From Venice

Jessica Chastain Wins 2011 Gucci Award for Women in Cinema

'The Tree of Life' actress was honored on the sidelines of the Venice Film Festival. By Venetia Thompson.

Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images

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.

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.