From Venice

The Gucci Award

'The Tree of Life' actress was honored on the sidelines of the Venice Film Festival, Venetia Thompson reports. Plus: photos of the Venice red carpet.

09.03.11 3:30 PM ET

The actress Jessica Chastain was awarded the inaugural Gucci Award for Women in Cinema for her performance in Terrence Malick’s film The Tree of Life Friday night in Venice, at a private black-tie dinner hosted by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini at the Cipriani Hotel.

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 02:  Madonna, Frida Giannini and Jessica Chastain attend the 2011 GUCCI Award For Women In Cinema at Hotel Cipriani on September 2, 2011 in Venice, Italy.  (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci)

Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images

Madonna, Frida Giannini, and Jessica Chastain attend the 2011 Gucci Award for Women in Cinema at Hotel Cipriani on Sept. 2, 2011 in Venice, Italy. Chastain, at right, received the inaugural award for her performance in Terrence Malick's film "The Tree of Life."

Chastain was among five nominees, including cinematographer Caroline Champetier, screenwriter Federica Pontremoli, producer Nansun Shi and director Athina Tsangari. The new annual award recognizes an outstanding artistic achievement by a woman in filmmaking, and in celebration, Gucci will make a grant of $25,000 to the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Chastain's name.

Madonna, who presented Chastain with the award, said, “Tonight’s the beginning of something very special … education is a subject I’m very passionate about, especially educating young women. And so is filmmaking.” She also emphasized that the award “will not only serve to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of groundbreaking women of the past, but also to provide inspiration for future generations,” and celebrates the “unique contributions women are making to the motion picture industry, women excelling in every aspect of film … breaking boundaries and producing remarkable work.”

Madonna demanded a drum roll before announcing the winner, joking that she’d been writing a musical all day between interviews and threatening to make the audience start singing it if they didn’t drum sufficiently rapturously on the tables. She went on to quote The New York Times’s description of Chastain’s “extraordinarily graceful” performance, quipping that it was “an understatement” before presenting her with the award in front of guests that included Robin Wright, James Franco (both members of the jury), Salma Hayek-Pinault, and Evan Rachel Wood.

Chastain, amused to find a clip from Tree of Life dubbed in Italian playing behind her as she took to the stage, joked, “I didn’t know I spoke Italian so well,” before saying that she “couldn’t think of a better example of an intelligent, creative, and dynamic woman than Madonna,” and that she was honored to receive the award.