Billie Piper Directorial Debut 'Rare Beasts' Among Venice Critics' Week Lineup

RARE BEASTS Still 1 - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Aron Klein

Seven films from around the world will compete in the festival's main competition.

Once again, Venice International Critics' Week is set to launch a slew of new titles from around the world. The lineup includes seven features from new directors who will compete for the audience award and festival’s grand prize, as well as special event opening- and closing-night films.

Critics' Week, an independent fest that takes place parallel to the Venice Film Festival, was founded in 1984 and over the years has debuted films from a number of top helmers, including Olivier Assayas, Mike Leigh, Pablo Trapero and Kenneth Lonergan.

Actress Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Diary of a Call Girl, Penny Dreadful) will present her directorial debut, Rare Beasts. Described as an “anti-rom-com” comedy, the pic follows Mandy (Piper), a single mother and nihilist who writes about the kind of love that no longer exists. She strives to have a career without getting too distracted along the way, until she meets Pete (David Thewlis), a troubled man who longs for traditional gender roles. Leo Bill and Lily James also star in the film.

The Prince, directed by Sebastian Munoz, takes place in 1970s Chile. A young man is sentenced to prison after a drunken accident gone wrong. He learns about love and protection from an older prisoner, as both must cope with the violent power struggles behind bars.

Maria Grahto’s thriller Psychosia is the story of Viktoria, a researcher who is brought to a psychiatric ward to treat a suicidal patient. As the two grow closer and closer together, it’s clear something is not as it seems. The film is based on the director’s own experience.

Representing Italy, Ascanio Petrini’s Tony Driver, in the tradition of Dino Risi and Ettore Scola, follows Pasquale, a man who, after moving to America and becoming a taxi driver, is arrested for carrying illegal immigrants across the Mexican border. He must choose between jail time or being deported back to Italy.

Shahad Ameen is poised to become another new talent from the growing pool in Saudi Arabia. Her film Scales is a black-and-white fantasy about a young girl in a poor fishing village that is governed by a dark tradition that demands every family give away a daughter to the sea creatures in nearby waters. Her family works to save her, but they cannot escape their destiny.

Ahmad Ghossein’s All This Victory takes place during the war between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon in 2006. The political thriller follows a group who, after taking refuge in a house, become hostage to their own fears once enemy soldiers inhabit the first floor.

In Mantas Kvedaravicius’ Parthenon, three destinies intertwine throughout Sudan, Greece, Turkey and Ukraine.  

Gitanjali Rao’s animated Bombay Rose will open the fest. Drawn by hand, the film tells the story of three loves: between an unavailable boy and girl, between two women and love for an entire city and its Bollywood stars. And Joshua Gil’s Sanctorum, a pic about a family in Mexico torn apart by the cartels, will close the festival.

“Films able to put into discussion the state of things, these are works that are anchored in the world, the result of situations that saw them coming alive,” said festival director Giona A. Nazzaro about his selection.

The 34th Venice International Critics’ Week is set to run Aug. 28-Sept. 7.