Israeli War Film 'Lebanon' Wins Golden Lion in Venice

Director dedicates prestigious award to former soldiers who 'come back from war safe and sound.'

Lebanon, an Israeli film that recounts Israel's 1982 invasion of its northern neighbor through soldiers' eyes, won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.

The festival jury announced the Golden Lion and other prizes on the last day of the 11-day screening of films from around the world.

The anti-war film, directed by Samuel Maoz, tells the story of Israeli paratroopers searching a hostile town. The conflict is seen through the binocular-aided eyes of those aboard an armored vehicle.

"I dedicate this work to people all over the world that come back from the war safe and sound," the director told the audience at the award ceremony. "They work, get married, have children, but the memories get stuck in their souls."

Maoz was a young man when he served as a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces during the invasion.

The operation led to a two-decade long occupation by Israel.

Variety has described the film as the boldest and best of the recent mini-wave of Israeli movies; the New York Times has called "an astonishing piece of cinema."

The awards jury was headed by Ang Lee, himself a Golden Lion-winning director.

Iranian-born Shirin Neshat, meanwhile, won the Silver Lion for best director for "Women Without Men", which chronicles the lives of four women from different walks of life against the backdrop of Iran's foreign-backed coup in 1953.

"This film speaks to the people of Iran fighting to find democracy and it speaks to the government of Iran," she told the closing ceremony.

"I plead to this government to give the people what they should have: basic human rights, freedom and democracy," she added, wearing a green bracelet to symbolize the color of recent street protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At the festival on Saturday, best actor went to Britain's Colin Firth in designer Tom Ford's directorial debut "A Single Man" and best actress went to Russian Ksenia Rappoport for "La Doppia Ora."