Screen profiles the Horizons, Venice Days and Sconfini sections at this year’s Venice Film Festival (August 29-September 8).
Amanda (Fr) - dir. Mikhael Hers
One of French art cinema’s best-kept secrets, writer/director Hers is notable for a distinctively poetic, low-key strain of relationship drama. Following 2015’s globe-trotting This Summer Feeling, Hers offers a drama set largely in Paris, about a carefree man (up-and-comer Vincent Lacoste, seen recently in Christophe Honoré’s Cannes entry Sorry Angel) who finds himself guardian to his young niece after a traumatic incident. Co-stars include Redoubtable’s Stacy Martin, Ophélia Kolb and Greta Scacchi. Producer Pierre Guyard was a Screen International Future Leader in 2015.
Contact: mk2 Films
The Announcement (Tur-Bul) - dir. Mahmut Fazil Coskun
The first of Turkish filmmaker Coskun’s three films to premiere away from Istanbul Film Festival — the prior two being 2009 debut Wrong Rosary and 2013 follow-up Yozgat Blues — The Announcement (Anons) is based on the real events of May 22, 1963, when a group of retired colonels took over a Turkish radio station to announce a military coup. The film is produced by Turkey’s Filmotto Production, with Bulgaria’s Chouchkov Brothers.
Contact: Ioanna Stais, Heretic Outreach
The Armadillo’s Prophecy (It) - dir. Emanuele Scaringi
Based on cult Italian graphic novel La Profezia Dell’Armadillo, which has sold more than 100,000 copies since 2011, this quirky youth comedy by first-time feature director Scaringi, due for Italian release immediately after its Venice debut, was co-written by the book’s author, Zerocalcare. Producer Fandango will be hoping the film’s high-profile cast (Laura Morante and Sergio Castellitto are among several familiar faces) can broaden the audience beyond the book’s Generation Y fanbase, which might view with suspicion a commercial adaptation of a much-loved alternative comic about 20-somethings getting by in recession-hit Rome.
As I Lay Dying (Iran) - dir. Mostafa Sayyari
The debut feature from Iranian shorts filmmaker Sayyari is described as a “free adaptation” of William Faulkner’s celebrated 1930 Southern Gothic novel. It sees four siblings driving their father’s body to a farflung village for burial — an exhausting roadtrip that sees grievances come to light. Producer is Abbas Amouri of Iran’s Farhang Film Tehran.
Contact: Persia Film Distribution
Charlie Says (US) - dir. Mary Harron
Producer Dana Guerin believes now is the right time to bring Charlie Says to the screen and tell the story of members of the Manson family cult who face up to the reality of their crimes while serving life sentences. Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith plays Charles Manson for director Harron, whose iconoclastic credits include I Shot Andy Warhol and American Psycho. Suki Waterhouse and Hannah Murray co-star.
International contact: Nadine de Barros, Fortitude International US contact: United Talent Agency
The Day I Lost My Shadow (Syr-Leb-Fr-Qat) - dir. Soudade Kaadan
This fiction feature debut by France-born Syrian documentary filmmaker Kaadan (Obscure, 2017) follows a young mother desperately searching for gas in the war-torn Syrian countryside. The project participated in the Venice Gap-Financing Market in 2017, and has been supported by a variety of platforms including Aide Aux Cinemas Du Monde, HBF+Europe Minority Fund, Doha Film Institute, Abu Dhabi’s Sanad fund and the Asian Cinema Fund.
Contact: Stray Dogs
Deslembro (Bra-Fr-Qat) - dir. Flavia Castro
After a political exile with her family in Paris, a 15-year-old Brazilian girl moves back to Rio de Janeiro, where her father disappeared when she was six. She will have to deal with her loss all over again, since her father was probably killed while imprisoned by the military dictatorship. This is the first fiction film and second feature for Castro, who directed documentary Diary, Letters, Revolutions in 2011. Walter Salles is a producer, and production companies are Videofilmes, Tacaca Filmes and Flauk Filmes.
Contact: Loco Films
L’Enkas (Fr) - dir. Sarah Marx
French debut filmmaker Marx is director and co-writer of a streetwise story about a young man, fresh out of prison, looking to sell ketamine to ravers out of the back of a food van. Meanwhile at home, he is dealing with his clinically depressed mother (Sandrine Bonnaire). L’Enkas marks a breakthrough lead for Sandor Funtek, seen last year in Venice’s 2017 Horizons opener Nico 1988, playing the son of German singer Nico.
If Life Gives You Lemons (It) - dir. Ciro D’Emilio
This year’s candidate for Italian breakout is a title that Venice’s artistic director Alberto Barbera has tipped as “a small film… that could become a little sleeper, like Manuel last year”. Set in the Neapolitan hinterland, the film, titled Un Giorno All’Improvviso in Italy, focuses on a promising football player from a deprived background who is given the chance to sign for a major team. Debut feature director D’Emilio is surrounded here by other young Neapolitan talents, from DoP Salvatore Landi to producer Maurizio Piazza (Lungta Film).
Contact: Lungta Film
Jinpa (China) - dir. Pema Tseden
Produced by Wong Kar Wai’s Jet Tone Films, renowned Tibetan director Tseden’s latest tells a story of revenge and redemption between a truck driver and a hitchhiker whose destinies become intertwined when they ride together on the Tibetan plains. The cast is headed by Tibetan actor Jinpa, who was also in Tseden’s Tharlo (2015 Horizons) and Zhang Yang’s Soul On A String. Tseden’s credits include The Silent Holy Stones, The Search and Old Dog.
Contact: Block 2 Distribution
The Man Who Surprised Everyone (Rus-Est-Fr) - dirs. Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov
Russian filmmaking duo Merkulova and Chupov won several awards for their 2013 drama Intimate Parts, including the Trident Special Award at that year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Their latest sees a Russian man assume the identity of a woman in a superstitious belief that he can cheat death. The project took part in Transilvania Pitch Stop, and is a co-production between Russia’s Pan Atlantic Studio and France’s Arizona Productions, with support from the Estonian Film Institute.
Contact: Guillaume de Seille, Arizona Productions
Manta Ray (Thai-Fr-China) - dir. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
Dedicated to Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar, Thai director Phuttiphong’s debut feature deals with the topic of identity through the story of a Thai fisherman who rescues an unknown man washed up from the sea. Mai Meksawan’s Diversion is producing along with France’s Les Films l’Etranger and China’s Heyi Pictures, with support from Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund, France’s CNC and Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. Phuttiphong also works as a cinematographer, with credits such as Rotterdam Tiger Award winner Vanishing Point.
Memories Of My Body (Indonesia) - dir. Garin Nugroho
Inspired by Indonesian dancer-choreographer Rianto, veteran writer/director Nugroho’s 19th film pushes the cultural boundaries by focusing on a boy whose body bears both masculine and feminine characteristics. It is a sensitive issue in a Muslim country and yet is also part of local culture, as reflected in various traditional cross-gender Javanese dances. Produced by Ifa Isfansyah, the cast is mostly comprised of well-known dancers and stage actors from Java. Nugroho has won many accolades for his work, including Opera Jawa which premiered at Venice in 2006.
Contact: Maria A Ruggieri, Asian Shadows
On My Skin (It) - dir. Alessio Cremonini
At the centre of a controversy pitting Italian exhibitor associations against producer/distributor Lucky Red, this second feature (aka Sulla Mia Pelle) by writer-director Cremonini will air on Netflix on September 12 simultaneously with a limited Italian theatrical release. When announcing the line-up, Venice’s artistic director Alberto Barbera singled out the performance of Alessandro Borghi (Suburra, TV’s Suburra — La Serie) as Stefano Cucchi, a Roman drug dealer whose death in police custody in 2009 became a cause célebre that is still dragging through the Italian judicial system.
The River (Kaz-Pol-Nor) - dir. Emir Baigazin
Five years after his 2013 debut Harmony Lessons won a Silver Bear for cinematography in the Berlinale’s Competition, Kazakhstani writer/director Baigazin brings to Venice the third part of his ‘Aslan’ trilogy (which includes 2016’s The Wounded Angel). It tells of five brothers in a rural locale, whose lives change after a guest visits from the city. The River (Ozen) — which also plays in Toronto’s Platform section — was supported by a 2016 grant from the Asia-Pacific Film Association’s MPA APSA fund, and won first prize at Warsaw Film Festival’s Pitch and Meet project competition in 2017.
Contact: Films Boutique
Soni (India) - dir. Ivan Ayr
The feature debut of shorts filmmaker Ayr, Soni is a Hindi film exploring gender politics through the experiences of a Delhi policewoman. The project took part in Film Bazaar’s Work in Progress Lab in India in 2017, and is produced by Kimsi Singh of Jabberwockee Talkies, who also produced Ayr’s shorts The Perfect Candidate and Quest For A Different Outcome.
Contact: Kimsi Singh, Jabberwockee Talkies
Stripped (Is-Ger) - dir. Yaron Shani
The first in a planned ‘Love Trilogy’, Stripped (Erom) is the solo feature debut from Israel’s Shani, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated Ajami with Scandar Copti in 2009. The trilogy sees actors living as fictional characters for an entire year, and this first instalment revolves around two urban dwellers: a thirtysomething author suffering from anxiety and a directionless teenage musician. Saar Yogev and Naomi Levari produce for Black Sheep, with Michael Reuter co-producing for Post Republic.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
Tel Aviv On Fire (Lux-Fr-Is-Bel) - dir. Sameh Zoabi
Comedy Tel Aviv On Fire follows Palestinian Salam who must cross Israeli checkpoints to reach the TV studios where he works. Arab-Israeli Zoabi won a Cannes Cinefondation prize in 2005. He has since directed two features including 2010’s Man Without A Cell Phone, which screened at festivals including Jerusalem and Karlovy Vary. Happiness distributes in France and United King in Israel.
Contact: Indie Sales
A Twelve-Year Night (Sp-Arg-Uru-Fr) - dir. Alvaro Brechner
Following a Busan festival premiere for 2014’s Mr Kaplan and before that a Cannes Critics’ Week launch for Bad Day To Go Fishing, Uruguay’s Brechner lands in Venice with A Twelve-Year Night (aka Memories From The Cell) inspired by the 12 years of solitary confinement experienced under a military dictatorship by three of the country’s notable citizens, including Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, later the country’s president. Producer partners include Spain’s Tornasol.
Contact: Latido Films
Domingo (Bra-Fr) - dirs. Clara Linhart, Fellipe Barbosa
The debut narrative feature of Brazilian assistant director Linhart (whose credits include Elite Squad) and the fourth feature for co-director Barbosa (who directed Gabriel And The Mountain, which played Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2017) is an ensemble drama set on the inauguration day of socialist president Lula da Silva in 2003. The members of two middle-class families get together in a dilapidated mansion to barbecue and share secrets. Backers include Globe Films, Arte France and CNC.
Contact: Films Boutique
Emma Peeters (Bel-Can) - dir. Nicole Palo
Closing Venice Days out of competition, the second feature by Belgium’s Palo, following Get Born in 2008, is a comedy exploring mental health. Monika Chokri stars as a suicidal woman on the eve of her 35th birthday, who has spent years struggling to make it as an actress in Paris. She strikes up a strange complicity with a funeral director, played by Fabrice Adde. The producers are Take Five and Possibles Media.
Contact: Catia Rossi, True Colours
Graves Without A Name (Camb-Fr) - dir. Rithy Panh
Cambodian director Panh extends his exploration of the horrific legacy of the murderous Khmer Rouge following The Missing Picture and Exile with this documentary about a 13-year-old boy’s search for the remains of his missing family. Graves Without A Name is produced by France’s Catherine Dussart.
Jose (Guat-US) - dir. Li Cheng
China-born, US-based director Li Cheng lived in Guatemala for nearly two years to research this story of the relationship between a god-fearing mother and her 19-year-old son. They live together in one of Latin America’s most impoverished countries, but their fragile dynamic is threatened when the son meets a man for whom he falls passionately.
Contact: YQ Studio
Joy (Aust) - dir. Sudabeh Mortezai
The second narrative feature from Austrian director Mortezai following the award-winning Macondo in 2015, Joy is set in the world of Vienna’s sex workers and follows a Nigerian woman trying to make a new life for herself and her daughter. It is produced by Sabine Moser and Oliver Neumann of Vienna’s FreibeuterFilm and received backing from the Austrian Film Institute and Vienna Film Fund. Joy Anwulika Alphonsus, Precious Mariam Sanusi and Angela Ekeleme Pius head the cast.
Contact: Films Boutique
Keep Going (Bel-Fr) - dir. Joachim Lafosse
The latest feature from prolific Belgian filmmaker Lafosse is an adaptation of a novel by Laurent Mauvignier. Keep Going (Continuer) stars Virginie Efira as a mother who takes her wayward teenage son (Kacey Mottet Klein) on a horseback trek across Kyrgyzstan’s hostile but magnificent environment. The film is a co-production between Belgium’s Versus Production and France’s Les Films du Worso.
Contact: Le Pacte
Pearl (Switz-Fr) - dir. Elsa Amiel
Set in the world of women’s bodybuilding, Amiel’s feature debut stars Swiss bodybuilder Julia Fory with Peter Mullan, Belgium’s Arieh Worthalter and Poland’s Agata Buzek. Pearl is a co-production between France’s Unite de Production and Switzerland’s Bande A Part and KNM. Haut et Court has French rights.
Contact: mk2 Films
Real Love (Fr) - dir. Claire Burger
This is the second feature from French filmmaker Burger, who co-directed Cannes 2014 Camera d’Or winner Party Girl. Real Love (C’est Ca L’Amour) is a semi-autobiographical drama starring Bouli Lanners as a man left to bring up his two turbulent teenage daughters after his wife walks out. Isabelle Madelaine produced through her Paris-based Dharamsala.
Contact: Indie Sales
Ricordi? (It-Fr) - dir. Valerio Mieli
Ricordi? is the second film by Italian director Mieli and his second to screen in Venice Days following 2009’s Ten Winters. Luca Marinelli and Linda Caridi star in the love story as a couple who look back —and forward — at their relationship in a story that differs depending on each character’s point of view. Ricordi? is a co-production between Italy’s BiBi Film and France’s Les Films d’Ici. Rai Cinema backed it in collaboration with Cattleya.
Contact: Le Pacte
Screwdriver (Pal-US-Qat) - dir. Bassam Jarbawi
The feature debut of Palestinian director Jarbawi stars Ziad Bakri as a newly released political prisoner who does not feel like he is the hero everyone hails him to be. Screwdriver (Mafak) was shot on location in the West Bank with a largely Palestinian crew. At project stage, it participated in Film Independent Fast Track and IFP No-Borders, Dubai Film Connection and the MIA New Cinema Network in Italy. Backing came from the Doha Film Institute, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and the Sundance Institute. It was also selected for Jordan’s Rawi Screenwriters Lab and the Sundance Creative Producing Lab.
Contact: Rimsh Film
Three Adventures Of Brooke (China-Malay) - dir. Yuan Qing
The debut feature from China’s Yuan is about a young woman, played by Xu Fangyi, who takes a road trip to Alor Setar in northern Malaysia. When her car breaks down, she experiences three different adventures as she introduces herself to the people she meets using three different identities: a traveller, an anthropologist and a divorcee. Pascal Greggory co-stars as a lonely French writer.
Contact: Parallax Films
Ville Neuve (Can) - dir. Felix Dufour-Laperriere
This animated feature tells the story of an estranged couple’s stormy reunion, set against the turbulent political backdrop of the Quebec independence referendum in 1995. The film is the first feature animation from Montreal-based screenwriter and director Dufour-Laperriere, whose work comprises animation, documentaries and experimental shorts. Telefilm Canada and Sodec are among the backers.
Contact: Urban Distribution International
Sconfini (Formerly ‘Cinema In The Garden’)
The Anarchist Banker (It) - dir. Giulio Base
Maverick Italian actor/filmmaker Base brings Portuguese literary giant Fernando Pessoa’s 1922 provocative dramatic dialogue The Anarchist Banker to the screen for the first time. Shot entirely at Cinecitta studios, the Rai Cinema-backed film stars Base as a banker who argues that making pots of money is the purest form of anarchism. Co-producer Emanuele Nespeca of Solaria Film also helped fund this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard contender After The War.
Contact: Agnus Dei Production
Arrivederci Saigon (It) - dir. Wilma Labate
Both of the Venice films backed by Italian culture ministry distributor Istituto Cinecitta Luce this year are by female directors. This one, from Roman writer/director Labate, is a documentary about an all-girl pop group from an industrial district of Tuscany who landed an improbable Southeast Asian tour in 1968 — and ended up playing for US troops in Vietnam. Labate’s film history of Venice, Raccontare Venezia, played in Venice Days last year.
Contact: Rai Com
Camorra (It) - dir. Francesco Patierno
Back in Venice a year after his Valentina Cortese documentary Diva! screened out of competition, Neapolitan director Patierno returns to cover the Mafia for the first time since his potent 2003 drama Pater Familias, which debuted in the Berlinale’s Panorama section. This time, Patierno addresses Naples’ Camorra via footage culled from Rai Teche, the archive of Italian state broadcaster Rai, which under director Maria Pia Ammirati is launching a series of creative collaborations with Italian filmmakers.
Contact: Todos Contentos Y Yo Tambien
Magic Lantern (US) - dir. Amir Naderi
Naderi’s Venice history includes an honourable mention for Vegas: Based On A True Story in 2008; co-writing Ramin Bahrani’s 2014 feature 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield; and premiering drama Mountain there in 2016. He also received the Glory to the Filmmaker award at that year’s festival. Sophie Lane Curtis (The Childhood Of A Leader) leads the Magic Lantern cast, which also includes Jacqueline Bisset, Star Trek: Voyager’s Robert Beltran and James Jagger (son of Mick). Runner Films and Scion Pictures produce.
Contact: Ramin Naimi
School’s Out (Fr) - dir. Sébastien Marnier
This second feature from writer/director Marnier — following 2016’s Faultless (Irréprochable) — stars Laurent Lafitte, who upped his international profile in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. He plays a man who signs on as replacement teacher at a prestigious private school, following the suicide of a staff member. The pupils prove formidably intelligent and strangely hostile, as the newcomer tries to uncover their secrets. Caroline Bonmarchand produces for Avenue B Productions, with Haut et Court distributing in France.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
The Young Fan (It) - dir. Gipi
Like Horizons title The Armadillo’s Prophecy, this is another Italian production by Fandango based on a story by a graphic novelist. The difference is that it was conceived directly for the screen by cartoonist-turned-director Gipi, whose first feature The Last Man On Earth screened in Venice’s Competition in 2011. Something of a comic meta-documentary, the film stars Gipi himself in a quest to find a mysterious fan who, claiming to be 15, has for years been writing letters to Italian cartoonists asking for a signed sketch.
Profiles by Nikki Baughan, Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Tom Grater, Elaine Guerini, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Jonathan Romney, Louise Tutt, Silvia Wong and Orlando Parfitt