The first major film festival to present a physical event since Covid-19 struck aims to unspool on the Venice Lido from September 2-12, showcasing a refreshing number of female directors after decades of heavy male bias.
Screen profiles the Competition section, including new titles from Chloé Zhao, Gianfranco Rosi and Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
And Tomorrow The Entire World (Ger-Fr)
Dir. Julia von Heinz
German director von Heinz’s sixth feature is her first to launch at a major international film festival since her debut, Nothing Else Matters, played at the Berlinale in 2007. It centres on a young anti-fascist protester who falls in love but has to go into hiding following a wave of racist violence in Germany. Mala Emde (Lara) and Noah Saavedra star, with Germany’s Seven Elephant leading production alongside French co-producer Haïku Films.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dear Comrades (Rus)
Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky
Veteran Russian filmmaker Konchalovsky has been screening films at Venice for almost 60 years, having first appeared with Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1962 Golden Lion-winning Ivan’s Childhood, which he co-wrote. His latest may be considered a take on the Soviet regime; it is inspired by a real-life tragedy from 1962, when Soviet military opened fire on construction plant workers staging a street protest. The black-and-white feature was shot in a near 1:1 format.
Contact: Films Boutique
The Disciple (India)
Dir. Chaitanya Tamhane
Indian filmmaker Tamhane’s feature career got off to a strong start when his documentary-style Courtpremiered in Venice’s Horizons in 2014, winning best film in the category and the festival’s Luigi De Laurentiis award (Lion of the Future) for best debut; he subsequently won the best feature film prize at India’s National Film Awards. Having guided Tamhane through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, Alfonso Cuaron now serves as executive producer on this drama set in the world of Indian classical music in Mumbai, which is also showing in Toronto. Vivek Gomber (Court) produces for Zoo Entertainment.
Contact: Jan Naszewski, New Europe Film Sales
In Between Dying (Az-US)
Dir. Hilal Baydarov
A young man searches for his ‘true’ family, not realising that love resides in the place he has always lived. Azerbaijani filmmaker Baydarov continues his ferocious output: he has now written, directed, shot and edited seven features in less than three years. Joslyn Barnes and Carlos Reygadas are co-producers here, with Danny Glover as an executive producer. This is Baydarov’s first major festival premiere, after previous debuts at Montreal, Jihlava, Trieste and Visions du Réel.
Contact: Pluto Film
Laila In Haifa (Isr-Fr)
Dir. Amos Gitai
Israeli director Gitai has presented 11 works in Venice since 1989, when his 1930s-set drama Berlin-Jerusalem played in Competition. He was last at the festival in 2018 with short A Letter To A Friend In Gazaand contemporary comedy-drama A Tramway In Jerusalem, which played out of competition. Gitai returns this year with a wry ensemble drama set against the backdrop of a nightclub in the Israeli port city of Haifa, which is frequented by both Israelis and Palestinians — a rare occurrence in the conflict-riven territory. It is produced by Gitai’s Agav Films, Paris-based Catherine Dussart Productions and Israel’s United King Films.
Contact: HanWay Films
Dir. Nicole Garcia
Stacey Martin and Pierre Niney co-star in this thriller as passionate lovers who are separated by tragic events only to re-meet three years later on an Indian Ocean island. The woman has since married and is holidaying with her husband, played by Benoit Magimel. Garcia, who started her career as an actress before becoming a prolific director, usually screens in Cannes, as with her last film, 2016’s From The Land Of The Moon. She co-wrote the screenplay with long-time collaborator Jacques Fieschi. Les Films Pelléas and Mars Films produce.
Contact: France Televisions Distribution
The Macaluso Sisters (It)
Dir. Emma Dante
Like Sicilian director Dante’s 2013 feature debut A Street In Palermo (Via Castellana Bandiera), this ensemble film about five Palermo sisters is based on one of her own stage plays. And like that road-rage western (whose co-star Elena Cotta nabbed Venice’s best actress award), Le Sorelle Macaluso, as it is known in Italy, has been handed a Competition slot. Sold once again by a French company (Playtime handled Dante’s last), The Macaluso Sisters looks set to tap into Elena Ferrante fever, with early clips suggesting something of a My Brilliant Friend vibe.
Miss Marx (It-Bel)
Dir. Susanna Nicchiarelli
Italy’s Nicchiarelli opened Venice’s Horizons in 2017 with Nico, 1988, winning best film in the section. Having in the interim co-created Italian TV series Luna Nera for Netflix, she now returns to Venice with this English-language biographical drama about Karl Marx’s youngest daughter Eleanor (Romola Garai), including her fight for women’s rights and the abolition of child labour, and her tragic relationship with Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy). Italy’s Rai Cinema and Vivo Film produce alongside Belgium’s Tarantula.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
Never Gonna Snow Again (Pol-Ger)
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert
Prolific Polish director Szumowska makes her debut in Venice’s official selection, having sat on the festival’s Competition jury in 2018. Her latest feature is co-directed by her longtime cinematographer Michal Englert, with whom she worked on Berlinale award-winners Mug, Body and In The Name Of. Their latest feature is a comedy-drama that centres on a Ukrainian migrant working as a masseur in Poland — played by Stranger Things’ Alec Utgoff — who becomes a guru-like figure in the gated community where his clients live. The film is Poland’s submission to the Oscars’ best international feature category.
Contact: The Match Factory
New Order (Mex-Fr)
Dir. Michel Franco
Mexican filmmaker Franco, whose last film April’s Daughter won the Un Certain Regard special jury prize at Cannes in 2017, presents a dystopian drama that plays out as a group of people crash a society wedding. Franco’s Teorema produced and France’s Les Films d’Ici is co-producer. Diego Boneta (Terminator: Dark Fate), Monica del Carmen (Babel), Naian Gonzalez Norvind and Fernando Cuautle star. New Order will also screen in Toronto.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Chloé Zhao
China-born director Zhao followed her feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) with the hugely acclaimed The Rider (2017), winning best feature at the Gothams among other accolades. Her third feature — which will also screen in Toronto — stars Frances McDormand as a woman who packs her van and hits the road after the economic collapse of her Nevada home town. The film also features three real-life nomads who serve as mentors and comrades on the journey. Zhao produces alongside her regular producer partner Mollye Asher plus McDormand, Dan Janvey (Patti Cake$) and Peter Spears (Call Me By Your Name) for Disney’s Searchlight Pictures.
Contact: Searchlight Pictures
Dir. Gianfranco Rosi
“Don’t expect explosions, destruction and corpses,” says Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera of Rosi’s documentary, shot by night over three years along the borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Kurdistan. This is the fourth of Rosi’s five features to premiere at Venice and the second in Competition, after Sacro GRA, which picked up the Golden Lion in 2013 (the exception was his 2016 Lampedusa migrant film Fire At Sea, which won the Golden Bear in Berlin). Also screening at Toronto, Notturno was picked up by Submarine Entertainment for North America, with The Match Factory selling in the rest of the world.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Claudio Noce
With his third feature, Italian director Noce steps into the Competition spotlight after premiering his previous films in the Critics’ Week sidebar at Venice (Good Morning Sama, 2009) and at Rome Film Festival (The Ice Forest, 2014). Co-written by the director and co-produced by actor Pierfrancesco Favino, who takes a leading role, Padrenostro is based on a terrorist attack Noce witnessed as a child in 1976, during Italy’s Years of Lead. The film’s Italian distributor Vision Distribution is also handling world sales.
Contact: Vision Distribution
Pieces Of A Woman (Can-Hun)
Dir. Kornel Mundruczo
The Crown star Vanessa Kirby leads a cast that includes Sarah Snook, Shia LaBeouf and Benny Safdie, in a story about a grieving woman’s emotional journey after the loss of her baby. Mundruczo’s seventh feature — executive produced by Martin Scorsese — will head to Toronto after Venice, and is his first fully in the English language. His 2014 breakthrough White God won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize, while his upcoming projects include a feature about Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man.
Contact: Linda Jin, Bron Releasing
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bos & Her-Austria-Rom-Neth-Ger-Pol-Fr-Nor-Turkey)
Dir. Jasmila Zbanic
Following Berlin, Toronto and Locarno premieres for her previous four fiction features, Sarajevo-born Zbanic makes her Venice debut with a 1995-set drama about the titular Bosnian translator working for the United Nations peacekeeping task force. When the town of Srebrenica is invaded by the Serbian army, her husband and sons find shelter in a UN camp — but Aida’s inside knowledge of negotiations gives her fears for their safety. Developed at the eQuinoxe Europe script development lab, Quo Vadis, Aida? is produced by Zbanic and Damir Ibrahimovic for their Sarajevo-based Deblokada in a multi-territory co-production, and is also set for Toronto.
Contact: Clément Chautant, Indie Sales
Sun Children (Iran)
Dir. Majid Majidi
Veteran Iranian filmmaker Majidi makes his Venice debut with this story of a gang of young friends who enrol at a school for child labourers in order to get close to some “hidden treasure”. An Iranain edit previously premiered at Fajr Film Festival, where it won three awards including best film. The version now screening at Venice is the international cut and is roughly 40 minutes shorter. Majidi’s films include family drama Children Of Heaven, which was Oscar nominated in 1999; The Father, which won San Sebastian’s jury prize in 1996; and The Song Of Sparrows, which won a best actor prize for Mohammad Amir Naji at the 2008 Berlinale.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
Wife Of A Spy (Jap)
Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring Yu Aoi (2018’s Killing) in the title role, Kurosawa’s first historical drama is set in 1940s Kobe. Despite the Second World War background it is not a war film, as the focus is on an ordinary married couple struggling to overcome distrust and stay faithful to each other. A new theatrical version will premiere in Venice, different from the one Japanese broadcaster NHK played on its 8K pay-channel in June. Kurosawa was last in Venice in 2012 with Penance, which screened out of competition, while his most recent feature To The Ends Of The Earth closed last year’s Locarno.
The World To Come (US)
Dir. Mona Fastvold
Norwegian actress Fastvold delivers her second feature as a director, following 2014’s Sundance US Dramatic Competition title The Sleepwalker. She has assembled a starry cast including Oscar winner Casey Affleck, Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby and Christopher Abbott. Set on an American farm in 1850, it centres on two couples and an intimate relationship that develops between the wives, with serious consequences. It is produced by Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler’s Killer Films, as well as Sea Change Media and Sailor Bear (A Ghost Story).
Profiles by Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Michael Rosser, Silvia Wong