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Venice Film Festival 2017 (La Biennale)

The end of August this year saw the start of eleven days of film appreciation and promotion in the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, as filmmakers and film-talkers converged in Venice with screenings and premieres in hand for the 74th edition of the Venice Film Festival (La Biennale). As the good and the great of global cinema glamorously graced press conferences, photocalls and red carpets—we breakdown the major happenings at one of the major stops on the long film-festival and award season railway.



Image Source: Getty Images

This year’s principal jury—responsible for selecting the main award winners at festival’s end—was presided over by American actress Annette Bening and included Hungarian film writer/director Ildikó Enyedi, Mexican writer/director Michel Franco, British actress Rebecca Hall, French actress Anna Mouglalis, Aussie film critic David Stratton, Italian actress Jasmine Trinca, British writer/director Edgar Wright and Hong-Kong writer/director Yonfan.



Premieres & Screenings

Wednesday the 30th


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This year’s festival and its main competition kicked off with the premiere of Alexander Payne’s latest idiosyncratic comedy/drama ‘Downsizing’; a socially conscious sci-fi tale of conservation, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who embark on an eye-opening adventure after volunteering for an experimental procedure which shrinks them down to 5-inches tall, in order to live a simpler and more sustainable life.

The writer/director was joined in ‘La Serenissima’ by his stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Hong Chau, ‘Downsizing’ is out on the 22nd of December in the US, with no UK date yet.

Downsizing @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Nico, 1988

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The ‘Orizzonti’ competition also began on opening day this year with the premiere of writer/director Susanna Nicchiarelli’s Italo-Belgian biographical drama ‘Nico, 1988’; the later-life story of 60s psychedelic singer-songwriter and Warhol superstar Nico, living the quiet life and struggling with personal demons, only to rekindle her musical flame with an 80s European tour.

Nicchiarelli was joined on the red carpet by her stars Sandor Funtek, Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Karina Fernandez and Thomas Trabacchi, ‘Nico, 1988’ has no current release dates.

Nico, 1988 trailer (courtesy of Celluloid Dreams)



Thursday the 31st

The Shape of Water

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The red carpet action on the first Thursday of this year’s festival culminated with the gala premiere of Guillermo del Toro’s in-competition film (and eventual Golden Lion winner) and latest visually stunning unique fantasy drama ‘The Shape of Water’; a ‘Beauty & the Beast’ style fairy-tale about boundless love, set in the backdrop of the cold war where a mute cleaner at a top secret lab develops an unlikely bond with their latest experiment—a fantastical water-dwelling creature.

Del Toro brought along Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins, as well as composer Alexandre Desplat, ‘The Shape of Water’ is out on the 8th of December in the US and on the 16th of February 2018 in the UK.

The Shape of Water @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



First Reformed

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Director and legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) also brought along his competition entry ‘First Reformed’ to Venice on Thursday. The story of a minister and ex-military chaplain struggling with the combat death of his son, only to go through an existential crisis when confronted by a young couple seeking his council, as he embarks on a mission to restore faith . . . in himself and those failed by society. The director met the press along with his leads Amanda Seyfried and Ethan Hawke, ‘First Reformed’ has no confirmed release dates yet.

First Reformed @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



The Insult (L’insulte)

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Thursday also saw the premiere of Lebanon’s competition entry this year, writer/director Ziad Doueiri’s socially conscious drama set in modern day Beirut, where a simple dispute between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee quickly escalates into courtroom drama and media frenzy, where social prejudices rear their ugly heads while the two central figures struggle for justice and dignity.

Doueiri was in attendance with stars Christine Choueiri, Kamel El Basha, Diamand Abou Abboud, Rita Hayek, Adel Karam and Camille Salameh, ‘The Insult’ is out on the 14th of September in the Lebanon, with no other confirmed release dates.

The Insult @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Friday the 1st

Lean on Pete

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The first Friday at this year’s festival saw British director Andrew Haigh bring his in-competition, quintessentially American story and novel adaptation ‘Lean on Pete’ to the Lido. The tale of a nomadic teen who forms a bond with a failing racehorse, after taking a job at a ranch following his latest family move through the American Northwest with his single father.

Haigh walked the red carpet with his stars Chloe Sevigny and Charlie Plummer, and his producer Tristan Goligher,‘Lean on Pete’ is out in UK cinemas on the 16th of February 2018.

Lean on Pete @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Our Souls at Night

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Friday ushered-in some real Hollywood stardom to the Lido, as Indian director Ritesh Batra accompanied his legendary stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford for an out-of-competition premiere of their romantic drama ‘Our Souls at Night’—the story of two small-town widowers and neighbours in the twilight of their years, whose casual acquaintance turns into an unexpectedly deep emotional entanglement after they agree to a ‘friends with benefits’ proposition. ‘Our Souls at Night’ is out on the 29th of September in the US, with no UK date yet.

Our Souls at Night Venice press conference (courtesy of celluloidVideo)



Human Flow

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The beginning of the first weekend at this year’s festival also signaled the in-competition premiere of Chinese activist-artist Ai Weiwei’s latest piece of cinematic social commentary ‘Human Flow’. A documentary fixing an uncomfortable gaze on the human stories which make up the massive migration and global refugee crisis over the last two years, which threatens to define the future of more than one continent, if the global community doesn’t come together to determine it first.‘Human Flow’ is out on limited release on the 13th of October in the US, with no UK date yet.

Human Flow @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Saturday the 2nd


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The first Saturday’s proceedings culminated in the gala premiere for in-competition dark comedy and prescient social satire ‘Suburbicon’—a story set in quiet 1950s suburban America, where the spotless facade of an idyllic cookie-cutter town is smeared by a violent home invasion, only for a pencil-pushing father-of-one to take matters into his own hands in response.

The film’s superstar director George Clooney took some time off from his busy new family life to assemble his stars Matt Damon and Julianne Moore and composer Alexandre Desplat on the Lido red carpet, ‘Suburbicon’ is out in UK cinemas on the 24th of November and in the US on the 3rd of November.

Suburbicon @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)




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Israel also made its presence felt at the festival this year on Saturday with the premiere of poignant family drama ‘Foxtrot’, a story which follows the deep emotional struggles of a middle-aged couple after their soldier son is killed in action, as they try to come to terms with the sobering reality of his military service and the surreal nature of his experiences. The film’s writer/director and previous ‘Golden Lion’ winner Samuel Maoz (Lebanon) was on hand with his stars Gefen Barkai, Shira Haas, Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler and Yonathan Shiray, ‘Foxtrot’ has no confirmed release dates yet.

Foxtrot @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Brawl in Cell Block 99

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Writer director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) also brought his second feature to the Lido on Saturday for an out-of-competition screening of ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’, a crime thriller revolving around a tough and stoic ex-boxer who falls on hard times and takes to drug smuggling to stay afloat, only to end up in the big house and get caught up in all-out prison warfare. Zahler was on hand with stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Carpenter, ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ has no release dates yet.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 trailer (courtesy of RLJE Movies)



Sunday the 3rd

The Leisure Seeker

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Sunday in Venice saw real Hollywood royalty grace the red carpet as Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland were joined by their Italian director and Venice regular Paolo Virzì for a gala premiere of their romantic later-life road drama ‘The Leisure Seeker’, the story of an ailing couple in their twilight years who resurrect the old family caravan to get away from their stagnant and numbered days—embarking on a road trip of enlightenment and self re-discovery across America. ‘The Leisure Seeker’ is out on the 25th of January 2018 in the US, with no UK date yet.

The Leisure Seeker @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



Reinventing Marvin (Marvin)

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Sunday also saw a return to Venice for Luxembourgian writer/director Anne Fontaine that was long in the making, as she accompanied her star Finnegan Oldfield for a screening of France’s ‘Orizzonti’ competition entrant ‘Reinventing Marvin’—the story of a young man who escapes his country village and swaps a bleak provincial life for a shot a reinvention and stage stardom. ‘Reinventing Marvin’ is out in the 22nd of November in France, with no other release dates confirmed.

Reinventing Marvin @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)



The House by the Sea (La Villa)

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The end of week one at Venice also saw writer/director Robert Guédiguian showcase one of the French in-competition contenders ‘The House by the Sea’—a family drama centred in picturesque small-town southern France, where three people gather at the bedside of their dying father to reflect on their physical and spiritual inheritance from him, only for an unexpected group of visitors in their idyllic coastal refuge to turn things upside down.

Guediguian was joined in Venice by his stars Robinson Stevenin, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Ariane Ascaride, Anais Demoustier, Jacques Boudet and Yann Tregouet, ‘The House by the Sea’ is out on the 29th of November in France with no other dates yet.

The House by the Sea @ Venice 2017 (courtesy of BiennaleChannel)


Week 2 at La Biennale (Next Page)–>

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