Following a physical 2020 edition that triumphantly braved the pandemic, Venice Film Festival (September 1-11) is back on the Lido with a line‑up showcasing major filmmakers including Pedro Almodovar, Paolo Sorrentino, Jane Campion and Pablo Larrain.
America Latina (It-Fr)
Dirs. Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo
Widely seen as Italian film’s next big things, the 33-year-old twin brothers have so far — among other feats — opened their 2018 debut feature Boys Cry in Berlin’s Panorama section, co-scripted Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, picked up a Berlin Silver Bear in 2020 for the screenplay of their second film Bad Tales, and had a TV series commissioned by Sky Studios. Little has been revealed about their third feature, a thriller starring Elio Germano shot mostly in the Fascist-era city of Latina, south of Rome. It is one of two Venice 2021 Competition films produced by Lorenzo Mieli’s Fremantle offshoot The Apartment; the other is Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God.
Contact: Catia Rossi, Vision Distribution
Another World (Fr)
Dir. Stéphane Brizé
France’s Brizé has enjoyed many collaborations with actor Vincent Lindon, including features Mademoiselle Chambon (2009), A Few Hours Of Spring (2012) and At War (2018) — and winning most recognition for The Measure Of A Man (2015), which saw Lindon win best actor prizes at Cannes Film Festival and the Césars. Here, Lindon stars as a senior executive at a US corporation, who watches as his wife prepares to leave him. Last in Venice Competition with A Woman’s Life in 2016, Brizé reteams with his At War and The Measure Of A Man producers — Nord-Ouest Films’ Christophe Rossignon and Philip Boëffard.
Contact: Antoine Guilhem, Wild Bunch International
The Box (Mex-US)
Dir. Lorenzo Vigas
Vigas was a Golden Lion winner in 2015 with From Afar, and returns to the Lido with The Box (La Caja), the final entry in his trilogy about Latin American fathers. Los Angeles-based SK Global Entertainment and Mexico’s Teorema produced the Spanish-language drama, which shot in 35mm in Chihuahua, Mexico, and centres on a young boy’s mission to obtain his father’s ashes. Producers are Michel Franco, Jorge Hernandez Aldana and Vigas. SK Global executive producers John Penotti, Michael Hogan and Kilian Kerwin struck up a rapport with Vigas at Los Cabos International Film Festival in 2017. The Box received backing from Mexico’s Eficine fund.
Contact: The Match Factory
Il Buco (It-Fr-Ger)
Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino
Milan-born Frammartino’s first feature since his virtually wordless The Four Times (Le Quattro Volte) made a splash in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes 2010, Il Buco tells the story of the young Piedmont speleologists who in 1961 headed to southern Italy to conquer fresh subterranean terrain. Shot in Pollino national park in Calabria using a cast of cave explorers and local shepherds, Il Buco (translation ‘the hole’) is produced by Italy’s Doppio Nodo Double Bind with Rai Cinema, in co-production with France’s Société Parisienne de Production and Germany’s Essential Filmproduktion — both part of Coproduction Office.
Contact: Coproduction Office
Captain Volkonogov Escaped (Rus-Est-Fr)
Dirs. Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov
Russia’s Merkulova and Chupov make their Venice Competition debut, returning to the festival after their second feature The Man Who Surprised Everyone played Horizons in 2018. Their new film, which is set against the backdrop of the Soviet political purges and show trials of 1938, stars Yuriy Borisov (Cannes 2021 titles Compartment No.6 and Petrov’s Flu) as an NKVD captain who goes on the run to evade prosecution. The project was presented last year at the Venice Gap-Financing Market, and is produced by Russia’s Place of Power and Look Film, Estonia’s Homeless Bob Productions and France’s Kinovista.
Contact: Memento International
The Card Counter (US-UK-China)
Dir. Paul Schrader
Part of Focus Features’ awards season war chest alongside Last Night In Soho, Blue Bayou, Belfast and Stillwater, Schrader’s latest is a typically intense affair that stars Oscar Isaac as a former military interrogator turned gambler haunted by past decisions. Production in Mississippi was paused in March 2020 when a cast member contracted Covid-19, before wrapping in July 2020. Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe round out the key cast. Schrader was last in Venice in 2017 with Ethan Hawke starrer First Reformed. The Card Counter opens in the US on September 10.
Contact: HanWay Films
Freaks Out (It-Bel)
Dir. Gabriele Mainetti
Multi-hyphenate Mainetti directs, writes and produces this Second World War drama about four friends working in a Rome circus who are left vulnerable after its owner disappears. Lucky Red and Mainetti’s Goon Films produce with Rai Cinema, in co-production with Belgium’s GapBusters. It marks a return to Venice for Mainetti after his short Ningyo showed in 2016. This second feature sees him reteam with co-writer Nicola Guaglianone from his 2015 debut They Call Me Jeeg, which premiered at Rome Film Festival and won seven awards at Italy’s David di Donatellos.
Contact: Rai Com
The Hand Of God (It)
Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Sorrentino has premiered a film at Venice only once before — his feature debut One Man Up, which screened in the shortlived Cinema of the Present section in 2001. It is not a stretch to assume it was Cannes’ Netflix veto (or should that be Netflix’s Cannes veto?) that finally delivered a second Lido berth for this darling of the Croisette, with what is billed as an intensely personal film. Though there is no official confirmation, this coming-of-age story — about a 16-year-old fan of Diego Maradona’s Napoli football club in the 1980s — might be based on a devastating personal tragedy suffered by the teenage Sorrentino.
Dir. Audrey Diwan
Diwan makes her Venice debut with her second feature as director, following 2019 addiction drama Losing It (Mais Vous Etes Fous). Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel Happening, this 1963-set drama is the story of a pregnant student who risks prison if she has an abortion. The cast is led by Anamaria Vartolomei and Luana Bajrami (whose directing debut The Hill Where Lionesses Roar played Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in July). Wild Bunch distributes in France and sells worldwide.
Contact: Antoine Guilhem, Wild Bunch International
The King Of Laughter (It-Sp)
Dir. Mario Martone
Italian arthouse stalwart Martone based his 2019 Venice Competition entry The Mayor Of Rione Sanità on a play by Neapolitan writer Eduardo De Filippo. Now in this biopic starring Toni Servillo, he turns his attention to De Filippo’s natural father, the vaudeville actor, playwright, impresario and philanderer Eduardo Scarpetta, who had nine children with four different women and was sued for plagiarism by Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italy’s most famous writer of the period. 01 Distribution will release The King Of Laughter (Qui Rido Io) in Italy on September 9, soon after its Venice Competition debut.
Contact: Gaetano Maiorino, True Colours
Leave No Traces (Pol-Fr-Czech)
Dir. Jan P Matuszynski
Poland’s Matuszynski, who premiered his fiction feature The Last Family (2016) in Locarno, makes his Venice debut with a story set in 1983 Poland, based on the true story of a man who witnesses the fatal beating of his friend by the police. Determined to testify in court, he must stand up to the force of Poland’s communist regime. Leszek Bodzak and Aneta Hickinbotham produce for Aurum Film (Corpus Christi). The director’s documentary credits include Deep Love.
Contact: Katarzyna Siniarska, New Europe Film Sales
The Lost Daughter (Gre-US-UK-Isr)
Dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal makes her feature directing debut on the Elena Ferrante adaptation about a woman’s holiday that takes a dark turn when she confronts her past. The cast features Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal, Oliver Jackson‑Cohen and Ed Harris. Gyllenhaal produced with Talia Kleinhendler and Osnat Handelsman-Keren for Tel Aviv-based Pie Films, Charles Dorfman for Samuel Marshall Films and Endeavor Content. Netflix picked up the title for most major markets, including the US, ahead of Venice. Rights have also gone for the UK, Benelux and Germany (eOne), Italy (Bim) and Spain (Vertigo).
Contact: Endeavor Content
Lost Illusions (Fr-Bel)
Dir. Xavier Giannoli
In 2015, Giannoli’s Marguerite premiered in Competition at Venice, going on to earn 11 César nominations and four wins including best actress. His latest is an adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s novel Lost Illusions, starring Benjamin Voisin (Summer Of 85) as an aspiring poet who heads to Paris to carve out his destiny. Curiosa Films’ Olivier Delbosc and Gaumont’s Sidonie Dumas produce in collaboration with Canal+, Ciné+, France 3 Cinéma and Belgian co-producer Umedia.
Contact: Ariane Buhl, Gaumont
Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon (US)
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
UK-born US-Iranian filmmaker Amirpour returns to the Lido five years after The Bad Batch played to mixed reviews. Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon is one of several films that had been expected to premiere in 2020, before the pandemic put paid to those plans. Amirpour, whose breakout 2014 debut A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night called attention to her talent, brings the story of a woman (Jeon Jong-seo) with unusual powers who escapes from a mental asylum and tries to make it on her own in New Orleans.
Contact: Rocket Science
Official Competition (Sp-Arg)
Dirs. Gaston Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Argentinian duo Duprat and Cohn have finally got Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz to share a screen, after the Spanish superstars managed one scene together in Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited!. The Mediapro Studio produces this exploration of what happens when a rich businessman (Oscar Martinez) attempts to immortalise himself by making a hit film. Duprat and Cohn worked with Martinez on The Distinguished Citizen, which won him the Volpi Cup for best actor at Venice in 2016.
Contact: Protagonist Pictures
On The Job: The Missing 8 (Phil)
Dir. Erik Matti
In his first Venice outing, Filipino director Matti presents a sequel to On The Job, a Directors’ Fortnight premiere at Cannes 2013. As part of a six-part HBO original series of the same name, the sequel is the series’ last four episodes which have a combined running time of three hours and 28 minutes, with the first two episodes remastered from the 2013 film. The crime thriller is inspired by true events in the Philippines, centring on syndicates that release prison inmates to carry out political assassinations. It is produced by Matti’s Reality MM Studios and Globe Studios. The On The Job series will stream in September on HBO Go in Asia.
Contact: Jae Chang, WarnerMedia
Parallel Mothers (Sp)
Dir. Pedro Almodovar
Almodovar, who was awarded Venice’s career Golden Lion in 2019 and won the screenplay prize in 1988 with Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, returns after presenting his 30-minute short The Human Voice on the Lido last year. Parallel Mothers tells the story of two women (Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit) who meet in hospital when they give birth the same day; Aitana Sanchez-Gijon (I’m Not Scared) co-stars. Sony Pictures Classics has US, Australia and New Zealand rights, while Warner Bros releases in Italy and Pathé in the UK.
The Power Of The Dog (Australia-NZ)
Dir. Jane Campion
Campion’s first feature as director since 2009 Cannes premiere Bright Star is an adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1925-set novel about two brothers (Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons) who own a large ranch in Montana. When they encounter a widow (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), their contrasting responses see them pitted against each other. See-Saw Films’ Emile Sherman and Iain Canning produce this Netflix Originals title alongside Tanya Seghatchian, Roger Frappier and Campion.
Dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych
After winning the top Horizons prize in 2019 with Atlantis, Ukraine’s Vasyanovych steps up to Competition with a drama — which he also wrote, shot and edited — about a surgeon (Roman Lutskyi) who is captured by Russian military forces in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. He returns to his comfortable middle-class apartment on release, and tries to find a renewed purpose in life. Produced by Vladimir Yatsenko of Forefilms, Reflection won the Alphapanda Audience Engagement Award at Les Arcs’ Works in Progress 2020 and was also selected for the Berlinale Co-Production Market in 2020. It is the first Ukrainian feature in Venice Competition in 30 years.
Contact: Katarzyna Siniarska, New Europe Film Sales
Dir. Pablo Larrain
Kristen Stewart becomes the latest actress to portray Princess Diana after Emma Corrin’s acclaimed turn in The Crown. Chile’s Larrain, who brought Ema to the Lido in 2019 and Jackie in 2016, shot the drama — which takes place over Christmas 1991 as Diana realises it is time to act over her doomed marriage to Prince Charles — in Germany and the UK earlier this year. Neon and Topic Studios have US rights, while STX distributes in the UK, France, Italy and Benelux, and DCM in Germany. Larrain and his brother/Fabula partner Juan de Dios Larrain produce with Jonas Dornbach and Janine Jackowski for Komplizen Film, and Paul Webster for Shoebox Films.
Dir. Michel Franco
Franco returns to the Lido a year after his political allegory New Order won the Silver Lion. In Sundown Charlotte Gainsbourg and Tim Roth play members of a wealthy UK family whose holiday in Acapulco is cut short by a distant emergency. Franco shot in Acapulco and Mexico City early last year with backing from Mexico’s Eficine fund. Mexico’s Teorema produces in association with France’s Luxbox, and Sweden’s Commonground Pictures and Film i Väst.
Contact: The Match Factory, ICM Partners
Profiles by Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, Elaine Guerini, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Mona Tabbara, Silvia Wong