'Joker: Folie A Deux'

Source: Warner Bros

‘Joker: Folie A Deux’

Alberto Barbera is starting to firm up his Venice Film Festival line-up ahead of unveiling the official selection on July 23.

Venice’s 81st edition will likely see a swathe of global talent on the red carpet. Under Barbera, the festival has established a reputation as an effective commercial launchpad for major autumn  and winter films and awards-season contenders.

A maximum of 21 features will play in main competition this year, while up to 20 will premiere out of competition. The deadline for ‘late submissions’ is this week, June 13. Isabelle Huppert will head the international competition jury. 


Todd Phillips’s Joker: Folie à Deux, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga, for Warner Bros is a strong frontrunner. Phillips and Phoenix enjoyed a successful Venice launch in 2019 for the film’s precursor Joker, which went on to win the Golden Lion.

Apple Studios and Columbia Pictures’ action thriller Wolfs, which reunites Brad Pitt and George Clooney, is also said to be heading to the Lido. Pitt and Clooney last appeared on screen together in the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, which opened Venice in 2008. Wolfs, about two fixers assigned to the job, is directed by Spider-Man trilogy director John Watts.

Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of William S. Burrough’s Queer, starring Daniel Craig and Drew Starkey, is a shoo-in on paper. As well as having an Italian director, it is produced by Fremantle’s Italian outfit The Apartment and filmed at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. Its selection would make up for the disappointment of Guadagnino having to cancel Challengers as Venice opener last year because of the actors’ strike. 

Brady Corbet, whose Vox Lux was in Venice competition in 2018, is likely to make the cut again with architectural drama The Brutalist starring Adrien Brody, Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce and Joe Alwyn. Focus has international rights. 

Another Fremantle title, Pablo Larraín’s Maria, a biopic of American Greek opera legend Maria Callas, starring Angelina Jolie, is also tipped to debut on the Lido. FilmNation handles worldwide sales.

Ron Howard’s thriller Eden, about a group who turn their backs on society, could be at Venice. The stellar cast includes Sydney Sweeney, Ana de Armas, Jude Law, Vanessa Kirby and Daniel Bruhl. Amazon Prime Video acquired a slew of territories in a high-profile Cannes deal last month when sales agent AGC International held back the US sale.

Law could be doing double duty on the red carpet as he also stars in Justin Kurzel’s crime thriller The Order (also for AGC) with Nicholas Hoult, Jurnee Smollett and Tye Sheridan.

Italy on screen

Starry Italy-set international films that could play on the Lido include the US-UK-produced English-language Vatican thriller Conclave, directed by Germany’s Edward Berger and starring Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci and John Lithgow. Focus Features has US rights to the film that is co-produced by the UK’s House Productions, and FilmNation represents international sales.

Johnny Depp’s Modì, a biopic of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, starring Al Pacino, is also a strong possibility. Pacino also stars in Julian Schnabel’s In The Hand Of Dante, with Oscar Isaac, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Gerard Butler and John Malkovich. The crime drama filmed all over Italy, including in Sicily, Venice, Verona and Rome. Schnabel has previously premiered Basquiat, Before Night Falls, Miral and At Eternity’s Gate in Venice competition.

Another Italian-themed drama that could unspool in Venice is the Joe Wright-directed series M: Son Of The Century, chronicling Mussolini’s rise to power, that filmed at Cinecitta Studios, It is produced by Sky Studios with The Apartment. 

The local titles tipped for selection this year include  Venice regular Gianni Amelio’s First World War drama Battlefield, a RAI Cinema and Kavac production. 

There is strong buzz for Italian auteur Pietro Marcello’s Duse, a biopic of an Italian stage diva starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Noémie Merlant which has The Match Factory on board for international sales.

Maura Delpero’s second feature Vermiglio, The Mountain Bride, the story of three sisters during the Second World War, is a likely Venice selection, as is Antonio Piazza’s Mafia drama Iddu, which had been tipped for a Cannes slot.

Gabriele Salvatores, the Oscar-winning director of Mediterraneo, could also be at Venice with Napoli – New York, a period immigration drama based on a story by Federico Fellini, starring Italian A-lister Pierfrancesco Favino. So too could Marco Tullio Giordana’s The Life Apart, co-written and produced by Marco Bellocchio.

International titles 


Source: Fremantle


From Brazil, Walter Salles’ first narrative feature in more than a decade, I’m Still Here, is also tipped for a Venice slot. Set during the Brazilian military dictatorship, it reunites Salles with Fernanda Montenegro, the star of his 1998 Golden Bear winner Central Station. Sony Pictures Classics has key territories including the US for I’m Still Here. 

Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel’s long-anticipated Chocobar – about murdered Indigenous activist Javier Chocobar – may premiere on the Lido. Martel was president of the Venice jury in 2019 and her last film, 2017’s Zama, played at the festival.

From Germany, Tom Tykwer’s The Light should also be ready in time for an autumn festival, ahead of a planned theatrical launch in Germany in October.

UK independent tiltes in with a chance of a Venice launch include Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Scotland-shot Harvest, starring Caleb Landry Jones, and acclaimed UK theatre director Marianne Elliott’s feature debut The Salt Path, based on Raynor Winn’s memoir, produced by Number 9 Films. 

Mike Leigh’s 23rd film Hard Truths, Joshua Oppenheimer’s first fictional drama The End and Steve McQueen’s Apple TV+ Second World War feature Blitz, could also be heading to the Lido after missing out on Cannes slots.   

There may be relatively few French films at Venice after a busy Cannes – and the news that Audrey Diwan’s English-language Emmanuelle will open San Sebastian in September. 

A high-profile exception could be Francois Ozon’s When Fall Is Coming.


Netflix films have become synonymous with Venice as the streamer established the Lido as a proving ground for its Oscar hopefuls. Yet this year could be just as notable for its relatively light presence. Obvious heavyweight contenders were hard to discern at time of writing.

Two Netflix titles not in the English-language could debut in Venice: Kim Sang-man’s South Korean historical drama Uprising produced by Park Chan-wook, and Rodrigo Prieto’s Mexican fantasy horror Pedro Páramo.

One English-language prospect on the Netflix slate for an autumn festival slot is the latest August Wilson adaptation, The Piano Lesson, starring Samuel L Jackson.

The production hiatus caused by 2023’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are a likely factor in Netflix’s slimmer pipeline this year. It is also unclear how feature output will take shape under recently appointed film head Dan Lin.

Of course, Netflix also buys films (it is in the process of tying up a deal for Cannes hit Emila Perez) and timely awards-leaning acquisitions at Venice cannot be ruled out. After all, the streamer snapped up Richard Linklater’s Hit Man a couple of weeks after it premiered on the Lido last year (and days after its North American premiere at TIFF). The Glen Powell-starrer could arguably be its best English-language film of the year – and just dropped on the platform last week (June 7).

The Venice Film Festival runs from August 28-September 7.

Mona Tabbara, Gabriele Niola and Rebecca Leffler contributed to this report