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Studio titles, female director and some of the biggest names in international arthouse cinema will be competing for this year’s Golden Lion at the 77th Venice International Film Festival.
Announcing the 2020 line up Tuesday, Venice festival director Alberto Barbera was keen to point out that this year’s event will feature films from around the world, ensuring that Venice will continue to be “a shop window for the best cinema production in the world.”
Barbera was keen to highlight the two studio productions heading to the Lido this year, including competition title The World to Come from director Mona Fastvold, which Sony is distributing. The intimate drama stars Casey Affleck, Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston and Christopher Abbott.
The other studio-backed feature, Searchlight Pictures Nomadland, a road movie drama from director Chloé Zhao was previously announced as a Venice title. Nomadland will also screen in Toronto at at the New York Film Festival and will have a special drive-in screening in Los Angeles organized by the now-cancelled Telluride fest.
Other big-name titles screening out of competition in Venice this year include The Duke, a crime comedy from Notting Hill director Roger Michell starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren and Greta, Nathan Grossman’s documentary portrait of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
But international arthouse productions account for majority of this year’s competition line-up.
Venice veterans Amos Gitai and Andrei Konchalovsky return to competition in 2020 with Laila in Haifa and Dear Comrades respectably.
White God director Kornel Mundruczo will present his English-language debut Pieces of a Woman starring Vanessa Kirby and Shia LeBeouf, in competition in Venice and Kiyoshi Kurosawa will make his Venice debut with Japanese spy thriller Wife of a Spy.
Iranian drama Sun Child from director Majid Majidi will mark the director’s first competition entry from the Persian filmmaker.
Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno, shot in Syria, and Polish drama Never Gonna Snow Again from Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert will also compete for this year’s Golden Lion, alongside Hilal Baydarov’s In Between Dying, Le Sorelle Macaluso from Italian theatrical director Emma Dante and the near-future dystopian drama Nuevo Orden from Michel Franco.
Venice this year also went some way towards addressing the gender imbalance of festivals past. 8 of the 18 competition titles, or 44 percent, were directed by women, the highest level ever for the event.
Barbera, who has always rejected the idea of a quota for female directors at the festivals, said the competition titles were “selected exclusively on the basis of their quality and not as a result of gender protocols” but said the more balanced line-up “augurs well for a future cinema that is free of any sort of prejudice and discrimination.”
For the past few years, Venice has marked the unofficial start to award season, with Oscar hopefuls using a splashy premiere on the Lido to launch their Academy Award run.
Warner Bros. successfully leveraged its 2019 Venice competition premiere of Todd Phillips’ Joker — which won the Golden Lion for best film — to position the comic-book drama as a both a tentpole event and an awards contender. Joker went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide and scooped up two Oscars, including a best actor nod for star Joachim Phoenix.
But the global coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down theaters and severely restricted international travel, means Venice this year will be a very different affair. Other major festivals, including SXSW, Cannes and Tribeca, canceled in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, Venice will be the first major film event to be held since the outbreak forced much of the world into lockdown.
Barbera noted that COVID-19 was a “specter at the feast” of this year’s event but insured attendees that social distancing and new security and hygienic measures would be in place to make Venice 2020 “risk-free.”
Italy, along with much of Europe, has begun to reopen, and Barbera is determined to restart the festival and the international awards calendar with a proper, if somewhat scaled back, version of the Venice Biennale.
The Hollywood presence on the Lido this year will be limited, however, as, with the exception of The World to Come and Nomadland, the studios have held back their top titles. Also notable by its absence this year is Netflix, which has previously debuted such award-friendly features as Roma and Marriage Story at Venice in the past.
The unique nature of this year’s event has also led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the big film festivals. The major Fall fests —Venice, Telluride, Toronto and the New York Film Festival —have announced plans to share films and premieres to avoid competing. For now at least.
Cate Blanchett will head up the 2020 international jury which this time around is an all-European affair, including British director Joanna Hogg, French actress Ludivine Sagnier, Austrian filmmaker Veronika Franz, German director Christian Petzold, Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu and Italian writer Nicola Lagioia.
The 2020 festival kicks off Sept. 2 with the out-of-competition premiere of The Ties (Lucci), an Italian marital drama from director Daniele Luchetti (My Brother is an Only Child) starring Alba Rohrwacher, Luigi Lo Cascio and Laura Morante.
Rohrwacher’s sister, director Alice Rohrwacher (Happy As Lazzaro) will screen her latest, Omelia Contadina, in Venice in an out of competition slot. The out of competition line-up also includes Korean gangster drama Night in Paradise from director Park Hoon-Jung and Love After Love, the new feature from Hong Kong director Ann Hui. Hui will be honored in Venice this year with a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement, as will Scottish actress Tilda Swinton.
Venice’s Horizons sidebar will feature its usual collection of new-comers and art-house favorites. This year’s line-up includes Lav Diaz’s Genus Pan, The Wasteland from Iranian director Ahmad Bahrami and Gia Coppola’s Mainstream.
A day before the official opening, Venice will hold a screening of Molecole, a new documentary by Italian filmmaker Andrea Segre (The Order of Things) shot entirely in Venice while the city was in lockdown.
The 2020 Venice International Film Festival runs through Sept 12.
Full Venice 2020 line-up:
VENEZIA 77 – COMPETITION
In Between Dying, dir: Hilal Baydarov
Le Sorelle Macaluso, dir: Emma Dante
The World To Come, dir: Mona Fastvold
Nuevo Orden, dir: Michel Franco
Lovers, dir: Nicole Garcia
Laila in Haifa, dir: Amos Gitai
Dear Comrades, dir: Andrei Konchalovsky
Wife Of A Spy, dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Sun Children, dir: Majid Majidi
Pieces Of A Woman, dir: Kornel Mundruczo
Miss Marx, dir: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Padrenostro, dir: Claudio Noce
Notturno, dir: Gianfranco Rosi
Never Gonna Snow Again, dirs: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert
The Disciple, dir: Chaitanya Tamhane
And Tomorrow The Entire World, dir: Julia Von Heinz
Quo Vadis, Aida?, dir: Jasmila Zbanic
Nomadland, dir: Chloé Zhao
Apples, dir: Christos Nikou
La Troisième Guerre, dir: Giovanni Aloi
Milestone, dir: Ivan Ayr
The Wasteland, dir: Ahmad Bahrami
The Man Who Sold His Skin, dir: Kaouther Ben Hania
I Predatori, dir: Pietro Castellitto
Mainstream, dir: Gia Coppola
Genus Pan, dir: Lav Diaz
Zanka Contact, dir: Ismael El Iraki
Guerra E Pace, dirs: Martina Parenti, Massimo D’Anolfi
La Nuit Des Rois, dir: Philippe Lacôte
The Furnace, dir: Roderick Mackay
Careless Crime, dir: Shahram Mokri
Gaza Mon Amour, dirs: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Selva Tragica, dir: Yulene Olaizola
Nowhere Special, dir: Uberto Pasolini
Listen, dir: Ana Rocha de Sousa
The Best Is Yet To Come, dir: Wang Jing
Yellow Cat, dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov
OUT OF COMPETITION – SPECIAL SCREENINGS
30 Monedas, Episode 1, dir: Alex de la Iglesia
Princesse Europe, dir: Camille Lotteau
Omelia Contadina, dir: Alice Rohrwacher Jr
OUT OF COMPETITION – FICTION
Lacci, dir: Daniele Lucheti
Lasciami Andare, dir: Stefano Mordini
Mandibules, dir: Quentin Dupieux
Love After Love, dir: Ann Hui
Assandira, dir: Salvatore Mereu
The Duke, dir: Roger Michell
Night In Paradise, dir: Park Soon-jung
Mosquito State, dir: Filip Jan Rymsza
OUT OF COMPETITION – NON-FICTION
Sportin’ Life, dir: Abel Ferrara
Crazy, Not Insane, dir: Alex Gibney
Greta, dir: Nathan Grossman
Salvatore, Shoemaker Of Dreams, dir: Luca Guadagnino
Final Account, dir: Luke Holland
La Verita Su La Dolce Vita, dir: Giuseppe Pedersoli
Molecole, dir: Andrea Segre
Narciso Em Ferias, dirs: Renato Terra, Ricardo Calil
Paulo Conte, Via Con Me, dir: Giorgio Verdelli
Hopper/Welles, dir: Orson Welles
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