Venice Film Festival 2014: Competition, Orizzonti, Critics' Week, Venice Days titles
The Competition line-up for this year’s Venice Film Festival marks the return of mavericks such as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Fatih Akin, with a wealth of talent represented in the Orizzonti, Critics’ Week and Venice Days sections
99 Homes (US)
Dir Ramin Bahrani
Bahrani (Man Push Cart, At Any Price) shot this topical housing bubble drama in New Orleans. Andrew Garfield plays an unemployed father whose home goes into foreclosure; soon he is working for the duplicitous realtor (Michael Shannon) who caused his trouble in the first place. Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park and Image Nation Abu Dhabi produced and financed, with CAA repping US. Also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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Birdman, Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance (US)
Dir Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Michael Keaton plays a washed-up actor - famous for playing an iconic superhero - who stages a Broadway play in order to be taken seriously. A dark comedy from Inarritu, whose last film was Biutiful in 2010. Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone co-star; Gravity’s Emmanuel Lubezki serves as DoP. Set for US release on October 17.
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Black Souls (It-Fr)
Dir Francesco Munzi
Written by Munzi (Saimir) together with Gomorrah scribe Maurizio Braucci, Black Souls (Anime Nere) is a dark mob drama centred around three brothers from Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta Mafia and is based loosely on Gioacchino Criaco’s novel. It also plays in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema programme.
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The Cut (Ger-Fr-It-Rus-Can-Pol-Tur)
Dir Fatih Akin
Akin concludes his trilogy on love, death and the devil (after Head-On and The Edge Of Heaven) with The Cut, about the evil inherent in man. Set 100 years ago during the Armenian genocide, Tahar Rahim stars as a man struck mute by war who journeys across the world on a desperate search for his daughters (shooting took place in six countries). Akin won Berlin’s Golden Bear for Head-On and the best screenplay in Cannes for The Edge Of Heaven. Produced by Akin with Reinhard Brundig and the late Karl Baumgartner.
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Far From Men (Fr)
Dir David Oelhoffen
Far From Men (Loin Des Homes) is the second feature from Oelhoffen after he impressed at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2007 with In Your Wake (Nos Retrouvailles). An adaptation of Albert Camus’ short story The Guest (scripted by Oelhoffen with Antoine Lacomblez), Viggo Mortensen and rising star Reda Kateb star as a reclusive teacher and a villager in 1954 Algeria who are forced to flee the rebellion through the inhospitable Algerian Atlas range. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide the score. Also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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Fires On The Plain (Jap)
Dir Shinya Tsukamoto
Legendary cult actor-writer-director Tsukamoto (the Tetsuo series, Nightmare Detective) also takes cinematographer and editor credits on this ambitious feature shot in the Philippines about Japanese soldiers battling hunger and exile at the end of the Second World War. While this bears the same title as the classic 1959 Kon Ichikawa war film, it is not a remake, says the director, but a new adaptation of Shohei Ooka’s 1951 source novel.
Good Kill (US)
Dir Andrew Niccol
Following Gattaca and Lord Of War, Ethan Hawke reteams with writer-director Niccol to play a pilot-turned-drone operator, with Zoe Kravitz and Jake Abel on his crew, and Bruce Greenwood as his commanding officer. Fighting the Taliban by remote control by day, he returns to the Las Vegas suburbs at night to his wife (January Jones) and children, becoming increasingly tense and disillusioned. Produced by The Hurt Locker’s Nicolas Chartier with Zev Foreman. Also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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Il Giovane Favoloso (It)
Dir Mario Martone
This biopic of the Italian Romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi stars Elio Germano, who won the best actor prize at Cannes in 2010 for Our Life. Although Leopaldi’s life was cut tragically short by cholera at the age of 38, the poet still made a huge impact and Martone traces his influences, starting with his patrician father’s rich library. Also starring Isabella Ragonese, Michele Riondino and Anna Mouglalis.
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Hungry Hearts (It)
Dir Saverio Costanzo
Shot in New York on a low budget with just two leads - Girls and forthcoming Star Wars actor Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher - Hungry Hearts is based on the novel Indigo Child by Marco Franzoso, about an extreme eating disorder that affects a young mother who wants to keep her son pure. Costanzo, who also wrote the screenplay, is the director of the critically acclaimed The Solitude Of Prime Numbers. Hungry Hearts is also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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The Last Hammer Blow (Fr)
Dir Alix Delaporte
Delaporte reunites Clotilde Hesme and Gregory Gadebois, the stars of her
2010 breakout hit Angel & Tony, which premiered at Venice Critics’ Week and won best newcomer César awards for the two leads. That film was a strong seller for Pyramide, which boarded The Last Hammer Blow (Le Dernier Coup De Marteau) early in the production process. Written by Delaporte, it centres on a 14-year-old teenager in the south of France who has never known his father, a conductor. Spain’s Candela Pena co-stars.
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The Look Of Silence (Den-Fin-Indo-Nor-UK)
Dir Joshua Oppenheimer
Oppenheimer follows up his Oscar-nominated and Bafta-winning documentary The Act Of Killing with the only documentary in Competition at Venice. The Look Of Silence is a follow-up to, or completion of, his earlier work about the Indonesian genocide, looking at the other side of the story - the victims who are forced to co-exist with the people who murdered their families. Executive-produced by Andre Singer, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. Also playing in Toronto.
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Dir David Gordon Green
Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine and Chris Messina headline Green’s return to Venice Competition a year after Joe. This, his 10th film and backed by Worldview Entertainment, is about a lonely locksmith (Al Pacino) in a small town who is really an ex-con that gave up the woman he loved for one last big job 40 years ago. Repped by CAA and Cinetic for the US, the film is also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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Dir Abel Ferrara
Willem Dafoe plays the visionary poet and film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini on the last day of his life. The 54-year-old left-wing activist was murdered near Rome in 1975 by a 17-year-old male prostitute, but the case was reopened in 2005 with an inconclusive outcome. Ferrera stirred buzz with his controversial Welcome To New York recently; the outlaw director has already told the Italian press he knows who really killed Pasolini - so headlines should continue. Also a Special Presentation in Toronto.
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A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (Swe-Ger-Nor-Fr)
Dir Roy Andersson
Cannes habitué Andersson makes the switch to Venice for the third in his ‘living’ trilogy (after Songs From The Second Floor and You, The Living), all released at seven-year intervals. This time, the Swedish absurdist master treats viewers to the tales of Sam and Jonathan, two travelling salesmen (of joke items) who take us on a tour through human destinies. Holger Andersson and Nisse Vestblom star. Also plays in Toronto Masters.
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The Postman’s White Nights (Ru)
Dir Andrei Konchalovsky
The renowned Russian-American director and early Tarkovsky collaborator Konchalovsky (brother of film-maker Nikita Mikhalkov) returns to the Lido after a break of several years (his 2002 feature House Of Fools won a Silver Lion, and his 1963 feature, I Walk Around Moscow, will be shown in the Venice Classics programme). Konchalovsky’s latest film, The Postman’s White Nights, centres around a postman (Aleksey Tryapitsyn) who is the only link between a far-flung village and the outside world.
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The Price Of Fame (Fr-Bel-Swi)
Dir Xavier Beauvois
Beauvois, who broke through internationally with Cannes Grand Prix winner Of Gods And Men in 2010, travels to Venice for the third time with his sixth feature, The Price Of Fame (La Rancon De La Gloire), a 1970s-set black comedy about an ex-con and his pal living on the shores of Lake Geneva who hatch a scheme to steal Charlie Chaplin’s coffin and extort money from his widow, Oona. Benoit Poelvoorde and Chiara Mastroianni (also appearing in 3 Hearts) star with Roschdy Zem, Peter Coyote and Dolores Chaplin.
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Red Amnesia (Chi)
Dir Wang Xiaoshuai
Red Amnesia is a contemporary thriller about a widow whose life is shaken when she starts receiving anonymous phone calls. Starring Lu Zhong, Shi Liu, Feng Yuanzheng and Amanda Qin, Red Amnesia is directed by Sixth Generation master Wang, whose credits include 11 Flowers and Beijing Bicycle, and is world premiering at Venice before heading to Toronto as a Special Presentation.
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Dir Kaan Mujdeci
Mujdeci, a first-time director from Turkey, presents the only debut feature in Competition this year. He tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who lives with his poverty-stricken family on the Anatolian steppes. The boy wants a leading part in the school play, but his rival is the son of the village chief. His life changes when he finds Sivas, a fighter dog who turns him into a winner. The film previously won the post-production award at Istanbul Film Festival’s Meetings On The Bridge.
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Dir Rakhshan Bani-Etemad
Tales (Gheseh-ha) premiered at Iran’s Fajr International Film Festival in February. Dealing with the social problems of contemporary Iran, Tales, as its title suggests, features several stories of modern life with all its frustrations and heartbreak, and has a particular focus on the lives of women. Baran Kosari, Peyman Moaadi, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya and Farhad Aslani star.
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3 Hearts (Fr-Ger-Bel)
Dir Benoit Jacquot
Following the success of 2012’s Farewell, My Queen, France’s Jacquot returns for the fourth time to Venice Competition with 3 Hearts (3 Coeurs) - his 21st feature - starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Deneuve and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni. Belgium’s Benoit Poelvoorde co-stars in this story of chance meetings and missed opportunities written by Jacquot and produced by Edouard Weil and Alice Girard for Rectangle Productions. Also plays in Toronto.
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Belluscone, Una Storia Siciliana (It)
Dir Franco Maresco
Known for his surreal collaborations with Daniele Cipri, Maresco goes it alone in satirical documentary Belluscone, Una Storia Siciliana, which might be subtitled ‘Silvio Berlusconi: The Sicilian Connection’. Weaving interviews with the likes of faithful Berlusconi sidekick Marcello D’Utri (currently in prison for Mafia association) with bizarre scripted interludes, Maresco has described the film as “a kind of sci-fi B-movie”.
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Dir Duane Hopkins
Six years after his well-received Cannes feature debut Better Things, UK director and visual artist Hopkins is back - this time in Venice - with a character-driven thriller set, once again, among the dispossessed British underclass. George MacKay (For Those In Peril) plays Tim, a small-time Newcastle crook with a sense of ethics. The film had been hotly tipped for Cannes but was not finished in time.
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Dir Chaitanya Tamhane
Writer/director Tamhane’s feature directorial debut, made with a cast of non-professional actors, follows an ageing folk singer accused of performing a song that might have incited the suicide of a sewage worker. Tamhane, whose short film Six Strands played at several international festivals, received backing from Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund.
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Dir Michael Almereyda
One of Shakespeare’s more unfashionable works makes a play for a higher profile in this New York-set gangland adaptation by eclectic US director, producer and film critic Almereyda, best-known for his 2000 Hamlet, also set in contemporary New York. That film’s star, Ethan Hawke, returns here alongside Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Anton Yelchin and 50 Shades Of Grey lead Dakota Johnson. Pre-sales at last year’s AFM were robust, with around 20 territories already sold.
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Goodnight Mommy (Aust)
Dirs Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Produced by Austrian misery-meister Ulrich Seidl, this dark little genre chiller is set in an isolated countryside house and centres on young twins who begin to suspect the woman who returns wrapped in bandages after cosmetic surgery is not their mother. Filmed on 35mm, using extensive improvisational preparation and a Ken Loach-style chronological shooting schedule, this feature debut is one of the hot tickets in this year’s Orizzonti. It also heads to Toronto’s Vanguard section.
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Heaven Knows What (US-Fr)
Dir Josh Safdie, Ben Safdie
The latest indie outing by the New York-based Safdie brothers sees them return to fiction after the well-received basketball documentary Lenny Cooke. Hot talent Caleb Landry Jones stars alongside Arielle Jones, playing herself as a street kid battling addiction. Co-produced by Iconoclast Films - of Spring Breakers fame - this is the first film out of the stable from Elara Pictures, the production company set up by the Safdie brothers with Sebastian Bear-McClard and Oscar Boyson.
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Hill Of Freedom (S Kor)
Dir Hong Sang-soo
Hong’s 16th feature - though clocking in at just 66 minutes - is about a Japanese man who arrives in South Korea looking for the woman after whom he pines. While staying at a local guest house, he encounters a series of people who have an impact on him. Hill Of Freedom (Jayueui Onduk) stars Ryo Kase and Sori Moon. It also plays in Toronto Masters.
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I’m With The Bride (It-Pal)
Dirs Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele Del Grande, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry
I’m With The Bride (Io Sono Con La Sposa) is sure to become one of the talking points of Venice 2014. The partially crowd-funded documentary seeks to illuminate the plight of recent Syrian immigrants in Europe by filming a people-trafficking operation run by the directors themselves - using a staged wedding as cover for the flight of a handful of Syrians sans papiers from Milan to Stockholm. If charged under Italian law, the directors risk 15 years in prison for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
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Line Of Credit (Geo-Fr-Ger)
Dir Salome Alexi
Alexi’s Georgian-language feature debut stars local actress Nino Kasradze. The director studied at Paris film school La Fémis before making shorts and working as a journalist.
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Dir Elchin Musaoglu
Set against the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijani director Musaoglu’s second feature (following The 40th Door) is about the residents of a village who are forced to leave their homes because of an ongoing battle.
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Near Death Experience (Fr)
Dirs Benoit Delépine, Gustave Kervern
This Venice debut for the edgily comic French directing duo (Mammuth) could be their weirdest film yet. It stars controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq as a burnt-out phone company worker who heads for the mountains in the midst of an existential crisis. Little else is known about the project, which has been kept under wraps. With Houellebecq as the only credited actor, a lot will ride on his performance.
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The President (Geo-Fr-UK-Ger)
Dir Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Opening Orizzonti, émigré Iranian director Makhmalbaf’s first English-language feature is a modern-day fable of a dictator who is deposed in a coup and flees disguised as a street musician - so coming face to face with the people over whom he once ruled. This is one of two F&ME co-productions to have shot recently in Georgia, the other being Ben Hopkins’ upcoming Epic.
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Dir Quentin Dupieux
As Mr Oizo, French electronic musician Dupieux scored a major 1999 hit with the track Flat Beat. He later turned to directing with a string of surreal, low-budget indie films (among them Cannes-selected killer-tyre flick Rubber), all shot in the US. His multi-strand latest centres on a horror-film director - played by popular French comedian Alain Chabat - who has 48 hours to find and record the perfect scream.
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Dir Naji Abu Nowar
The directorial debut of UK-born Naji Abu Nowar follows two Bedouin brothers in 1916 Arabia who agree to help a British Army Officer and his guide on a mysterious mission across a dangerous desert.
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These Are the Rules (Takva Su Pravila) (Cro-Fra-Ser-Mac)
Dir Ognjen Svilicic
Svilicic, whose 2007 feature Armin won numerous festival prizes, tells the story of two parents who re-examine their lives after their son is beaten up in the street.
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La Vita Oscena (It)
Dir Renato De Maria
Based on Aldo Nove’s autobiographical novel published in 2010, La Vita Oscena stars Isabella Ferrari, Clément Métayer and Roberto De Francesco. The film is backed by Film Vision and Intelfilm with support from MiBAC.
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Without Pity (It)
Dir Michele Alhaique
Italian drama Without Pity (Senza Pieta) sees Pierfrancesco Favino as a labourer who also works for his loan shark uncle (Ninetto Davoli). Alhaique, whose acting credits include Nine and Horses, makes his feature directorial debut. Alexandra Rossi (ex-Paramount and New Line) is one of the producers.
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Your Right Mind (US)
Dir Ami Canaan Mann
Michael Mann’s writer-director daughter follows up the poorly received procedural Texas Killing Fields with a tough contemporary romance starring Katherine Heigl. She plays a country singer mired in a child custody battle, whose life is changed when she meets an itinerant folkster (Ben Barnes). With Heigl looking to revive her career with indie kudos, the placement in Orizzonti instead of Competition may not be a good sign.
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Dir Stéphane Demoustier
Demoustier’s debut feature 40-Love (Terre Battue) has a starry cast including Olivier Gourmet and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Described as an existential thriller, it follows a businessman determined to set up his own company, whatever the obstacles, and his equally ambitious tennis prodigy son. The film was co-produced by Les Films du Fleuve, the Belgian company run by the Dardenne brothers.
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The Coffin In The Mountain (Chi)
Dir Xin Yukun
Xin’s debut feature The Coffin In The Mountain (Binguan) is a village-set film noir with a plot that involves pregnancy, death and deception. Produced by Ren Jiangzhou of Sea Level Production, it follows on from the director’s short film Seven Nights, which travelled widely on the festival circuit. The 30-year-old writer-director worked on the screenplay for three years.
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The Council Of Birds (Ger)
Dir Timm Kröger
Hailed as a “certain discovery” by Critics’ Week programmers, 1920s-set The Council Of Birds, the first feature by young German auteur Kröger, is an atmospheric drama about a composer who has mysteriously disappeared from his cabin in the woods. It is the director’s graduation film from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, and Viktoria Stolpe produces. Kröger is already an experienced cinematographer.
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Dancing With Maria (It-Arg-Slo)
Dir Ivan Gergolet
Italian director Gergolet’s first feature-length documentary, which he shot in Buenos Aires, profiles 90-year-old Argentinian dancer Maria Fux, an inspirational teacher for many years but whose own body is beginning to give out on her. Dancing With Maria was made through Transmedia Production, which also worked with the director on his 2008 short noir Polvere. Dancing With Maria received a promo reel special screening at the Venice market last year.
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Flapping In The Middle Of Nowhere (Viet-Fr-Nor-Ger)
Dir Nguyen Hoang Diep
Vietnamese director Nguyen, the founder of production company Vblock Media, has made several shorts and documentaries, with Flapping In The Middle Of Nowhere (Dap Canh Giu’a Khong Trung) marking her feature debut. A Hanoi-set drama about a young pregnant girl who wants to have an abortion, the film received support from Paris-based Ciné-Sud Promotion as well as from a number of other European funds. Her short Two, Four And Six screened in Cannes.
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The Market (It)
Dir Diego Bianchi
Outspoken columnist and blogger Bianchi (also known as Zoro) makes his feature debut with a satire set during the sweltering summer of 2011. Plans to close the local market provoke furious controversy and expose racial and political tensions. The film has a strong pedigree: it is produced by Domenico Procacci (Gomorrah, We Have A Pope), whose Fandango handles sales, and is co-produced by Rai Cinema.
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Dir Nima Javidi
Peyman Moaadi, who played the husband in Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winner A Separation, is one of the leads in Melbourne, the debut feature from Iranian director Javidi. The film is an intense drama about a couple whose hopes of studying in Australia are undermined by a tragic accident. Javidi, who studied mechanical engineering before turning to film-making, has six shorts, two documentaries and more than 30 commercials to his name.
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No One’s Child (Ser)
Dir Vuk Rsumovic
Serbian director Rsumovic’s debut feature is the first Serbian entry in Critics’ Week in three decades. Inspired by a true story, it tells of an abandoned, feral child, discovered living with wolves in the Bosnian mountains. Rsumovic, an experienced TV director, won a work-in-progress award for No One’s Child in Les Arcs last year.
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Dir Suha Arraf
Celebrated journalist, screenwriter and producer Arraf, who co-scripted such films as The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree for Eran Riklis, as well as directing feature documentary Women Of Hamas, makes her dramatic debut with Villa Touma. The film, which Arraf also produced, is about three aristocratic Christian sisters from Ramallah who are struggling to cope with life under occupation. The cast includes Arraf’s fellow director Cherien Dabis (Amreeka).
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Between 10 And 12 (Bel-Fr-Neth)
Dir Peter Hoogendoorn
Two policeman are on their way to bring terrible news to a family, in the feature debut from Dutch film-maker Hoogendoorn, who developed the project at Binger Film Lab.
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The Dinner (It)
Dir Ivano De Matteo
The Dinner (I Nostri Ragazzi), a drama about a family dinner going horribly wrong, is inspired by Herman Koch’s worldwide bestselling novel of the same name (which was previously adapted as a Dutch-language film by Menno Meyjes and is also slated for a Cate Blanchett adaptation). Italian director De Matteo’s Balancing Act screened in Orizzonti in 2012.
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El 5 De Talleres (Arg)
Dir Adrian Biniez
Biniez’s second feature following his 2009 debut Gigante, which won the Silver Bear and best debut prize at Berlin, centres around a third-tier footballer who has fallen short of fame and fortune, and must look for a fresh start after his career comes to an end.
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The Farewell Party (Isr-Ger)
Dirs Sharon Maymon, Tal Granit
A group of friends in a Jerusalem retirement home build a self-euthanasia machine for their terminally ill friend in The Farewell Party (Mita Tova), a dark comedy by Granit and Maymon, whose Israeli blockbuster A Matter Of Size has been picked up by Paramount for a US remake. Also plays in Toronto.
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The Goob (UK)
Dir Guy Myhill
The feature debut from UK writer/director Myhill is a coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old boy (Liam Springs) in Norfolk. Sean Harris also leads the cast of the film, which is set against the world of stock-car racing. The Emu Films production was developed through popular UK low-budget scheme iFeatures.
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Labour Of Love (Ind)
Dir Adityavikram Sengupta
Sengupta’s feature debut Labour Of Love (Asha Jaoar Majhe) is a Calcutta-set, Bengali-language drama about two ordinary people living in the recession. Ritwick Chakraborty stars.
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Dir Christophe Honoré
Acclaimed French director Honoré’s 2011 film The Beloved closed Cannes, and now he is heading to Venice with this contemporary interpretation of Ovid’s classic story starring Amira Akili and Sébastien Hirel.
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Dir Felice Farina
The Physics Of Water director Farina returns with this film about the economic crisis in Italy, told from the point of view of a factory worker, a labour unionist and an office worker. The film stars Francesco Pannofino, Roberto Citran and Carlo Giuseppe Gabardini.
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Return To Ithaca (Fr)
Dir Laurent Cantet
The latest film from 2008 Palme d’Or winning director Cantet centres around a group of friends in Cuba celebrating the return of an exiled friend. Cantet’s Heading South won Venice’s Cinema For Peace award in 2005. The film also plays in Toronto Special Presentations.
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The Smell Of Us (Fr)
Dir Larry Clark
The director of cult film Kids returns with his first feature made outside the US, a portrait of a group of self-destructive skateboarders in Paris. The cast features Michael Pitt, Alex Martin and Niseema Theillaud. Clark’s 2001 film Bully was in Competition in Venice.
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Summer Nights (Fr)
Dir Mario Fanfani
The 1950s-set feature debut from French director Fanfani is about a husband and father who has a secret passion for transvestism. It stars Guillaume de Tonquédec and Jeanne Balibar.
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They Have Escaped (Fin-Neth)
Dir Jukka-Pekka Valkeapaa
This portrait of troubled youth centres around two teenage outcasts who embark on a cross-country journey. Finnish film-maker Valkeapaa’s last feature was 2009’s The Visitor. They Have Escaped (He Ovat Paenneet) also plays in Toronto’s Vanguard programme.
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