The first major in-person-only film festival to get underway during the pandemic, plans are full steam ahead for Venice Film Festival to kick off this week, taking place September 2 through September 12. While the lineup surely would’ve looked definitely if it was a standard year, festival director Alberto Barbera and team have delivered an impressive-looking slate of premieres. Ahead of our coverage from the festival (which you can follow here), we’ve rounded up our most-anticipated films.
The Book of Vision (Carlo Hintermann)
Executive produced by Terrence Malick, Carlo Hintermann’s The Book of Vision explores a doctor-patient relationship seen through the eyes of a female medical student named Eva as we jump between the present and the 18th century. Led by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Lotte Verbeek (Outlander), and Sverrir Gudnason (Borg/McEnroe), the first intriguing trailer showcases beautiful cinematography from Jörg Widmer (A Hidden Life) and extravagant production design from David Crank (The New World, There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice, The Master, To the Wonder). Described as a mix of Barry Lyndon and Labyrinth by the director himself, we’re looking forward to seeing the film kick off the Critics’ Week section.
City Hall (Frederick Wiseman)
90-year-old documentary master Frederick Wiseman recently showed us the diversity of Jackson Heights in Queens, the mechanics of running the New York Public Library, and life inside a small midwest town following the 2016 presidential election. For his next project, he is exploring the inner workings of Boston City Hall. Clocking in at 4.5 hours, it looks to be another intimate, epic survey by the director in a time when questions of government process and spending are rightfully being criticized.
The Disciple (Chaitanya Tamhane)
Following his acclaimed 2014 directorial debut Court, filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane is returning with his follow-up The Disciple. Backed by executive producer Alfonso Cuarón, the project marks the first Indian film in Venice competition since 2001 and follows a young artist who follows his dreams of creating traditional Khayal music, following in the footsteps of his father. With his previous film taking on a number of social issues in Indian society, one is curious if the director will take a similar path or chart new territory here.
Hopper/Welles (Orson Welles)
Orson Welles, who passed away 35 years ago this fall, has a newly completed film and it’s coming to fall festivals. Hopper/ Welles features never-before-seen footage resurrected by producer Filip Jan Rymsza and editor Bob Murawski during their dig into the archives to complete The Other Side of the Wind. Featuring a fireside chat between Dennis Hopper and the Citizen Kane director, it looks a cinephile’s dream and a testament to the need for funding for film preservation and restoration.
The Human Voice (Pedro Almodóvar)
Pedro Almodóvar just finished shooting his English-language debut, a short film adapting Jean Cocteau’s one-act play The Human Voice and starring Tilda Swinton. With a quick turnaround, the 30-minute film is now set to world premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival. It’s not the first time he’s visited this material as an early iteration of his 1988 classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown began as an adaptation of this text, featuring a phone call in which a woman attempts to convince their partner not to leave. Working on the English-language short film has been testing ground for the director to adapt Lucia Berlin’s stellar short story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women, but that shoot has been delayed and he’ll instead reteam with Penélope Cruz for his next feature Madres Paralelas.
In Between Dying (Hilal Baydarov)
One of our most-anticipated premieres at the festival is coming from a new voice in filmmaking backed by some impressive names. Director Hilal Baydarov (When The Persimmons Grew) will premiere In Between Dying in competition at Venice, a drama co-produced by Carlos Reygadas and Joslyn Barnes, executive produced by Danny Glover, and supported by Cristian Mungiu. Following a man on a journey of self-discovery through rural Azerbaijan, the first trailer above displays no shortage of gorgeous imagery.
Mainstream (Gia Coppola)
Before Sofia Coppola world premieres On the Rocks at NYFF, her niece Gia Coppola will debut her follow-up to Palo Alto, titled Mainstream, at the Venice Film Festival. Written by Tom Stuart and Gia Coppola, the film stars Maya Hawke, Andrew Garfield, Nat Wolff, and Jason Schwartzman in a story follows a love triangle set in our modern, internet-obsessed age. With quite a wild full synopsis, we’re looking forward to seeing how the director expands her scope and style here.
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
After her stunning drama The Rider, Chloé Zhao is returning this fall with her follow-up, Nomadland. Led by Frances McDormand, the drama tells the story of a woman who loses her job in Nevada and embarks on a different kind of life as a modern-day nomad. Zhao has proven to have an incredible eye for capturing the American midwest, so this material seems like a perfect fit ahead of her Marvel outing next year. Set to screen at all the major fall festivals, we imagine it’ll be one of the most-discussed films over this extended awards season.
Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi)
After exploring the migrant crisis with his Oscar-nominated, Golden Bear-winning Fire at Sea, Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is returning this fall with his next documentary, Notturno. A selection at Telluride, Venice, TIFF, and NYFF (a rare feat only matched by the film about this year), the documentary was captured over three years exploring the fraught borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon. Featuring a handful of striking compositions as glimpsed in the trailer above, it looks like an immersive look into locales and perspectives often overlooked by a news media only seeking sensationalized headlines.
One Night in Miami (Regina King)
Following her Oscar-winning turn in If Beale Street Could Talk, Regina King embarked on her directorial debut One Night in Miami. Set to premiere at Venice followed by TIFF, the drama imagines a fictional evening in which Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown met to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. It’s a fascinating premise and after many years honing her craft directing TV, we’re excited to see what King delivers here.
Pieces of a Woman (Kornél Mundruczó)
After breaking out with the acclaimed drama White God, Kornél Mundruczó’s follow-up Jupiter’s Moon went under the radar but he now has returned with a project that will surely make a splash. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Pieces of a Woman follows a young mother (played by Vanessa Kirby) grappling with grief and guilt after her child died during childbirth. With a supporting cast including Shia LaBeouf, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker, Jimmie Fails, and Ellen Burstyn, it has the makings of an English-language debut to watch.
Wife of a Spy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Marking his first wartime picture, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s next film is the suspense/romance Wife of a Spy. Starring Yu Aoi and Issey Takahashi, and co-written by the director and Ryūsuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour, Asako I & II), the drama is set in 1940 in Kobe as World War II approaches. It follows a merchant who witnesses a horrific act and attempts to reveal it to the world, only to have his wife try to stop him out of safety. Coming from the director who named Robert Zemeckis’ romantic spy thriller Allied his favorite film of the past decade, our expectations are quite high.
The World to Come (Mona Fastvold)
Following her impressive debut The Sleepwalker, Mona Fastvold is now returning with her follow-up, The World to Come. The latest project from the Vox Lux, The Childhood of a Leader, and The Mustang co-writer is set in the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier as we follow a pair of couples who experience the challenges of this isolated way of life. With the quartet of Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston, Casey Affleck, and Christopher Abbott, we’ve been anticipating the project for some time and look forward to the presumably intense, thoughtful drama in store.
In terms of honorable mentions, there are a few more documentaries that have our attention, including Abel Ferrara’s Sportin’ Life, which transformed during quarantine, Luca Guadagnino’s Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams, and The Truth About La Dolce Vita.
Lav Diaz is also back with Genius Pan and Quentin Dupieux looks to be delivering a new oddity with Mandibles. Michał Englert and Małgorzata Szumowska will premiere Never Gonna Snow Again, which is Poland’s Oscar entry. There’s also two features coming to NYFF, The Night of Kings and Tragic Jungle, that are on our radar. Yorgos Lanthimos collaborator Christos Nikou will also be making his directorial debut with Apples, which just dropped an intriguing trailer.
Follow our complete Venice coverage here.