The Locarno Film Festival opens today, New York has unveiled its Main Slate, Toronto’s Platform competition is set, and Venice has added two titles to its lineup. But let’s start with Sundance. More specifically, let’s start with the 2016 edition of Sundance when The Birth of a Nation, the directorial debut of actor Nate Parker, sparked a ferocious bidding war and set a new record for a sale in Park City when Fox Searchlight picked it up for $17.5 million.
Parker won critical accolades not only for his direction but also for his lead performance as Nat Turner, the preacher who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Months later, though, as details emerged of a 1999 case in which Parker had been accused and then acquitted of rape, The Birth of a Nation became what the New York Times’ A. O. Scott called “simultaneously the must-see and the won’t-see movie of the year.”
Today, Venice has announced that Parker is back with his second feature, American Skin, the story of Lincoln Jefferson (Parker), a janitor whose son is killed by a police officer. When that officer is pronounced innocent, Jefferson takes the entire police station hostage. American Skin will premiere in Venice’s noncompetitive Sconfini section, and Spike Lee will be on hand to discuss the film with Parker after the screening. At IndieWire, Zack Sharf quotes from a statement Lee issued today in which he calls American Skin “a brave tour de force. I haven’t been affected by a film like this on so many levels in a long, long time.”
The other new film added to the section is British producer Graeme A. Scott’s directorial debut, Beyond the Beach: The Hell and the Hope, a documentary about Emergency, an Italian NGO that sends medical aid to the world’s war-torn regions. Venice has also added a fourth member to the jury that will pick this year’s best debut, Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Random Acts of Flyness). Venice’s seventy-sixth edition will open on August 28 and run through September 7.
Tonight, If Only, the directorial debut of producer and distributor Ginevra Elkann, will open Locarno’s first edition to be overseen by its new artistic director, Lili Hinstin. “Asked about gender parity, Hinstin does the math on the spot and says roughly forty percent of the features at the fest this year are by female filmmakers,” notes Variety’s Nick Vivarelli. Locarno’s Lorenzo Buccella finds Elkann optimistic about the move toward gender parity European festivals are taking, thanks in part to the efforts of organizations such as Swat in Switzerland, 50/50 in France, and Dissenso Comune in Italy. Locarno’s seventy-second edition will run through August 17.
NYFF Main Slate
Of the twenty-nine films lined up for the Main Slate of this year’s New York Film Festival, six—just over twenty percent—are directed by women. “While that’s definitely not parity,” writes Rachel Montpelier at Women and Hollywood, “it is a significant improvement on last year’s thirteen percent.” Three of the six premiered in Cannes back in May: Mati Diop’s Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story, winner of the Grand Prix; Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which took the best screenplay award; and Cannes’s closing night presentation, Justine Triet’s Sibyl. Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But . . . won a Silver Bear for best direction in Berlin, where Agnès Varda’s final film, Varda by Agnès, saw its premiere.
The sixth female-directed film is Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, which the NYFF is calling “an interrogation of foundational Americana that recalls her earlier triumph Old Joy in its sensitive depiction of male friendship.” The story centers on the partnership between a cook (John Magaro) and a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) who have met in the Oregon Territory in the early nineteenth century.
To return briefly to the titles culled from Cannes, not only will Pain and Glory be screening—it scored a best actor award for Antonio Banderas—but director Pedro Almodóvar has also designed the truly charming poster for this year’s edition, the fifty-seventh. The lineup also includes Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (winner of the Palme d’Or), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Young Ahmed (best director), Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau (jury prize), Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor, Arnaud Desplechin’s Oh Mercy!, Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers, and Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake.
From Cannes’s Un Certain Regard program come Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole (best director and the FIPRESCI Prize), Oliver Laxe’s Fire Will Come (jury prize), and Albert Serra’s Liberté (special jury prize). The single title from the Directors Fortnight is Bertrand Bonello’s Zombi Child.
Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin and, as the NYFF puts it, “Lapid’s boldest and most haunting work yet,” will see its U.S. premiere. And so will Federico Veiroj’s The Moneychanger, about a money-laundering speculator pillaging Uruguay’s economy. The Moneychanger will premiere in Toronto’s Platform program.
Vitalina Varela, Pedro Costa’s first feature since Horse Money (2014), will premiere in Locarno, and two films currently playing in Japan are heading to New York after screening in Locarno. In A Girl Missing, Koji Fukada’s “concerns are the fragility of human bonds, the divided nature of the human heart, and the eternal desire for revenge,” writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. And Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth tracks the adventures of a Japanese travel reporter in Uzbekistan.
Olivier Assayas’s espionage drama, Wasp Network, and Lou Ye’s Saturday Fiction, starring Gong Li, will premiere in Venice. So, too, will Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden, before it screens in competition in Toronto. The NYFF calls Martin Eden “an enveloping, superbly mounted bildungsroman.”
And then, of course, there are the previously announced big nights: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, already selected to close the London Film Festival in October, will see its world premiere as the opening night film on September 27. The centerpiece will be Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. And Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn, an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel, will close this year’s edition on October 13.
Toronto has selected ten features—four of them directed by women—for its only competitive program, Platform, now in its fifth year:
- Anthony Chen won the Caméra d’Or, Cannes’s best first feature award, in 2013 for Ilo Ilo, and Wet Season, focusing on the close bond between a teacher and a student, is his long-awaited followup.
- Julie Delpy’s My Zoe is “probably one of the most surprising films we’ve seen,” Andrea Picard tells IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. She’s coprogrammed this year’s Platform with Cameron Bailey. “We know [Delpy] as the maker of these charming comedies,” she says, “but this is a feat of storytelling with hints of a thriller and science fiction. The less you know going in, the more the film will seize you.”
- In Sarah Gavron’s section opener, Rocks, a London teenager struggles to care for herself and her younger brother.
- Paula Hernández’s The Sleepwalkers centers on a mother and her teenage daughter attending a tense family reunion.
- Luca Marinelli plays a sailer who aspires to become a writer in Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden.
- Darius Marder’s debut feature, Sound of Metal, stars Riz Ahmed as a drummer losing his hearing.
- Kazik Radwanski shot Anne at 13,000 ft over the course of two years “in spurts,” according to the Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz, and stars Deragh Campbell as a woman struggling to deal with the people in her life.
- Federico Veiroj’s previously mentioned The Moneychanger is based on a 1979 novella by Uruguayan writer Juan Enrique Gruber.
- Alice Winocour’s Proxima stars Eva Green as an astronaut preparing to leave her daughter behind as she commits to spending a year on the International Space Station.
- In David Zonana’s Workforce, the death of a construction worker in Mexico City prompts his brother and widow to seek justice.
Taika Waititi, whose Jojo Rabbit will see its world premiere as a special presentation, will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award. Toronto’s forty-fourth edition will run from September 5 through 15.
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