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 Out of Competition section, including new titles from Luca Guadagnino, Ann Hui, Regina King and Roger Michell.
30 Coins (Sp-US)
Dir. Alex de la Iglesia
Spain’s de le Iglesia — whose filmmaking career began with 1993’s Accion Mutante, and whose output spans film and TV, fiction and documentary — presents the first episode of his new series as a special screening. Eduard Fernandez (Everybody Knows) stars as an exiled priest living in a remote Spanish village as he tries to escape his demons. De la Iglesia writes with Jorge Guerricaechevarria, following their collaboration on projects including 2008 feature The Oxford Murders. Greenlit Productions (US) and Pokeepsie Films (Spain) produce for HBO Spain.
Contact: HBO Spain
Dir. Salvatore Mereu
This would have been the fifth Italian film in Competition had Alberto Barbera been able to get away with so many, or so the festival director claimed during the line-up press conference. Sardinian director Mereu, a stalwart of Italian regional indie cinema, plays a meta game, giving a key role to Gavino Ledda — whose book about his life as a child shepherd brutalised by his father was the basis for the Taviani brothers’ seminal Father And Master (Padre Padrone). But in Mereu’s tale of rural Sardinian father-son conflict, it is Ledda who plays the stern patriarch. The film is produced by Mereu’s own Viacolvento in collaboration with Rai Cinema.
Contact: The Match Factory
City Hall (US)
Dir. Frederick Wiseman
Wiseman’s last film Monrovia, Indiana — a relatively sleek 143 minutes — premiered out of competition in Venice in 2018, before seguing to Toronto. The veteran documentarian follows the same festival gameplan with his latest work, which clocks in at an epic 272 minutes. The focus this time is Boston’s city government, led by Democrat mayor Marty Walsh, and on topics of urgent relevance including racial injustice, housing and climate action. Wiseman produces through his Zipporah Films.
Contact: The Party Film Sales
Crazy, Not Insane (US)
Dir. Alex Gibney
Oscar winner Gibney, who played out of competition at Venice a year ago with Citizen K, returns with his latest feature documentary, which was selected for CPH:Dox in March but bypassed the online iteration. Gibney’s latest subject is forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a professor of psychiatry at Yale and New York University, and an expert in the field of violent individuals and people with dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder). Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions produces.
The Duke (UK)
Dir. Roger Michell
A year after presenting Blackbird at Toronto, seasoned UK film and stage director Michell touches down in Venice for the first time since 2004’s Enduring Love. Jim Broadbent stars as the Newcastle taxi driver who, in 1961, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from London’s National Gallery, announcing he would return it if the UK government invested more in elderly care. Helen Mirren also stars in this Pathé, Ingenious and Screen Yorkshire presentation of a Neon Films production, which was scripted by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. Pathé distributes in the UK, France and Switzerland, and sells globally.
Contact: Pathé International
Final Account (UK)
Dir. Luke Holland
UK filmmaker Holland, who died in June this year, made TV documentaries Good Morning, Mr Hitler (1993, using newly discovered footage of Adolf Hitler attending a cultural festival shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War) and I Was A Slave Labourer (2000, about a 13-year-old Silesian boy forced by the Nazis to work in a slave-labour factory). In Final Account, Holland interviews nearly 300 perpetrators and witnesses of the Holocaust from the Nazi side.
I Am Greta (Swe)
Dir. Nathan Grossman
The much-anticipated Greta Thunberg documentary has been in the works since 2018, before the then-15-year-old climate activist became a household name. The film’s team followed her from her first day of school strike to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and beyond. Grossman previously directed the viral hit short The Toaster Challenge and SVT meat-industry series Köttets Lustar. Hulu has US rights.
Dir. Orson Welles
In November 1970, when Dennis Hopper cameoed in Orson Welles’ The Other Side Of The Wind, the pair sat down for a filmed conversation. The two-camera black-and-white footage was among the reels of The Other Side Of The Wind that were inventoried and scanned in 2017, prior to its belated release in 2018. This footage — a conversation covering politics, Christianity, family relationships and filmmaking — has now been assembled by The Other Side Of The Wind producer Filip Jan Rymsza and editor Bob Murawski. CAA handles North American sales.
Contact: Royal Road Entertainment
Love After Love (China)
Dir. Ann Hui
Set to be the first female director to receive the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement this year, Hong Kong filmmaker Hui brings to Venice an adaptation of an Eileen Chang short story, which Hui describes as a brutal tale depicting a mixed-up, hypocritical milieu in Hong Kong shortly before the Second World War. Sandra Ma (Soulmate) plays a young girl who falls into her aunt’s game of luring rich men, with Eddie Peng (Our Time Will Come) co-starring. Hui last competed in Venice with 2011’s A Simple Life, which won four awards.
Contact: Gabrielle Rozing, Fortissimo Films
Dir. Quentin Dupieux
Dupieux’s eighth feature has a typically inventive premise: two friends find a giant fly in the trunk of their car and decide to train it as a moneymaking venture. French comedy duo Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais (aka Palmashow) are joined in the cast by Adele Exarchopoulos, Coralie Russier, India Hair and Belgian rapper Roméo Elvis. The director was last in Venice with Reality, which played in Horizons in 2014, while his most recent film Deerskin opened Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes last year. Memento Films has taken French rights to Mandibles and plans to launch theatrically in December.
Contact: Wild Bunch International; Gregory Chambet, WTFilms
Dir. Andrea Segre
Chosen as Venice’s pre-opening film — a slot more often occupied by restored classics — Segre’s 68-minute documentary joins Abel Ferrara’s Sportin’ Life as one of the first lockdown works to emerge at a major festival. Italian director Segre was in Venice working on two separate projects when the country went into quarantine. He decided to stay, and found himself creating a hybrid third work that merges reflections on the empty lagoon city with memories of the director’s father, a Venice-born scientist. ZaLab will release in Italy on September 2.
Contact: Liselot Verbrugge, Deckert Distribution
Mosquito State (Pol-USA)
Dir. Filip Jan Rymsza
Rymsza has made his third feature as a director but previously attended Venice as a producer, accompanying the resurrection of Orson Welles’ The Other Side Of The Wind and companion documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead in 2018. Produced by his Los Angeles-based outfit Royal Road Entertainment, Rymsza also wrote the drama, which stars Beau Knapp (Destroyer) as an obsessive Wall Street data analyst whose erratic computer algorithms lead to a psychological meltdown. CAA handles North American sales.
Contact: Royal Road Entertainment
Narciso Em Ferias (Braz)
Dirs. Renato Terra, Ricardo Calil
Terra and Calil collaborated on music docs One Night In 67 (2010) and I Am Carlos Imperial (2016), as well as working on projects independently of each other. Their latest non-fiction work chronicles the 1968 arrest of Caetano Veloso, when he and fellow musician Gilberto Gil were removed from their Sao Paulo homes by plainclothes agents of the country’s military dictatorship. Fifty-two years later, Veloso reflects on his 54 days in prison. Paula Lavigne produces for Uns Producoes in a co-production with Walter Salles and Joao Moreira Salles’ VideoFilmes.
Contact: Maria Bruno, VideoFilmes
Night In Paradise (S Kor)
Dir. Park Hoon-jung
Korean writer/director Park makes his Venice debut with a bloody thriller set on beautiful Jeju Island, following a man hunted by gangsters and a woman who has lost hope in life. The cast includes Um Tae-goo (The Age Of Shadows) and Jeon Yeo-been (After My Death). Park gained prominence as the writer of hit thrillers The Unjust and I Saw The Devil before directing his own features including New World and The Witch: Part 1 — The Subversion.
Contact: Whitney Kim, Contents Panda
One Night In Miami (US)
Dir. Regina King
King won the best supporting actress Oscar in 2019 for If Beale Street Could Talk, and has racked up multiple directing credits on TV movies, episodic television and 2014 TV documentary Story Of A Village. Now she makes her fiction feature directing debut with One Night In Miami, a biographical drama that depicts boxer Cassius Clay — as Muhammad Ali was then known — meeting Malcolm X, musician Sam Cooke and American Football star Jim Brown one fateful night in 1964. ABKCO Films and Keith Calder and Jess Wu Calder’s Snoot Entertainment (Blindspotting) produce for Amazon Studios.
Contact: Amazon Studios
Paolo Conte, Via Con Me (It)
Dir. Giorgio Verdelli
Famous for his rough, three-packs-a-day smoker’s voice, Piedmontese jazz musician Paolo Conte is a national treasure in his native Italy and much feted across the border in France. Narrated by actor Luca Zingaretti (TV’s Inspector Montalbano), this two-hour documentary centres on a rare interview with the enigmatic crooner, accompanied by archive material and contributions from fans such as Roberto Benigni and Isabella Rossellini. Produced by Verdelli’s own Sudovest Produzioni and Indigo Film with Rai Cinema, the film will be given a three-day Italian release from September 28-30 by live event streaming specialist Nexo Digital.
Contact: Elena Ratti, Nexo Digital
Princess Europe (Fr)
Dir. Camille Lotteau
Longtime editor and sound designer Lotteau directs his second feature documentary after 2010’s Bord De. He delves into the European elections and looks at the future of Europe, through a range of voices including Algeria-born, Franco-Jewish filmmaker and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, US right-wing strategist Steve Bannon, Italian comedian and politician Beppe Grillo, and philosopher Aleksandr Dugin.
Contact: Margo Cinéma
Run Hide Fight (US)
Dir. Kyle Rankin
Writer/director Rankin’s festival outings have been on the genre and fantasy circuit for Night Of The Living Deb (2015) and The Witch Files (2018). He makes his Venice debut with Run Hide Fight, described by Alberto Barbera as “a provocative drama set in a school taken hostage by four students intent on carrying out a massacre”. It is lead produced by Dallas Sonnier — who took Brawl In Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete to Venice in 2017 and 2018 — and stars Thomas Jane, Radha Mitchell and Isabel May
Contact: Voltage Pictures
Salvatore — Shoemaker Of Dreams (It)
Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Debuting a few days before Guadagnino’s other big 2020 release — HBO miniseries We Are Who We Are — this 120-minute documentary focuses on shoemaker to the stars Salvatore Ferragamo, who rose from poverty to found a global fashion brand. Sierra/Affinity picked up worldwide sales rights at the end of July on a film that reteams Guadagnino with producer Francesco Melzi d’Eril and editor Walter Fasano. New to the stable is fashion writer Dana Thomas, who penned the screenplay.
Sportin’ Life (Fr-UK)
Dir. Abel Ferrara
The former wild man of indie cinema has often mined his surroundings for material. The new sober chapter of his life as a family man in Rome generated Tommaso in 2019, while another Willem Dafoe collaboration — dream trip Siberia, which played in Berlin’s Competition this year — spawned this 65-minute documentary, weaving footage of the premiere with film shot in Italy on the eve of lockdown. Sportin’ Life is co-produced by French indie outfit Vixens, fashion house Saint Laurent and UK-based producer Diana Phillips.
Contact: Clara Jane Matteucci, Saint Laurent
The Ties (It)
Dir. Daniele Luchetti
The first Italian film to open Venice since Giuseppe Tornatore’s Baaria in 2009, 1980s-set marriage drama The Ties (Lacci) is based on a well-received novel by Neapolitan writer Domenico Starnone. Ever since 1988’s It’s Happening Tomorrow, Luchetti has been more of a Cannes regular than a presence on the Lido: both The Yes Man (1991) and La Nostra Vita (2010) competed on the Croisette, while to date only Little Teachers (1998) has played in Venice’s Competition. Featuring a cast of Italian A-listers led by Alba Rohrwacher and Luigi Lo Cascio, The Ties is produced by IBC Movie (Martin Eden, The Traitor) with Rai Cinema.
Contact: mk2 Films
The Truth About La Dolce Vita (It)
Dir. Giuseppe Pedersoli
One of the most iconic films of post-war Italy, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is the subject of a documentary that reveals the project’s troubled genesis, six decades on from its creation. There is a strong family connection in a film that is one of several tributes to emerge during Fellini’s centenary year: director Pedersoli, who had privileged access to previously unseen letters and production paperwork, is the nephew of La Dolce Vita’s co-producer Giuseppe Amato, while the film’s producer, Gaia Gorrini, is Amato’s granddaughter.
You Came Back (It)
Dir. Stefano Mordini
Director Mordini is an Italian indie maverick, his small, tough misfit dramas perhaps better appreciated abroad than at home. His 2005 debut Smalltown, Italy played in Competition at Berlin, while Mafia loner story Pericles The Black screened in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2016. Blue-collar drama Steel was selected for Venice Days in 2012, but You Came Back (Lasciami Andare), a psychological thriller shot in Venice during the devastating floods of November 2019, is Mordini’s first official selection outing on the Lido. Produced by Roberto Sessa’s Picomedia, the film will be distributed in Italy by Warner Bros Italia.
Profiles by Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Michael Rosser, Silvia Wong