FESTIVALS

Biennale turns 70, selection unveiled

A bleak lineup this year, in line with world events
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The Venice Biennale turns seventy this year.

With the fest a month away the organizers announced the nineteen films that will be a part of the official selection. They include, “Gravity” with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, which will open the festivities on August 28. Titles like “Tom à la ferme” by Xavier Dolan, “Ana Arabia” by Amos Gitai, “Child of God” by James Franco, “the Zero Theorem” by Terry Gilliam and “Philomena” by Stephen Frears, will all compete for the Golden Lion.

At this year’s edition of the festival (the Biennale is the world’s oldest film festival) a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement will be presented to Claudia Cardinale and American director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”). To mark its seventieth birthday the Mostra, as the Venice Film Festival is known, will be presenting a special series named “Venezia 70 – Future Reloaded,” a showcase which features sixty- to ninety-second short films by seventy filmmakers from around the world sharing their thoughts about the future the cinema. Bernardo Bertolucci, who will preside over this year’s jury, will participate in the project, as will Paul Schrader, Shekhar Kapur, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Abbas Kiarostami, Monte Hellman and Walter Salles.

During a press conference which took place last week in Rome Festival director Alberto Barbera concedes that many of the films in the lineup are bleak in their outlook. “Perhaps one of the strongest themes that emerges from all the films is the lack of prospects. There’s an acknowledgment of an extremely problematic situation, in some cases tragic,” Barbera told a news conference. “Cinema mirrors reality, so we can’t complain if auteur films today gives us an image of our times that is not consoling.”

Additional directors will be presenting their film this year, such as Kelly Reichardt, who returns to Venice with “Night Moves,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard as environmental activists plotting to blow up a dam.

The lineup is heavy on independent, auteur films and light on blockbusters, the feat of programming such an important lineup quite a challenge for organizers who are competing for films with the Cannes Festival, which happens in the spring, and Toronto, which overlaps with Venice.

“Venice on paper takes more risks — for example, taking two documentaries in competition, a first by any festival, and organizing an auteur cinema to support and promote these films,” said Barbera.

Barbera, who is in the second year of a new mandate after directing the festival from 1998-2002, is intent on securing the festival’s role as a launch pad for new films. Venice has premiered such films as the “The Hurt Locker,” which went on to win an Academy Award for best film, and the highly acclaimed “Black Swan.”

The festival will showcase 53 new feature films, all but two world premieres, with 33 countries represented in the overall selection, which also includes sections on new trends and short films. Of the 20 films competing for the Golden Lion, five are American, four British and three Italian.

The lineup includes films by three Oscar-winning directors: Hayao Miyazaki with an animated film about a Japanese fighter plane designer, Errol Morris with a documentary about former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Poland’s Andrzej Wajda with a movie depicting the life of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. The first two are in competition.

The other documentary in competition is Gianfranco Rosi’s “Sacro GRA,” about life on Rome’s beltway.

Three previous Golden Lion winners are returning to Venice. They include Italy’s Gianni Amelio with “L’intrepido,” or “The Intrepid,” and Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang with “Stray Dogs,” both in competition. Last year’s winner, Kim Ki-duk, premieres “Moebius,” his follow-up to “Pieta” that had caused some controversy in South Korea for its graphic content.

Here’s the complete selection:

“Tom à la Ferme” by Xavier Dolan

“Les Terrasses“ by Merzak Allouache

“Via Castellana Bandiera“ by Emma Dante

“L’Intrepido“ by Gianni Amelio

“Ana Arabia“ by Amos Gitaï

“Miss Violence“ by Alexandro Avranas

“Tracks“ by John Curran

“La Jalousie“ by Philippe Garrel

“Via Castellana Bandiera“ by Emma Dante

“The unknown Known: the Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld“ by Errol Morris

“Die Frau bys Polizisten” by Philip Gröning

“Child of God“ by James Franco

“The Zero Theorem“ by Terry Gilliam

“Philomena“ by Stephen Frears

“Under the Skin“ by Jonathan Glazer

“Joe“ by David Gordon Green

“Night Moves“ by Kelly Reichardt (pictured below)

“Sacro Gra“ by Gianfranco Rosi

“Stray Dogs“ by Tsai Ming-liang

The Festival runs from August 28 to September 7.

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Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg in Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves"

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