'Silent Souls' generates buzz at Venice Fest

Russian film an early favorite for Golden Lion

VENICE – "Ovsyanki" (Silent Souls), Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko's in-competition drama of a factory worker's poetic and folkloric farewell to his dead wife, was among the Saturday highlights at the Venice Film Festival.
The festival also featured the world premiere of Carlo Mazzacurati's comedic drama "La passion" (The Passion), one of four Italian films in competition. It was the second film in three years on the Venice Lido for the 54-year-old Mazzacurati, following the 2008 success of "La giusta distanza" (The Right Distance), which won Venice's Gugliemo Biraghi collateral prize.
And Saturday also saw the world premiere of "Jean Gentil," from Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas, the moving story of a Haitian immigrant's struggles in the neighboring Dominican Republic. The film, which screened in Venice's Orizzonti sidebar, is the first-ever Dominican film to screen on the Lido.
But it was "Ovsyanki" that created the most buzz Saturday, immediately sparking speculation that it could be an early favorite for the coveted Venice Golden Lion. The film's story is an unlikely road trip for the protagonist, played by Yuriy Tsurilo, and a close friend, played by Igor Sergeyev, embark on a ritual-filled road trip to bury Tsurilo's wife by the riverside where the couple originally spent their honeymoon.
"The slogan of the film was tenderness … we wanted tenderness to be transformed into nostalgia and for those two emotions to become synonymous with love," said Fedorchenko, who previously won the Venice Orizzonti documentary award in 2005 for "Pervye na Lune" (First on the Moon). Fedorchenko said the film was a faithful representation of the Merja culture from Russia Volga region that have been mostly assimilated into Russia’s Slavic culture.