The first hint that there was something unique about Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland came in July when the four major fall festivals announced that they would all host as close to a simultaneous premiere as possible. This new spirit of cooperation is a response to the havoc that the pandemic has wreaked on the global film industry.
Writing for Slant, Chris Barsanti suggests that there are moments “when Joshua James Richards’s sweeping cinematography and Ludovico Einaudi’s gently emotive music point to a far more romantic vision than that suggested by Fern’s more hard-bitten attitude. But by juxtaposing beautiful vistas filled with promise, a rotted social safety net, and the scrappy itinerant workers navigating the space in between, Zhao generates a gradually swelling tension underneath her film’s somewhat placid surface.” And for Little White Lies, Hannah Woodhead writes that Nomadland “might recall the work of Terrance Malick and Kelly Reichardt, but Zhao is not ‘the next’ anyone—she’s the first Chloé Zhao.”
It’s also a film “orphaned by all hope, a vision of humanity mired in violence and internecine hatred,” writes Leonardo Goi in the Notebook. “Visually, it marks a rupture from the more contemplative aesthetic Franco had championed in previous works, trading the emphasis on static compositions of films like Chronic for a more pyrotechnic camerawork, rich in long takes, handheld sequences, and special effects, and conjuring an apocalyptic portrait of Mexico City that feels closer to Children of Men than anything Roma conjures.” New Order screens this week in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema program.
Over the course of a career that began when he worked with Andrei Tarkovsky on the screenplays for Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Andrei Rublev (1966), Andrei Konchalovsky has won a grand jury prize in Cannes, top prizes in Karlovy Vary and San Sebastián, and two Silver Lions in Venice. Now he’s won the special jury prize for Dear Comrades!, a film based on an actual factory workers’ strike that took place in 1962 in the Russian city of Novocherkassk. “Shot in Academy ratio and striking black-and-white, the film becomes a detailed cinematic record of how compromise, ego, cowardice, and greed can rapidly lead to a state-sanctioned massacre,” writes Glenn Heath Jr. at the Film Stage.
Roohollah Zamani, who plays the twelve-year-old head of a scrappy gang of kid thieves charged by a local crime boss with finding and retrieving buried treasure in Majid Majidi’s Sun Children, has won the Marcello Mastroianni award presented for the best performance by a young actor. “The acting is broad, the plot gears often creak, but it has guts and heart and a grubby, street-smart charisma,” writes the Guardian’s Xan Brooks.
Writing for the International Cinephile Society, Marc van de Klashorst finds The Wasteland to be “an incisive look at life on the outskirts of Iranian society hidden in a nifty piece of clockwork storytelling.” And at Filmuforia, Meredith Taylor calls it a “sober end of worlds thriller.”
Introducing his interview for Filmmaker with Lav Diaz, who has won the Orizzonti award for best direction, Aaron Hunt writes that Genus Pan “plays something like a paranoid road trip movie in its first half and suddenly broadens in scope by the second.” And in the Notebook, Michael Guarneri compares Diaz’s 160-minute feature about three Filipino miners caught in a life-threatening cycle of economic exploitation to Lino Brocka’s Manila in the Claws of Light (1975), noting that Genus Pan, set in the late 1990s, “demonstrates that very little has changed from the Marcos era.”
Ana Rocha de Sousa’s Listen has won not only the special jury prize but also the Luigi De Laurentiis award, Venice’s Lion of the Future presented to the best debut feature at the festival. The story centers on a Portuguese couple in London struggling to regain custody of their three children after they have been taken away by social services. In the Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Felperin finds that Rocha de Sousa’s “skillful direction of actors, the woozy cinematography by Hatti Beanland, and Tomas Baltazar’s skittish editing add a colorful edginess” to “this Ken Loach-style social-issue drama.” And for Kaleem Aftab at Cineuropa, Listen is “a shock to the system.”
Pietro Castellitto, the writer, director, and star of the dark comedy The Predators, his debut feature, has won the award for best screenplay. “With an ensemble of at least six major parts, The Predators weaves the lives of several social classes together into a tapestry of avoidable errors caused by vanity, selfishness, arrogance, and lust,” writes Marc van de Klashorst. At In Review Online, Steven Warner argues that Castellitto “offers no new insights into his portrait of a broken system: the rich are assholes incapable of introspection because it would lead to self-destruction, while the working class cling to their humanity, which in turn proves their downfall. They reject the values perpetuated by the ruling class, and instead, erect their own. What Castellitto fails to understand is that, passive or active, nihilism is a cinematic dead end.”
The jury led by Nadav Lapid explains in a statement that they are also giving special mentions to Merawi Gerima’s Residue, “an experimental and intimate portrait of the black community in Washington DC,” and to Ivan I. Tverdovskiy’s Conference, an “unconventional” examination of “fear and pain” set at a memorial for the victims of the 2002 terrorist attack on the Dubrovka Theatre in Moscow.