The Venice film festival presents a packed lineup of surprises

Posted on 26 July, 2022

Now taking place for the seventy-ninth time, the Venice International Film Festival promises to be an open window onto the world and one of the most anticipated cultural events of the year. It will open on the Lido in a few weeks, on August 31, and run until September 10, and has been unveiled in close detail by director Alberto Barbera.

Between the main competition and other sections, expectations are running high. Among the most awaited films is the opening with White Noise, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. The festival will also witness the return of the Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu for a work that has been five years in the making.

Another example is the new cooperation between Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet after the success of Call Me by Your Name, as is the biopic of Marilyn Monroe, starring Ana de Armas. Or Olivia Wilde‘s film featuring Harry Styles. And – breaking news – Lars Von Trier‘s miniseries. Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017) and Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, 2020 and Mother!, 2017) will also be present. The Lido will see big stars, from Tilda Swinton to Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett to Hugh Jackman. As well as Colin Farrell, Cate Blanchett, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Chris Rock.

Since the festival “does not live in a bubble,” as Barbera stated at the press conference, there will be room for politics and social issues. Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s fight for freedom is Evgeny Afineevsky‘s instant movie, which the director is refining with images coming in from the front lines.

But the festival will also feature other scenarios of political and social turmoil. Iran is an example: the Venice Biennale will host the work of four filmmakers, including Jafar Panahi, who is still in prison for filming without permission from the regime. 

Get ready because the lineup is packed, and Hypercritic will follow it closely. Here is a summary of everything there is to see.

The movies in the main Competition: Venice 79

The section that will award the main prizes at the Venice Film Festival, starting with the Golden Lion, will open with Noah Baumbach‘s White Noise. The author of Marriage Story (2019) returns to direct his leading man Adam Driver, joined by Greta Gerwig (Little Women, 2019). The Baumbach-Gerwig duo has already made history for being the first couple nominated for an Oscar in the same category, best picture, in 2019. This only raises expectations for White Noise, an adaptation of Don DeLillo‘s novel of the same name.

WHITE NOISE – (L-R) Greta Gerwig (Babette), May Nivola (Steffie), Adam Driver (Jack), Samuel Nivola (Heinrich) and Raffey Cassidy (Denise). Cr: Wilson Webb/NTEFLIX © 2022

There are strong expectations around Darren Aronofsky’s return to the big screen with The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser and Sadie Sink, an actress much appreciated in Stranger Things. The film, based on a play, is set entirely within the walls of a room.

After five years of intense work, Alejandro G. Iñárritu returns to the big screen with BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. It is a three-hour work in which the Mexican director has concentrated all his obsessions and nightmares. “He confided in me that this work changed the way he dreams,” director Barbera said.

Alice Diop, a French filmmaker from documentary filmmaking, is the only author of a debut feature in the competition. An experienced document maker, she tries her hand at a work of fiction: Saint Omer. It is a procedural story that centers on the drama of a mother who ends her daughter’s life. 

Cruz, Swinton, Blanchett, De Armas: the cinema of leading women

Another title in competition with an impressive three-hour running time is Todd Field‘s Tár. Its protagonist Cate Blanchett portrays an orchestra conductor. Fun fact: Blanchett has a vast musical ability and is said to have actually conducted the musicians in the film.

Todd Field’s TÁR will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival. Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field’s TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit: Florian Hoffmeister / Focus Features

From diva to diva, one of the two titles featuring Penélope Cruz at the Venice Film Festival is also one of the Italian films in competition: Emanuele Crialese‘s L’Immensità. The author stages an autobiographical teenage story. Another Italian work will be Gianni Amelio‘s Il Signore del Formiche, starring Luigi Lo Cascio and Elio Germano. It is a reconstruction of the Braibanti court case, which led to the cancellation of the crime of plagiarism in Italy.

Ana de Armas plays Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik‘s biopic Blonde. In Joanna Hogg‘s The Eternal Daughter, Tilda Swinton stars in an English-style ghost story focusing on the mother-daughter relationship. 

Timothée Chalamet returns to the Lido for Luca Guadagnino‘s latest work, Bones and All, sealing a partnership already beloved by audiences in Call Me by Your Name (2017). But the story they bring to the screen, alongside Taylor Russel and Chloë Sevigny, is entirely different. Set in the Midwest, it is a tale of the failure of the American Dream. A mysterious story also dealing with cannibalism. 

Bones and All - a still from the movie
Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kôji Fukada, an auteur much appreciated by critics but still unknown to a broad audience, presents his fourth feature film, Love Life, in Venice. And it will be worth seeing Athena by Romain Gavras, son of Costas-Gavras. The film is co-written and directed by Ladi Ly, director of Les Misérables (2012). It stages a revolt in a Parisian banlieue following the murder of a young man. “It’s pyrotechnical, shot like a war story or a video game,” Barbera says.

ATHENA – Official still (Credits Netflix)

Past and present conflicts

Two Iranian works will compete at the Venice Film Festival. The first is No Bears by Jafar Panahi, an author still in prison for filming without permission from the Ayatollah regime. The second is Beyond the Wall, by Vahid Jalilvand.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a new feature film by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017). It is a Beckett-esque story set in Ireland, starring Colin Farrell. Florian Zeller remains in the vein of his award-winning The Father (2020). This time he brings The Son to Venice, starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, and again Anthony Hopkins.

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

According to Barbera, a film “necessary, but one that no one had yet dared to make” is Argentina, 1984 by Santiago Mitre. The work centers on the trial of the military junta that ruled the country with an iron fist for seven years.

Chiara, by Susanna Nicchiarelli, starring Margherita Mazzucco, sheds new light on the character of St. Clare, obscured until now by St. Francis. Another Italian film in competition is Monica, by Andrea Pallaoro, starring Trace Lysette. An international and cosmopolitan filmmaker, Pallaoro shot in the U.S. with an entirely American cast.

Activism and family stories

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, by Laura Poitras, is the only documentary in the main competition. It tells the life of artist Nancy Goldin in 1970s and 1980s New York and her efforts as an activist. In her later years, Goldin exposed the pharmaceutical empire of the Sackler family, which built its wealth on Oxycontin.

LES MIENS (OUR TIES) – Official still (Credits Shanna Besson)

Frederick Wiseman‘s A Couple, with Nathalie Boutefeu, reconstructs the almost unknown story of the correspondence between Leo Tolstoy and his wife. A troubled and, in many ways, a contemporary relationship emerges from these letters. Our Ties, by Roschdy Zem, tells an autobiographical family story. But it has already made history for its cast. Indeed, it is the first film to depict the life of a bourgeois Maghrebi family permanently integrated in France. 

Western and Oriental cinema among the Fuori Concorso

Outside the main competition, the Venice Film Festival offers premieres that will delight cinephiles worldwide. Among them is Living, by Oliver Hermanus, a remake of Akira Kurosawa‘s Ikiru (1952). The film aims to pay homage to screenwriter Kazuo Hishiguro by transposing the original story from Japan to 1950s England. Walter Hill‘s Dead for a Dollar is a testament to the western’s immortality, starring Christoph Waltz and Willem Dafoe.

Venice audiences will also see Kim Ki-duk‘s posthumous work, Call of God. The Estonian director Arthur Weber completed the film following the Korean author’s instructions. Kim Ki-duk died of Covid in 2020 in Riga. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion winner Paul Schrader directs Master Gardener, starring Sigourney Weaver. And also, out of competition, Olivia Wilde will present her new work, Don’t Worry Darling. The feature film has her directing superstar Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, and Chris Pine.

DON’T WORRY DARLING – Harry Styles and Florence Pugh (Credits Warner Media)

Among the documentaries will be the aforementioned Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s fight for freedom by Evgeny Afineevsky. Also worth watching are Oliver Stone‘s Nuclear and Bobi Wine Ghetto President by Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo. The latter lifts the veil on one of Africa’s bloodiest dictatorships, in Uganda. It centers on political opponent and rapper Bobi Wine, who will be at the Lido for the premiere.

Among serial productions, anticipation is already running high for Lars Von Trier‘s miniseries The Kingdom: Exodus.


Far Horizons and Virtual Reality 

The Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section gathers social themes and frontier areas. One example is Victim by Hungarian Michal Blaško, which explores emerging racism and nationalism in the European Union. But also Innocence by Guy Davidi, which investigates the staggering number of suicides in the Israeli army. And Makbul Mubarak’s Autobiography, the first film to chronicle the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia.

The Happiest Man in the World, shot in Bosnia by Teona Strugar Mitevska, captures the unresolved trauma of the Sarajevo siege through the story of a couple. The Bride, by Portuguese director Sérgio Tréfaut, tells of the uncertain fate faced by the wives of jihadist militiamen.

The festival celebrates its 90th anniversary this year and marks another milestone: the 10th anniversary of Biennale College. This initiative has led to the development of 84 films and virtual reality projects. The unique setting of the Isola del Lazzaretto in Venice will feature a selection of VR projects after two years of absence. 

VENEZIA 79 – Official poster (Credits Lorenzo Mattoti per La Biennale di Venezia – Foto ASAC)

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