Venice Days, “modeled on the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes Festival and promoted by the associations of Italian film directors and authors (Anac and 100autori),” has announced the lineup for its fourteenth edition, running from August 30 through September 9. Variety’s Nick Vivarelli has passed along the titles; I’ve added notes and links to each film's page at the festival’s site.
Faouzi Bensaidi’s Volubilis. From Doc&Film International: “In the Moroccan city of Meknes, recently married Abdelkader and Malika struggle to make ends meet. They dream of leaving the family house and finally start a life of their own together. But one day at work, Abdelkader experiences a violent incident that will turn their destiny upside down. Volubilis is a tale of love in a world of despair, of beauty among the ruins.”
Matteo Botrugno and Daniele Coluccini’s The Contagion. From Cinando: “Il contagio tells the story of two seemingly distant but complementary worlds which depend on each other to exist. It not only describes these suburbs as a closed universe, but shows the dynamics that lead to the contagion of the ‘underworld’ with that of ‘above.’”
Lila and Mo meet at a bus stop.
Lila has a paralysing speech impediment.
Mo is chatty and exuberant.
Lila is preparing for her exams.
Mo illegally races cars for a living.
Opposites attract, and they fall in love.
But Mo carries a secret burden. . .
Savi Gabizon’s Longing. From the Jerusalem Film Festival: “Ariel, a well-off, childless man, gets a phone call from his college girlfriend. She needs to tell him a couple of very surprising things: first, when they broke up twenty years ago, she was pregnant and went on to have a lovely boy. The second thing will change his life forever. This is a journey that creates laboratory-like conditions to explore the hidden aspects of parenthood beyond giving and responsibility. Most of all, this is a very sad comedy.”
Jhonny Hendrix Hinestroza’s Candelaria. From Beta Cinema: “The ‘90s. Cuba is drowning in hunger, cigars and rum. In this grim landscape, the life of Candelaria and Victor Hugo, a couple who stayed together out of inertia, takes a surprising turn the day Candelaria finds a video camera.”
Ruth Mader’s Life Guidance. From the Austrian Film Commission: “The film is set in the near future, in a world of perfect capitalism. Society is supported by a high performer class, contented and motivated people living in a bright, friendly, transparent, perfectly efficient middle-class world. The so-called minimum earners are kept subdued in slumbertowers. The overwhelming majority of the high performers feel happy and fulfilled. For the others, an outsourcing agency, Life Guidance, has been put in place to help them to become optimised people too.”
Vincenzo Marra’s L’Equilibrio. From Film Italia: “Thoughts have led to a crisis in the faith and spiritual journey of Giuseppe, a forty-year-old priest from Campania, who after spending time as a missionary in Africa now works in a small diocese in Rome. Giuseppe asks the bishop for a transfer—his dream is to make himself useful in a town in his area of birth—and the bishop grants his wish.” Briefly, then, he gets to work in this town near Naples and becomes embroiled in a family drama.
Mitra, an ambitious artist, mother and wife in her late 40s, embarks on her lifelong dream of making a film about her hero, the legendary singer of the Arab World, Oum Kulthum. Her film’s central aim is to explore the struggles, sacrifices and the price of Oum Kulthum’s success as a female artist living in a conservative male dominated society. Mitra herself achieved fame and success abroad, but her career choices made it impossible to return home, which separated her from her son and family. The increasing difficulties of capturing Oum Kulthum’s essence as a myth, a woman, and an artist lead Mitra to have a complete breakdown. Now Ghada, an exceptionally gifted actress and singer playing the role of Oum Kulthum, comes to Mitra’s rescue, as she is connected to the core of life and femininity and is naturally wise. Through this Mitra achieves self-realization and an artistic breakthrough.
Kim Nguyen’s Eye on Juliet. From Films Distribution: “A love story through the eye of a spider drone. Across the landscape of a Middle Eastern desert and an oil pipeline, appears a strange spider-like robot that seems to be scoping the horizon. At the other end of the world, in America, Gordon, drone operator and safe keeper of the pipeline, surveys the desolated landscapes from his screens. Having lost his way in a world he no longer comprehends, he becomes fascinated by Ayusha, a young woman promised to an older man she doesn’t love. Despite the distance, their mutual fear and their imperfect interaction, Gordon will do everything in his power to help Ayusha escape her fate, falling for her in the process.”
Valentina Pedicini’s Where Shadows Fall. From Venice Days: “Nurse Anna and her assistant Hans work in an old folks’ home that was once the orphanage where they were imprisoned as children, and they still seem trapped in time and space. The appearance of Gertrud is a blast from the past that brings the horror back to life, and the facility morphs into what it once was, a shelter for Jenisch children taken from their families to be subjected to Gertrud’s eugenics experiments. A victim of this environment and her own painful childhood that haunts her still, Anna starts stubbornly searching for her old friend Franziska. Based on a true story—on seven hundred of them.”
Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Samui Song. From Urban Distribution: “Viyada, a Thai soap opera actress in her mid-30s, finds herself increasingly pressured by her husband Jerome, a rich foreigner entirely devoted to a charismatic cult leader called The Holy One. Viyada has no other choice than to take the most drastic measures in order to escape once and for all from their influence.” For much more, see augenschein Filmproduktion.
Pengfei’s The Taste of Rice Flower. From Richard Yu, writing for Cinema Escapist: “Set along the Sino-Burmese border in Yunnan province, the movie stars actress Ying Ze as an ethnically Dai woman named Ye Nan who returns to her village to take care of her troublesome 11 year-old son. The film addresses issues of poverty, religion, and the survival of minority traditions in the face of a modernizing China.”
Women's Tales Project
Shorts made in collaboration with Prada’s Miu Miu Label
Celia Rowlson-Hall’s (The [End) of History Illusion]. It’s “set in a luxury Las Vegas family home, buried eight meters underground,” notes Venice Days. “Tap dancing twins and a baker-ballerina feature in this aspirational lifestyle advertisement, which is soon undone by nuclear Armageddon. Part 1930s Hollywood musical, part 1960s Cold War nightmare, Celia Rowlson-Hall brings her characteristic choreography and dark humor to this tale of commercialism, fear and escapism.”
Chloë Sevigny’s Carmen. With comedian Carmen Lynch. Embedded above.
Alessandro D’Alatri’s La legge del numero uno. From Venice Days: “Three men with nothing in common but a desire for freedom that absorbs them 24/7 pin all their hopes for a few day’s reprieve from prison on an audience with a judge. Actually, this trio—a shady dealer, a tough Roman mobster, and an Eastern European trafficker—shares something else, too: the unfounded belief that only the first man to go speak to the judge will obtain the leave. In a holding pen they find themselves in a no-holds-barred contest to land that vital first place in line.”
Giovanni Donfrancesco’s The Resolute. Venice Days: “An eighty-seven-year-old Italian who has retired to the woods of Vermont meets a filmmaker and seizes the occasion to look back on his long life. Wartime memories long suppressed trigger recollections of his inconvenient past as a child soldier in the ranks of the Decima Mas, one of the most violent fascist militias. Including a revelation concerning Mussolini’s lost treasure, which he himself helped to hide. A journey down the winding road of memory that speaks to the present day.”
Nick Hooker’s Agnelli. An HBO documentary on Gianni Agnelli, “the fabled jet-age industrialist,” as Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter puts it. “Gianni, whose chief profession was head of the automotive giant Fiat, was one of the most stylish icons of the second half of the last century.”
James Lester’s Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story. A documentary on the burlesque revival in New York.
Ermanno Olmi’s Il tentato suicidio nell’adolescenza (T.S. Giovanile). Luce Cinecittà reports that the 1968 film was discovered last spring in the archives of the Luigi Micheletti Foundation in Brescia. It’s a documentary about a psychiatric ward in Milan where teenagers who have attempted suicide are treated. Evidently, the film has never been publicly screened.
Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street. From the Tribeca Film Festival: “American flight attendant Gina (Lindsay Burdge) arrives at each new destination in a state of emotional paralysis following her lover’s suicide. But she snaps out of her funk when she meets the sophisticated and charming Parisian bartender Jerome (Damien Bonnard) and hastily moves to his home city. Blinded by unrequited love, Gina teeters on the edges of heartbreak and sanity when an old flame of Jerome’s suddenly reenters his life.” Critics Round Up gathers seven solid reviews.
Anne-Riitta Ciccone’s I’m (Endless Like the Space). Film Italia tells us that this is the “story of Jessica, a young girl living in a small village in the mountains but very famous on the social networks with the nickname of Evilgretel.”
Wilma Labate’s Raccontare Venezia. From Venice Days: “A young actress travels to Venice to revisit the locations and ambience of some famous films made in the city floating in the lagoon. She re-experiences the golden age, the decline and the modernity of a place that is absolutely one of a kind.”
Claudio Santamaria’s The Millionairs. With Peppe Servillo. Based on a graphic novel by Thomas Ott. Venice Days: “Over the course of one long night, mountain roads crisscrossing wooded slopes become the scene of a series of gruesome murders, all committed by an array of characters trying get their hands on a mysterious suitcase.”
Samira Makhmalbaf will preside over this year’s jury. Yesterday, we posted the lineup for the thirty-second edition of Venice International Film Critics’ Week and, for an update on all we know so far about the main event, the seventy-fourth edition of the Venice International Film Festival, see Friday’s entry.
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