This year has seen so many festivals, music and film alike, cancelled. Unlike them, the Venice Film Festival decided to plough straight ahead when even it’s rival, the Cannes Film Festival, wasn’t getting back in the game.
Normally attended by more than 10,000 film industry executives, critics, journalists and moviegoers, the festival is no small event. Now at a time when everyone needs to take heed of social distancing, it seemed like a risky move. But to Italians, the fact that festival was still being held hinted at a hope that normalcy was returning.
Festival director Alberto Barbera called the event ‘a sort of test’ for the film industry, what with the slow start production companies have had coming out into a new COVID-19 normal. Looking at how just quickly filming was shut down for Batman 2021 for Warner Bros, it’s understandable that many are just dipping their toes in to test the waters.
It’s not to say that the event went ahead as normal per se. It lacked the usual big-budget blockbusters and bevvy of Hollywood A-listers. There were no hordes of fans clamouring for autographs or cameramen lining the red carpet. But there were various local Italian stars who turned up in all manner of fancy mask wear, making pandemic fashion work and Cate Blanchett looked her finest as the Jury President of the festival.
In line with the new normal that the world is adjusting to, the 2020 version of the acclaimed festival had around half the usual number of attendees, a smaller number of films and the seating in theatres was staggered to respect social distancing.
It was undoubtedly low-key as film festivals go, but low-key is better than being a cluster point.
Masks were mandatory, hand sanitisers a-plenty, temperatures were taken upon entry to the festival grounds and ubiquitous red signs warned attendees to respect the anti-coronavirus measures.
Coronavirus aside, here’s what went on at the festival.
The Golden Lion
Chloé Zhao at 38, is one of Hollywood’s hottest new talents. Currently, she’s working on The Eternals for Marvel and Variety magazine hailed her last film, The Rider, about a rodeo grunt, as a ‘mini-masterpiece’.
Now she’s shot to the top of everyone’s list with Nomadland landing her the Golden Lion award. It is the highest award that one can win at the Venice Film Festival and it is nothing to turn your nose down at, now that all eyes will be on her. Via Zoom, Zhao and McDormand appeared from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where the film had a US premiere on Friday, sitting inside the van used in the film. This is the first time a woman has won the award since Sofia Coppola with Somewhere ten years ago.
The film is an ode to American wanderlust and the highs and lows of the open road. Starring Frances McDormand, it is set among a motley tribe of ageing van dwellers, down on their luck and roaming the West. The double-Oscar winner plays a widow who takes to the road after losing her home and it looks like a heart-wrenching journey.
The Jury Prize
In second place, a complete contrast to Nomadland, sits dystopian protest movie New Order by Michael Franco. It’s a fast-paced thriller about a coup d’état that will have you gripping the arms of your chair. Marianne played by Naian Gonzalez Norvind is the daughter of a wealthy politician whose life seems to be going well until it’s thrown off the rails.
This is a controversial look at protests and military coups from the eyes of the 1%. Currently with protests in the streets being frequent and often violent, it seems like a movie of the times. The director wrote the project four years ago before bigger protests picked up but he never thought his piece would be so on point.
Silver Lion (Best Director)
In this section is a historical wartime romance drama film made for television set in 1940 Kobe, Japan. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is the third Japanese director to have won the Silver Lion at the Venice festival. Previously it went to Takeshi Kitano in 2003 and Kenji Mizoguchi in 1956. Kurosawa is also known for the famed 2001 horror movie Kairo which was remade into Pulse in 2006.
The movie stars Yu Aoi and Issei Takahashi as young lovers in wartime Kobe just before World War II. Yūsaku Fukuhara, played by Takahashi, discovers a state secret that he wants to bring light, but as things go, there are people who don’t want him to. His wife then is tasked with helping him keep the secret.
Vanessa Kirby, previously known for her performance as Princess Margret in The Crown, is being hailed for the role of Martha Weiss in the stage play turned film Pieces of a Woman. Directed by Kornél Mundruczó with the screenplay by Kata Wéber, the same two who created the stage play, the movie follows a young couple on the verge of parenthood who are met with a disastrous home birth that leaves a gaping hole in their lives.
Follow a story of adults trying to cope with the grief of losing a baby in different ways, from Kirby’s character trying to deal with her body telling her she’s still pregnant to LeBeouf’s character’s inability to deal with a blameless loss.
Pierfrancesco Favino has a prolific acting career with movies like Angels & Demons and Romanzo Criminale with various Best Actor awards under his belt from Nastro d’Argento. This time he’s getting his award from the Venice Film Festival for Italian coming-of-age drama Padrenostro.
Based loosely on the 1976 assassination attempt of Deputy Police commissioner Alfonso Noce, the father of Claudio Noce, director of this movie, by a terrorist group called Nuclei Armati Proletari. The film follows a ten-year-old Valerio who witnesses the failed assassination and then meets Christian an older boy and they find camaraderie in each other.
Source: Alexandria SAGE and Fiachra Gibbons/AFP Relax News