as a “tribute to those women who fought for the right to abortion.” According to Mouglalis, “It is difficult to tell these stories, even in countries where abortion is legal. We should keep talking about it.” 

Writing for Variety, film critic Guy Lodge tied the film's plot to the abortion debate in the U.S. He specifically mentioned Texas’ Senate Bill 8, the recently enacted pro-life law that bans abortions after a baby's heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks gestation.

“Without didactic rhetoric or politicking, ‘Happening’ powerfully essays the risks of refusing women control over their bodies. As it premieres this week in competition at Venice, it’s impossible to watch it and not think of the recent, regressive change of abortion law in Texas. Fifty-eight years on from the film’s milieu, too few lessons have been learned,” he wrote. 

This year’s Venice Film Festival was not the first time performers in the entertainment industry have used acceptance speeches to promote pro-abortion views. Accepting an award at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, actress Michelle Williams suggested that her acting career would not have been possible “without employing a woman’s right to choose.” More recently, singer Cyndi Lauper used her platform as a presenter at last week’s MTV Video Music Awards to connect one of her most notable songs to the pro-abortion movement.

Proclaiming that “girls still wanna have fun,” a reference to her 1980s song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Lauper maintained that girls “also want to have funds, equal pay [and] control over our bodies, you know, fundamental rights.” As Lauper made those comments, the crowd erupted into applause.

The awarding of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Award to“Happening” and Lauper’s remarks come as the abortion issue is receiving increased attention in the U.S. Litigation over SB 8 continues after the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal judge have blocked efforts by abortion providers and the Biden administration to prevent the law from going into effect. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization for Dec. 1. In that case, the state of Mississippi is appealing a lower court ruling striking down the state’s 15-week abortion ban as unconstitutional. 

A ruling in favor of Mississippi would significantly weaken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that found women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies. A decision is expected by next spring. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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