It might have a brand-new image – drawn by comic artist Carmine Di Giandomenico – but it’s the same old spirit that enlivens the 32nd Venice International Film Critics’ Week (August 30 – September 9): the discovery of what is new in world cinema. And in Italian cinema, too. Despite the often-repeated mantras about its crisis, Italian films seem to move towards fresh and fruitful directions. This year’s line-up – selected by General Delegate Giona Nazzaro, with Luigi Abiusi, Alberto Anile, Beatrice Fiorentino, and Massimo Tria – includes two Italian films: Silvia Luzi’s and Luca Bellino’s Crater in competition, and Diego Olivares’ Poison – The Land of the Fires as closing film out of competition. In addition to these, the program includes the seven shorts of SIC@SIC, selected in collaboration with Istituto Luce-Cinecittà. Among them, two special events: Bepi Vigna’s Nausicaa, The Other Odyssey as Opening Short, and Enrico Pau’s The Last Miracle as Closing Short.
Opening Film out of competition is the British Pin Cushion by Deborah Haywood, “a strange object” as Nazzaro defines it, “as if envisioned by Angela Carter and directed by the spirit of Ken Loach. A clash between the baroque and the labouring, tackling the disappearance of the British working class through a conflict between women.”
Luca Bellino’s and Silvia Luzi’s Crater is “an extremely interesting film, playing on the ambiguity of documentary, suspended between verism and neorealism. An observational feature film about a father who wants his daughter to become a neo-melodic diva, set in Naples but far from the usual stereotypes.” From Germany, Drift by Helena Wittmann shows a woman’s journey through two continents, and it has been described as “a strong sensorial experience, a film to be seen through your eardrums.” French Les Garçons sauvages by Bertrand Mandico is “already the scandal of the festival, something between Genet, Fassbinder, and Bava. A film that changes sex, shot in black and white - it easily contains all the nightmares of Mario Adinolfi [Italian right-wing politician].” Sarah joue un loup garou by Katharina Wyss from Switzerland is inspired by a true story and intertwines cinema and theatre; the Danish Team Hurricane by young Annika Berg is a punk film produced by the team behind Golden Palm The Square; Natalia Garagiola’s Temporada de caza – an Argentinian-US-German-French-Qatari coproduction – tackles the relationship of a father who wants to be acknowledged and a son who rejects him; the Turkish The Gulf by Emre Yeksan proposes a fresh reading of Turkish society, blending quasi-fantastical elements with a surprising ending.
Selection committee member Beatrice Fiorentino comments on the strong female presence in a line-up displaying six women directors: “It’s definitely not a question of quotas for women or decisions made a priori, but it’s a pleasure to find so many women directors, scriptwriters, producers, and actresses.” Nazzaro adds: “Films directed by women travels as if with a lighter baggage, they don’t bring about nostalgic ballasts. Women directors are more free, more sensual, more fun.”
The Closing Film, Diego Olivares’ Veleno, is defined as a clever rethinking of genre cinema, with references to Piscicelli, De Sanctis, Damiano Damiani, and the Neapolitan theatre tradition. Set in the infamous Land of the Fires, the film stars Luisa Ranieri in an unconventional role: “she committed to the project with utmost passion, like a new Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida.”
About the state of the art of contemporary Italian Cinema, Nazzaro suggests an analysis: “Someone is trying to bring cinema back to everyday stories, someone else is trying to reinvent surreal comedy. We saw a few interesting and original things produced in North-Eastern Italy, for instance. Among the submitted Italian films, we didn’t like everything. But making bad films is the privilege of a democracy: countries that don’t produce bad films, don’t make cinema either. In these new directors, we recognized a desire of making cinema, and a desire of making it with a knife between their teeth.”