VENICE (Reuters) - Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," a tale of homosexual love in the mountains of Wyoming, won Venice's Golden Lion on Saturday, beating film festival favorite George Clooney in the race to take the top prize.
The latest movie by the director of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hulk" is adapted from a story by Annie Proulx and stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as love-struck cowboys whose forbidden affair begins in 1963 and ends 20 years later.
Taiwan-born Lee described "Brokeback Mountain" as a story of love against adversity. Independent and low-budget, like several U.S. entries at the festival, it was filmed in Canada to save money.
"After two big movies, I decided to make a small movie that really moved me," said Lee, who flew back from the Toronto Film Festival to take the award.
"I have the impression this is the most auteur-specialist of all film festivals and I never thought I would come here. I can't tell you how proud I am."
Critics had predicted Clooney's black-and-white tale of 1950s broadcasting courage, "Good Night. And, Good Luck," would win the Golden Lion, beating the 19 other films in competition.
Clooney, adored in Venice, did not go home empty-handed, winning an award for best screenplay with co-writer Grant Heslov.
His star, David Strathairn, won the best actor prize for his intense portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow, who used television to expose the bullying tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy in his anti-communist crusade.
"This film is a tribute to the reporters who are in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Africa, in our poor city of New Orleans, to bring us the truth," Clooney told a news conference.
"I don't believe it is a political statement per se. I felt that if I kept this in a historical context you could make your own decision."