Screen profiles the Horizons strand at this year’s Venice Film Festival (August 28-September 7).
Atlantis (Ukr) dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych
The latest film from Ukrainian producer/director Vasyanovych — his titles Kredens (2013) and Black Level (2017) both picked up the Fipresci prize at Odessa International Film Festival — Atlantis revolves around a PTSD-suffering former soldier struggling to adapt to life in near-future, war-torn eastern Ukraine. Vasyanovych previously served as producer, cinematographer and editor on The Tribe, which won the Critics’ Week grand prize at Cannes in 2014.
Contact: Martin Gondre, Best Friend Forever
Balloon (China) dir. Pema Tseden
Following Tharlo (2015) and Jinpa, which won the Horizons best screenplay last year, Tibetan director Tseden returns to the Venice section for the third time with a drama about a multi-generation Tibetan family who live on the grasslands. But their peaceful life is interrupted after the discovery of a condom (the ‘balloon’ of the title) gives rise to embarrassment and dilemma. Tibetan actors Sonam Wangmo and Jinpa (both from Jinpa) head the cast. Tang Dynasty Cultural Communication, Factory Gate Films and Mani Stone Pictures are producing along with iQiyi Pictures as co-producer.
Contact: Xu Jing, Rediance
The Criminal Man (Geo-Rus) dir. Dmitry Mamuliya
The story of an ordinary man whose life is turned upside down when he accidentally witnesses the murder of a famous sportsman, The Criminal Man(Borotmokmedi) is the third feature from director Mamuliya, founder of the Moscow School of New Cinema. Georgia’s Millimeterfilm produces alongside Russia’s Kinokult, and the film has also been supported by the Georgian National Film Center.
Giants Being Lonely (US) dir. Grear Patterson
New York-based multidisciplinary artist Patterson’s feature debut is a coming-of-age tale, inspired from true event’s from the filmmaker’s past, following three high-school students navigating love, sex, trauma, loneliness, family and friendship. Olmo Schnabel, son of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly director Julian, produces. The cast of mostly newcomers includes Jack Irving, Ben Irving, Lily Gavin, Amalia Culp and Gabe Fazio.
International contact: Wild Bunch
US contact: CAA
Hava, Maryam, Ayesha (Afg) dir. Sahraa Karimi
Filmmaker Karimi follows up her 2009 documentary Afghan Women Behind The Wheel with her debut fiction feature, which follows the three titular Afghan women from different social backgrounds: one is married and pregnant, one wishes to divorce her unfaithful husband and one must regain her virginity. Earlier this year, Karimi became the first woman to be appointed general director of state-run film production company Afghan Film, also known as Afghan Film Organisation.
Contact: Noori Pictures
Just 6.5 (Iran) dir. Saeed Roustayi
Originally titled 6.5 Tomar Per Meter (Metri Shesh Va Nim), this third feature from Roustayi was a big winner at this year’s Hafez Awards, which honour the best in Iranian cinema, including prizes for best film and best director. The film follows a police unit under the leadership of a chief whose investigation of a major drugs trafficker leads him to question the relationship between society and addiction. Jamal Sadatian (Asghar Farhadi’s 2006 drama Fireworks Wednesday) produces.
Contact: Iranian Independents
Madre (Sp-Fr) dir. Rodrigo Sorogoyen
An adaptation of Sorogoyen’s own 2017 Oscar-nominated short, Madre tells the story of a woman (Marta Nieto, reprising her role from the short) who connects with a teenager she feels may be the son who disappeared a decade earlier. The film is produced by Spain’s Amateur Pictures, Arcadia Motion Pictures, Malvalanda and Caballo Films, alongside France’s Noodles Production and Le Pacte — the latter of which will release in France. Wanda Vision will distribute theatrically in Spain this autumn.
Contact: Le Pacte
Moffie (S Afr-UK) dir. Oliver Hermanus
Hermanus returns to Venice after his previous project The Endless River became the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion in 2015. Moffie is based on the memoir by André Carl van der Merwe about a conscript in 1980s South Africa, played by Kai Luke Brummer. Jack Sidey of London-based Portobello Productions produces alongside the company’s founder Eric Abraham, who produced Oscar winners Ida and Kolya. Hermanus’s other films include 2011 Queer Palm winner Beauty (Skoonheid) and 2009 Locarno Competition title Shirley Adams.
Contact: Portobello Film Sales
My Days Of Glory (Fr) dir. Antoine de Bary
This comedy stars three-time César nominee Vincent Lacoste (The French Kissers, Hippocrate, Victoria) as a former child star-turned-loser who is trying to restart his career by auditioning to play a young Charles de Gaulle. Ava lead Noée Abita co-stars. My Days Of Glory is the feature debut of de Bary, whose first short Birth Of A Leader won the Canal+ award at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2016. France’s Iconoclast Films (The World Is Yours,At Eternity’s Gate) produces.
Contact: Bac Films
Nevia (It) dir. Nunzia De Stefano
First-time director De Stefano draws on her own experience of living with her family in a temporary container camp after Italy’s 1980 Irpinia earthquake. This coming-of-age tale sees a 17-year-old tomboy determined to defend herself and her family in a tough environment. Dogmandirector Matteo Garrone produces through his Archimede banner.
Pelican Blood (Ger-Bul) dir. Katrin Gebbe
Gebbe’s sophomore feature (following Cannes 2013 Un Certain Regard premiere Nothing Bad Can Happen) is a dark family drama starring German actress Nina Hoss (Yella) as a woman facing a dilemma after adopting a young girl from Bulgaria who becomes increasingly aggressive. Also scripted by Gebbe, Pelican Blood is produced by Germany’s Junafilm and Bulgaria’s Miramar Film and developed with TorinoFilmLab and the Berlinale co-production market. DCM is handling the German release.
Contact: Films Boutique
Revenir (Fr) dir. Jessica Palud
An assistant director (credits include Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette) who made her feature directing debut with 2013’s Les Yeux Fermés, Palud now delivers her second feature, which she and Philippe Lioret adapted from a novel by Serge Joncour. The cast includes Blue Is The Warmest Color’s Adele Exarchopoulos and Niels Schneider (Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats). Lioret produces with Marielle Duigou.
Contact: Pyramide International
Rialto (Ire-UK) dir. Peter Mackie Burns
Burns’ debut feature Daphne premiered at Rotterdam in 2017, going on to festival wins for screenplay at Dinard and performer Emily Beecham at Edinburgh. His follow-up Rialto sees screenwriter Mark O’Halloran (Lenny Abrahamson’s Adam & Paul and Garage) adapt his own award-winning stageplay Trade. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Daphne) stars as a husband and father who becomes infatuated with a younger man (2017 Screen Star of Tomorrow Tom Glynn-Carney) at a time of personal crisis. Cowtown Pictures’ Alan Maher and John Wallace produce withThe Bureau’s Tristan Goligher and Valentina Brazzini.
Contact: The Bureau Sales
Shadow Of Water (India) dir. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Following a Rotterdam bow for Sexy Durga in 2017, Sasidharan makes his Venice debut with a drama that is also known under the title Chola. The story, co-written by Sasidharan with KV Manikandan, concerns a teenage girl, her male suitor and the latter’s boss. Shaji Mathew and Aruna Mathew produce for NiV Arts Movies. Showbiz Studios will distribute in India.
Contact: Hong Kong International Film Festival Collection, Good Move Media
Sole (It-Pol) dir. Carlo Sironi
After three prizewinning shorts, Sironi makes his feature debut with a drama about a Polish girl and an unemployed Roman lad who pretend to be a couple in order to make money by giving up her unborn baby for adoption. Promising something of a Dardenne brothers vibe, the film was honed at five development platforms including Cannes’ Cinéfondation. Luxbox secured sales rights during this year’s European Film Market.
A Son (Tun-Fr-Leb-Qat) dir. Mehdi M Barsaoui
Tunisian director Barsaoui presents his feature debut about a family whose holiday — and life — is turned upside down after the 10-year-old son is shot and needs a liver transplant. A Son (Bik Eneich — Un Fils) stars Sami Bouajila, whose credits include Rachid Bouchareb’s Oscar-nominatedOutside The Law. Habib Attia produces for his Cinétéléfilms. Barsaoui has previously directed shorts including 2010’s A Ma Place and 2012’s Bobby, which played festivals including Montréal and New York.
Verdict (Phil) dir. Raymund Ribay Gutierrez
Executive produced by prolific director Brillante Mendoza, Gutierrez’s feature debut deals with domestic violence — which he considers the most prevalent form of abuse in the Philippines. Verdict follows a battered woman who finally stands up for justice against her alcoholic husband, but is mired in a state of legal turmoil. The main cast includes Max Eigenmann and Mendoza regular Kristoffer King, who died in February. Gutierrez has played twice in Cannes’ short film competition, with 2016’s Imago and 2018’s Judgement.
Contact: Films Boutique
White On White (Sp-Chile) dir. Théo Court
Sophomore feature White On White (Blanco En Blanco) from Chilean-Spanish director Court shot in the Canary Islands and Chile’s Tierra de Fuego last year, with temperatures reaching as low as -20°C in the latter. It won the $56,000 (€50,000) Eurimages Lab Project Award at Les Arcs in December. Alfredo Castro (Pablo Larrain’s No, The Club and Neruda) stars as a wedding photographer who becomes obsessed with an underage bride. Producers on the $1m-budget title are Spain’s El Viaje Films and Chile’s Quijote Films; associate producers are France’s Pomme Hurlante Films and Germany’s Kundschafter Filmproduktion.
Contact: Jose A Alayon, El Viaje Films
Zumiriki (Sp) dir. Oskar Alegria
Spanish filmmaker Alegria makes his Venice debut with his second documentary feature — a follow-up to 2012’s The Search For Emak Bakia. The director spent four months living alone in a riverbank cabin, opposite where an island from his childhood had been submerged after the construction of a dam. “It is the story of a man who seeks his relationship with nature and his own childhood,” says Alegria, whose background is in print and TV journalism.
Contact: Emak Bakia Films
Venice profiles by Nikki Baughan, Ben Dalton, Nancy Epton, Charles Gant, Lee Marshall, Orlando Parfitt, Silvia Wong