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The 78th Venice International Film Festival is looking to out-dazzle Cannes with a 2021 lineup that includes some of the biggest studio films as well as hotly anticipated indie and art house titles.
Among the biggest films heading to the Lido this year will be Denis Villeneuve’s all-star sci-fi epic Dune, the Kristen Stewart-starring Princess Diana drama Spencer, and Pedro Almodóvar’s Madres Paralelas, starring Penélope Cruz. The latter will open Venice 2021 on Sept. 1.
Other major movies picking Venice for their world debut include David Gordon Green’s horror sequel Halloween Kills, starring Jamie Lee Curtis; Ridley Scott’s period drama The Last Duel, starring Adam Driver, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Jodie Comer; and Edgar Wright’s hotly anticipated Last Night in Soho with Anya Taylor-Joy. All three will screen out of competition.
In the running for the 2021 Golden Lion for best film are Jane Campion’s star-studded literary adaptation The Power of the Dog featuring Kirsten Dunst and Benedict Cumberbatch, horror specialist Ana Lily Amirpour with Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, and actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, starring Oscar winner Olivia Colman, will also premiere in competition at the 78th Venice Festival.
Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco, whose New Order won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize in Venice last year, returns to competition with Sundown, an English-language feature starring Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Paul Schrader, another Venice regular, will roll out on the Lido this year with the competition title The Card Counter, which features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe.
Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera and Roberto Cicutto, president of La Biennale di Venezia, unveiled this year’s lineup in a live-streamed feed Monday.
“We were surprised by the average quality [of film submissions] this year,” said Barbera. “As if the [COVID-19] pandemic had inspired creativity. So in this way, I can be optimistic about the state of cinema.”
Female filmmakers, however, may have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic, Barbera said, noting that there were just five female filmmakers in the Venice 2021 competition, compared to eight last year. Barbera said he saw the development as a “temporary setback” and that he hoped the percentage of female directors would bounce back next year.
Barbera welcomed what he said was a “comeback of stars, VIPs” and studio-backed productions to Venice, with films from “Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney” in the official selection.
“Americans have emerged from their lockdown and they are ready to start [again],” said Barbera. “Something we can only be happy of.”
Indeed, Venice 2021 will be closely watched by the international industry to see how moviegoers respond to the return of blockbuster titles. Warner Bros.’ Dune, Disney’s The Last Duel, Universal’s Halloween Kills and the Focus Features/Universal Last Night in Soho will be looking to use the fall festival as a launchpad for their global rollout and, potentially, awards season runs.
The Lido has become something of a lucky charm for the Oscars, with Venice’s 2020 winner, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, going on to grab the best picture trophy at this year’s Academy Awards. Other recent Venice success stories include Todd Phillips’ Joker (Golden Lion winner in 2019) and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, which leveraged its enthusiastic reception at Venice 2019 to six Oscar nominations, including a win for supporting actress Laura Dern.
Italian cinema is also poised for a comeback at Venice 2021, with five Italian titles in competition, including America Latina from brothers Damiano and Fabio d’Innocenzo, Il Buco from director Michelangelo Frammartino, Freaks Out from Gabriele Mainetti, and Mario Martone’s Qui Rido Io.
The Hand of God, the new film from Italian Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) will also have its world premiere in competition in Venice. The coming-of-age drama follows a young boy growing up in the tumultuous Naples of the 1980s, where personal and social tragedy is countered by the unexpected joy that comes with when soccer legend Diego Maradona joins the city’s troubled squad. Sorrentino has called The Hand of God his most personal film yet.
The director returned to his Naples hometown to shoot the movie, marking the first time since his 2001 feature debut One Man Up. Netflix will release The Hand of God worldwide. The movie was produced by Lorenzo Mieli for The Apartment Pictures, a Fremantle company.
Finally, an Italian feature — Roberto Ando’s Il Bambino Nascoto — will close Venice 2021 in an out-of-competition slot Sept. 11.
Out of competition, music fans will be treated to Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song from director Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine, a look at the late Canadian songsmith through the lens of his most famous song, and Roberta Lena’s Deandre#Deandre Storia di un Impiegato, about the legendary Italian singer-songwriter Fabrizio Cristiano De André.
A small-screen highlight at Venice this year will be Scenes From a Marriage, the HBO miniseries from Our Boys and In Treatment writer Hagai Levi. The show, produced by Endeavor Content and Media Res, stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Issac in a modern-day TV adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1973 feature about a marriage falling apart.
Venice’s Orizzonti, or Horizons sidebar section, includes Amira from Egyptian director Mohamed Diab, A Plein Temps from French director Eric Gravel, and the Czech film 107 Mothers from director Peter Kerekes. Kosovo will be represented for the first time at Orizzonti with Vera Dreams of the Sea from director Kaltrina Krasniqi. British director Harry Wootliff will premiere True Things, starring Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke, in the Venice sidebar. Among the newcomers to Orizzonti this year include Bogdan George Apetri with Miracle and Laurynas Bareisa with Pilgrims.
Among the Asian titles in the 2021 Orizzonti lineup are White Building from Cambodian director Kavich Neang, Anatomy of Time from Thai filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong and the Japanese animation title Inu-Oh from director Yuasa Masaaki.
Orizzonti will open with Land of Dreams from Iranian director Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari, starring Matt Dillon.
Orizzonti’s closing title will be the drama Rhino from the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, whose arrest and imprisonment by the Russian government made him a cause célèbre across the European film industry.
For the first time, the Orizzonti has added an Orizzonti Extra section focusing on “new trends in world cinema.” The section will feature a new prize, the inaugural audience award honor, voted on by festivalgoers and backed by the Venice festival’s main sponsor, Armani beauty. Unlike other Venice sections, the Orizzonti Extra will present a wide range of titles “without any restrictions in terms of genre, length or destination” as long as they are at least 60 minutes in length. The Orizzonti Extra screenings will also feature public discussions among the directors, writers and actors in the productions and the Venice audience, curated by the author Chiara Tagliaferri. All these discussions will be streamed online.
In addition to Land of Dreams, Orizzonti Extra titles include Mounia Akl’s Costa Brava, Mama I’m Home from director Vladimir Bitokov, and the enticingly titled Finnish feature The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic from director Teemu Nikki.
Venice last year was the first major international festival to hold an in-person event since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 festival will take place as infection rates are beginning to climb again across most of Europe, including Italy, as the highly contagious delta COVID-19 variant spreads.
On Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi approved a decree ordering the use of the so-called “green” COVID-19 passes for several activities, including access to movie theaters. The measures, which take effect Aug. 6, require individuals to prove they have received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine in the past nine months, have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months, or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 48 hours.
Cicutto said that despite the new restrictions, there has been major interest from both journalists and filmmakers to attend Venice in person.
“We are ready, we hope for the whole world, for Italy and for Venice in particular, we hope that infections will slow down so that we can open up more theaters but we will, of course, obey the rules.”
Oscar-winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) will head up the 2021 Venice jury, joined by fellow best picture Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), French actress Virginie Efira (Benedetta), Italian director Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts), Canadian actress and producer Sarah Gadon (Enemy), Romanian documentary maker Alexander Nanau (Collective), and British actress and singer-songwriter Cynthia Erivo (Widows).
The competition jury will pick this year’s Golden Lion for best film as well as Silver Lion honors, including the Grand Jury Prize, best director, best actor, best actress, best screenplay, special jury prize and the Marcello Mastroianni Award, named after the legendary Italian actor, for best new young actor or actress.
The full lineup of the 2021 Venice Film Festival is below.
VENEZIA 78 – COMPETITION
Madres Paralelas, dir: Pedro Almodóvar
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, dir: Ana Lily Amirpour
Un Autre Monde, dir: Stéphane Brizé
The Power of the Dog, dir: Jane Campion
America Latina, dirs: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo
L’Evénement, dir: Audrey Diwan
Competencia Oficial, dirs: Gaston Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Il Buco, dir: Michelangelo Frammartino
Sundown, dir: Michel Franco
Illusions Perdues, dir: Xavier Giannoli
The Lost Daughter, dir: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Spencer, dir: Pablo Larraín
Freaks Out, dir: Gabriele Mainetti
Qui Rido Io, dir: Mario Martone
On the Job: The Missing 8, dir: Erik Matti
Leave No Traces, dir: Jan P Matuszynski
Captain Volkonogov Escaped, dirs: Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov
The Card Counter, dir: Paul Schrader
The Hand Of God, dir: Paolo Sorrentino
La Caja, dir: Lorenzo Vigas
Reflection, dir: Valentyn Vasyanovych
OUT OF COMPETITION – FICTION
Il Bambino Nascosto, dir: Roberto Ando
Les Choses Humaines, dir: Yvan Attal
Ariaferma, dir: Leonardo Di Costanzo
Halloween Kills, dir: David Gordon Green
La Scuola Cattolica, dir: Stefano Mordini
Old Henry, dir: Potsy Ponciroli
The Last Duel, dir: Ridley Scott
Dune, dir: Denis Villeneuve
Last Night In Soho, dir: Edgar Wright
OUT OF COMPETITION – NON-FICTION
Life of Crime 1984-2020, dir: Jon Alpert
Tranchées, dir: Loup Bureau
Viaggio Nel Crepuscolo, dir: Augusto Contento
Republic of Silence, dir: Diana El Jeiroudi
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song, dirs: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Deandré#Deandré Storio Di Un Impiegato, dir: Roberta Lena
Django & Django, dir: Luca Rea
Ezio Bosso. Le Cose Che Restano, dir: Giorgio Verdelli
Le 7 Giornate Di Bergamo, dir: Simona Ventura
La Biennale Di Venezia: Il Cinema Al Tempo Del Covid, dir: Andrea Segre
OUT OF COMPETITION – SERIES
Scenes From a Marriage (Episodes 1-5), dir: Hagai Levi
Land of Dreams, dirs: Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari
Costa Brava, dir: Mounia Akl
Mama I’m Home, dir: Vladimir Bitokov
Ma Nuit, dir: Antoinette Boulat
La Ragazza Ha Volato, dir: Wilma Labate
7 Prisoners, dir: Alexandre Moratto
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic, dir: Teemu Nikki
La Macchina Delle Immagini Di Alfredo C, dir: Roland Sejko
Les Promesses, dir: Thomas Kruithof
Atlantide, dir: Yuri Ancarani
Miracle, dir: Bogdan George Apetri
Pilgrims, dir: Laurynas Bareisa
Il Paradiso Del Pavone, dir: Laura Bispuri
The Falls, dir: Chung Mong-Hong
El Hoyo En La Cerca, dir: Joaquin Del Paso
Amira, dir: Mohamed Diab
A Plein Temps, dir: Eric Gravel
107 Mothers, dir: Peter Kerekes
Vera Dreams of the Sea, dir: Kaltrina Krasniqi
White Building, dir: Kavich Neang
Anatomy of Time, dir: Jakrawal Nilthamrong
El Otro Tom, dirs: Rodrigo Pla, Laura Santullo
El Gran Movimento, dir: Kiro Russo
Once Upon a Time in Calcutta, dir: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Rhino, dir: Oleg Sentsov
True Things, dir: Harry Wootliff
Inu-Oh, dir: Yuasa Masaaki
BIENNALE COLLEGE – CINEMA
Nuestros Dias Mas Felices
La Santa Piccola
Mon Pere, Le Diable
BIENNALE COLLEGE CINEMA – VIRTUAL REALITY
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