The 74th Venice Film Festival (Aug 30-Sept 9) brings some Hollywood muscle to the Lido in the shape of George Clooney, Darren Aronofsky and Alexander Payne, who take their place alongside arthouse heavyweights Abdellatif Kechiche, Hirokazu Koreeda and Ai Weiwei.
On the eve of the festival, Screen has selected a few of the stand-out titles from this year’s event.
Read more: Venice Film Festival unveils 2017 line-up
Dir: Xavier Legrand
French actor-filmmaker Legrand makes his feature directing debut after being Oscar-nominated in 2014 for his short Just Before Losing Everything. He wrote the original story for Custody, about a broken marriage that leads to a bitter custody dispute; the film stars Denis Ménochet, Léa Drucker and newcomer Thomas Gioria. After its Venice premiere, Custody heads to Toronto’s Platform section. Haut et Court will release in France.
Contact: Frédérique Rouault, Celluloid Dreams (email@example.com)
Angels Wear White (China-Fr)
Dir: Vivian Qu
Following her directorial debut Trap Street, which premiered in Venice Critics’ Week in 2013, Qu becomes China’s first female director to gain a Venice Competition berth since Liu Miaomiao with An Innocent Babbler in 1993. Angels Wear White focuses on a teenage girl who is the only witness to a crime but says nothing for fear of losing her job. The film received support from France’s Centre National du Cinema and Région Ile-de-France and Switzerland’s Vision Sud Est. Qu is a key figure in Chinese independent cinema, having previously produced Night Train and Black Coal, Thin Ice. The latter won Berlin’s Golden Bear and best actor awards in 2014.
Contact: Wild Bunch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno (Fr-It)
Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
Kechiche’s follow-up to Blue Is The Warmest Colour is based on Francois Bégaudeau’s novel La Blessure, La Vraie and stars Lou Luttiau, Shain Boumediene and Ophelie Bau. The production was delayed by a contractual dispute after Kechiche delivered two films instead of one. Distributor Pathé Film voided the contracts and a key financier departed, forcing Kechiche to sell personal items (including his Palme d’Or) to help finish the project. Kechiche’s The Secret Of The Grain won the Special Jury Prize at Venice in 2007 (tied with I’m Not There). Venice fest director Alberto Barbera suggests Mektoub could be the first part of a trilogy.
Contact: Pathé International (email@example.com)
Dir: Darren Aronofsky
The dark prince of Venice has brought most of his recent films to the Lido and won the Golden Lion in 2008 for The Wrestler. He returns to his horror roots with mother!, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Kristen Wiig. Aficionados have been poring over the trailer for clues about the film, which portrays a couple whose seemingly tranquil existence is shattered by the arrival of unexpected guests. Paramount holds worldwide rights.
Contact: Paramount Pictures
The Third Murder (Jap)
Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda
Koreeda, who picked up a directing prize for 1995’s Maborosi, returns to Venice after two decades. While he is best known for his family dramas, The Third Murder is a legal thriller about a lawyer (played by Masaharu Fukuyama from Koreeda’s 2013 Cannes Jury Prize winner Like Father, Like Son) who questions his own belief in the law. Japan’s Gaga and France’s Wild Bunch reteam again to sell the new film following their collaborations on the director’s last few titles.
Contact: Haruko Watanabe, Gaga (firstname.lastname@example.org); Olivier Barbier, Wild Bunch (email@example.com)
Dir: Samuel Maoz
Israel’s Maoz returns to Venice with his long-awaited follow-up to 2009 Golden Lion-winning war drama Lebanon. Foxtrot, inspired by the director’s experiences as a soldier, is the story of a troubled family who must face facts when something goes terribly wrong at their son’s desolate military post. The film’s raft of well-respected arthouse producers includes Cédomir Kolar and Marc Baschet (No Man’s Land, The Lunchbox), Viola Fügen (Only Lovers Left Alive), Eitan Mansuri (The Congress) and Michel Merkt (Elle).
Contact: The Match Factory (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sweet Country (Aus)
Dir: Warwick Thornton
Period western Sweet Country is the first Australian indigenous feature to be selected for Competition in Venice. Thornton, winner of the Caméra d’Or at Cannes for Samson & Delilah in 2009, received production investment for the project from Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, Adelaide Film Festival, Screen NSW and South Australian Film Corporation. Starring Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Hamilton Morris and Gibson John, the story focuses on an Aboriginal cattle herder who is tried for murder.
Contact: Memento Films International email@example.com
The Shape Of Water (US)
Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Fox Searchlight fancies its awards season chances with Mexican filmmaker del Toro’s return to Venice 20 years after he unleashed Mimic on the Lido. Sally Hawkins stars in the Cold War-era romantic fantasy as a janitor who discovers an aquatic creature in the secret laboratory where she works. Other key cast include del Toro regular Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon as the scientist with the itchy scalpel finger. Searchlight will release in North America on December 8 and Fox International distributes everywhere else.
Contact: Fox International
Dir: Alexander Payne
Remarkably, this will be Payne’s first premiere on the Lido after an illustrious Oscar-nominated career that has featured Toronto and Cannes berths. This social satire stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who agree to be shrunk in order to save costs. Downsizing shot in Nebraska and partly in Norway, where the production received a $520,000 grant from the Norwegian Film Institute. Annapurna founder Megan Ellison and Damon packaged Downsizing, while Paramount funded the $70m film and distributes worldwide.
Contact: Paramount Pictures
Dir: Lucrecia Martel
The widely admired Argentinian director returns with her first narrative feature since 2008’s The Headless Woman. Zama is based on Antonio Di Benedetto’s novel and stars Daniel Gimenez Cacho as a Spanish military officer in the late 18th century who becomes embroiled in the hunt for a bandit in a South American backwater. Rei Cine and Brazil’s Bananeira Filmes produced with Spain’s El Deseo. Patagonik co-produced and Disney will distribute in Argentina.
Contact The Match Factory (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Private Life Of A Modern Woman (US)
Dir: James Toback
Toback flies into Venice with his latest drama starring Sienna Miller, Alec Baldwin, Charles Grodin and investor Carl Icahn (as himself). The film, which was shot in secret, is set in present-day New York, where an acclaimed actress turns down a role because she feels she cannot realistically kill someone on screen. When her cocaine-addled boyfriend comes over, the actress does the unthinkable. Michael Mailer produced.
CAA: Roeg Sutherland: email@example.com
Brawl In Cell Block 99 (US)
Dir: S Craig Zahler
Zahler does not shy away from gruesome material. His 2015 western Bone Tomahawk tackled cannibals, while buyers in Cannes described the screenplay for his upcoming police drama Dragged Across Concrete as relentlessly bleak. Brawl In Cell Block 99 stars Vince Vaughn as a former boxer-turned-drug dealer who finds himself in the middle of a prison war when a drug deal goes sour. Assemble Media produced with Cinestate, IMG Films and genre specialist XYZ Films, which handles international sales. RLJE Films will distribute in North America.
Contact: XYZ Films (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reinventing Marvin (Fr)
Dir: Anne Fontaine
Inspired by Édouard Louis’ novel En Finir Avec Eddy Bellegueule, this drama tells the story of a young man who is shunned by peers and family when he comes out as gay in his small town. Nocturama actor Finnegan Oldfield, a rising European talent, stars alongside Catherine Mouchet and Charles Berling, while there is also a supporting role for Isabelle Huppert. Coco Before Chanel and The Innocents director Fontaine wrote the script with Pierre Trividic.
Contact: TF1 Studio (email@example.com)
Nico, 1988 (It-Bel)
Dir: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Opening this year’s Horizons, Nicchiarelli’s road-movie biopic focuses on the final two years in the life of Velvet Underground chanteuse and muse Nico. Venice boss Alberto Barbera singled the film out to Screen International as proof that some Italian filmmakers are setting out to make “something different and international”. Starring Danish actress Trine Dyrholm (who began her career as a teen singer) and produced by Vivo Films, Nico, 1988 is likely to be one of this year’s few major Italian movie exports.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
West Of Sunshine (Aus)
Dir: Jason Raftopoulos
The debut feature from writer-director Raftopoulos, whose most recent short Kin screened at Cannes, was shot in Melbourne and tells the story of a father who has less than a day to pay back a debt to a loan-shark, while at the same time trying to look after his young son. Alexandros Ouzas (Plague) produces for Exile Entertainment. Backers include Screen Australia.
Contact: Alexandros Ouzas, Exile Entertainment (email@example.com)
Profiles by Charles Gant, Tom Grater, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Orlando Parfitt, Andreas Wiseman, Silvia Wong and Elbert Wyche