Photo: 78th Venice Film Festival 2021
Scroll down for the complete Venice Film Festival 2021 line-up.
It’s official, the Venice International Film Festival is primed to make its triumphant return this September after a restrained outing in 2020 marred by the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowds were limited to below 50% capacity, temperature checks mandated at every entrance and exit, and, outside of Chloé Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ (2020), there wasn’t a single big-ticket debut slotted to kick off the torrent of awards-season hype. The festival, famous for introducing the world to the cinematic cornerstones like ‘Rashômon’ (1950), ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ (1962), and ‘The Battle of Algiers’ (1966) and recent Oscar-darlings like ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ (2014), ‘Spotlight’ (2015), ‘La La Land’ (2016), ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017), ‘Roma’ (2018), and ‘Joker’ (2019), was reduced to a handful of little-seen indie fare and listless arthouse flops. Taking place in Venice, Italy, the festival is looking to bring in massive names in an effort to return to normalcy following a rough 2020 for the gala and the world at large.
While the steps taken to ensure the protection of last year’s attendees proved more than necessary, the world’s oldest film festival was forced to sacrifice much of its spirit and spontaneity in favor of safety and security. That is why the news that the festival would be making such a brazen recovery in 2021 sent immediate shockwaves of joy to cinephiles around the world, a resounding iteration that movies are indeed back – and bigger than ever!
Bong Joon-ho Presides Over a Jury of Outstanding International Artists
Bong Joon-ho, the beloved director of ‘Memories of Murder’ (2003) and Best Picture-winner ‘Parasite’ (2019), was tabbed to lead the festival’s jury, a landmark decision making him the first-ever Korean filmmaker and fourth individual of Asian descent to be honored with the title after actress Gong Li in 2002 and directors Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Alongside Bong, the jury is comprised of ‘Hungry Hearts’ (2014) director Saverio Costanzo, ‘Bendetta’ (2021) actress Virginie Efira, ‘Harriet’ (2019) star Cynthia Erivo, ‘Enemy’ (2013) actress Sarah Gadon, ‘Collective’ (2019) documentarian Alexander Nanau, and the aforementioned director of both the upcoming film ‘Eternals’ (2021); Chloé Zhao. While not without its representational shortcomings, the slate does feature a diverse collection of creatives from the likes of South Korea, Italy, Belgium, the U.K., Canada, Romania, and China.
Together the jury will be tasked with whittling down the numerous competing films and selecting recipients for the Golden Lion (best film), Silver Lion (best director), Grand Jury Prize (second place), Volpi Cup (best actor and actress), Special Jury Prize (honorable mention), Golden Osella (best cinematography and best screenplay), and Marcello Mastroianni award (best emergent actor or actress).
CEO Pritan Ambroase’s Tribute and Love Letter to Venice Film Festival
Films Screening In Competition – ‘Parallel Mothers’ and ‘The Power of the Dog’
Twenty-one films from around the world are set to contend for the coveted Golden Lion at this year’s festival, three more than the previous year’s competition. The festivities are set to commence with a screening of the latest film from legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, director of films like ‘All About My Mother’ (1999) and ‘Pain and Glory’ (2016), entitled ‘Parallel Mothers’ (2021). The film, which reunites the director with his longtime muse Penélope Cruz, centers on two mothers from different generations who give birth on the same day and form a uniquely tragic bond. Following Almodóvar’s inaugural screening, ‘The Piano’ (1993) director Jane Campion will premiere her latest film, a reported frontrunner for this year’s Academy Awards, the ethereal western starring Benedict Cumberbatch ‘The Power of the Dog’ (2021).
Fellow big-name talents like ‘First Reformed’ (2017) director Paul Schrader, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (2014) director Ana Lily Amirpour, ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, ‘Jackie’ (2015) director Pablo Larraín, and ‘The Great Beauty’ (2013) director Paolo Sorrentino will see the release of their respective films; ‘The Card Counter’ (2021), ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ (2021), ‘The Lost Daughter’ (2021), ‘Spencer’ (2021), and ‘The Hand of God’ (2021). The additional films selected to compete include ‘Un Autre Monde’ (2021) by Stéphane Brizé, ‘América Latina’ by Damiano D’Innocenzo and Fabio D’Innocenzo, ‘L’Événement’ (2021) by Audrey Diwan, ‘Official Competition’ (2021) by Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn, ‘Il Buco’ (2021) by Michelangelo Frammartino, ‘Sundown’ (2021) by Michel Franco, ‘Illusions Perdues’ (2021) by Xavier Giannoli, ‘Freaks Out’ (2021) by Gabrielle Mainetti, ‘Que Rido Io’ (2021) by Mario Martone, ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’ (2021) by Erik Matti, ‘Leave No Traces’ (2021) by Jan P. Matuszynski, ‘Captain Volkogonov Escaped’ (2021) by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, ‘Reflection’ (2021) by Valentyn Vasyanovych, and ‘La Caja’ (2021) by Lorenzo Vigas (if reading that list felt like a chore, just imagine having to watch all of them!).
Alas, if the Venice Film Festival is good for on ehting, it is making one appreciate that the Oscars cap Best Picture nominees at a comparatively meager ten. Nonetheless, 2021’s competition is sure to be one of the best in recent memory, assembling premier talent from around the world joined together by refreshingly bold sensibilities and cinematic flourish.
32 Facts of Venice Film Festival
Films Screening Out of Competition – ‘Dune’ and ‘Last Night in Soho’
Although the label “out of competition” may inspire an initial skepticism for many, it is within this category that the mainstream blockbusters and popular crowd-pleasers have historically resided. This trend has continued into the festival’s 78th iteration, as some of the most feverishly anticipated releases of 2021 are set to air out of competition at Venice. Films do not get much larger than ‘Arrival’ (2016) and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ (2017) director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s infamous 1965 novel ‘Dune’ (2021), officially set to make its debut at Venice before hitting theaters and HBO Max on October 1st. The film stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem and aims to transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away (no, not that galaxy) in which warring factions compete for the most precious resource in existence – only known to those who can truly conquer their fear.
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Other highly anticipated releases include Edgar Wright’s time-hopping horror epic ‘Last Night in Soho’ (2021) starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie, Ridley Scott’s medieval drama ‘The Last Duel’ (2021) written by it’s stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and David Gordon Green’s sequel to his surprisingly effective 2018 reboot ‘Halloween Kills’ (2021). The rest of the films screening out of competition include ‘Les Choses Humaines’ (2021) by Yvan Attal, ‘La Scuola Cattolica’ (2021) by Stefano Mordini, ‘Ariaferma’ (2021) by Leonardo di Costanzo, ‘Old Henry’ (2021) by Potsy Ponciroli, and ‘Il Bambino Nascosto’ (2021) by Roberto Ando, set to close the film on the 11th. On top of all of that, the first few episodes of HBO’s remake of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ (1973) directed by Hagai Levi and starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain will screen at the festival.
A Look at the Documentaries, Short Films, and Orizzonti
As crazy as it sounds, there is even more festival content beyond the slew of competitors and non-competitors mentioned above. While not eligible for any awards recognition, Venice highlights a number of documentaries and short films to coincide with the rest of it’s programming. ‘Deandré#Deandré – Storia di un Impiegato’ (2021) by Roberta Lena, ‘Django & Django’ (2021) by Luca Rea, ‘Ezio Bosso: Le cose che restano’ (2021) by Giorgio Verdelli, ‘Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song’ (2021) by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine, ‘Life of Crime 1984-2020’ (2021) by Jon Alpert, ‘Republic of Silence’ (2021) by Diana El Jeiroudi, ‘Tranchées’ (2021) by Loup Bureau, ‘Viaggio Nel Crepuscolo’ (2021) by Augusto Contento, and last-minute addition ‘Becoming Led Zeppelin’ (2021) by Bernard MacMahon will all be shown alongside the short films ‘The Night’ (2021) by Tsai Ming-liang, ‘Plastic Semiotic’ (2021) by Radu Jude, and ‘Sad Film’ (2021) by Vasili.
Separate from all the aforementioned film competitions is that of the Orizzonti (which translates to Horizons in English). This subsidiary contest focuses on newer unestablished talent with a heavy emphasis on contemporary stylistic trends and experimental technique and discourse. Representatives from nearly 35 countries have been selected to compete in this year’s Orizzonti, featuring many of the same categories and awards as its Venitian parent festival.
Golden Lion For Lifetime Achievement Honors Roberto Benigni and Jamie Lee Curtis
The final tradition of the Venice Film Festival yet to be discussed is the annual awarding of the Golden Lion For Lifetime Achievement. Titans like Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Fredrico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa have all been honored with the prestigious “thank you!” for the immeasurable impact of their long and illustrious career on the progressing language of Cinema. At the 78th festival, the recipients of the Golden Lion have been announced to be none other than ‘Life is Beautiful’ (1998) director and star Roberto Benigni and ‘Halloween’ (1978) star Jamie Lee Curtis. Benigni, the star of Jim Jarmusch cult classics ‘Down by Law’ (1986), ‘Night on Earth’ (1991), and ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ (2003), etched himself into the pages of Cinema history when he leaped across seat tops to accept the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 1999 Academy Awards.
As for Curtis, the daughter ‘Some Like it Hot’ (1959) star Tony Curtis and ‘Psycho’ (1960) star Janet Leigh, made a name for herself in films like ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ (1988), ‘True Lies’ (1994), and the recent masterful whodunnit ‘Knives Out’ (2019). Both have given more than most to the artform, undoubtedly two worthy additions to the gilded few Golden Lion recipients and the overall pantheon of the legendary Venice Film Festival.
The Venice Film Festival will go on and a number of blockbuster titles are premiering; here’s what we’re looking forward to – here are some of the most anticipated films:
Director: Denis Villeneuve
‘Dune’ is an epic sci-fi film by acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, the man responsible for masterpiece works like ‘Incendies’, ‘Enemy’, and ‘Arrival.’ The film is based on a 1965 work of sci-fi literature of the same name from author Frank Herbert. The film has an onscreen title ‘Dune Part One’ and is meant to cover only the first half of the book so watch for the box office to project the likelihood of a part two. ‘Dune’ is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, up there with David Lowery’s ‘The Green Knight’, and Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho.’
The film is scheduled to premiere on September 3rd but will not be participating in the competition aspect of the festival which will be judged by acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon Ho as president and Saverio Costanzo, Chloe Zhao, Virginie Efira, Cynthia Erivo, Sarah Gadon, and Alexander Nanau forming the rest of the panel. ‘Dune’ is scheduled to get its theatrical date on October 22nd after having already been pushed back from its initial release date. Since the film is a Warner Bros picture it will simultaneously release to HBO Max the day it gets its wide release but will only be on the platform for 31 days.
‘The Lost Daughter’
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
The Directorial debut from the lesser-known but certainly not lesser talented Gyllenhaal sibling is an upcoming drama film starring some, again, lesser-known but most impactful stars in Hollywood, today. Ed Harris is fantastic, ‘Westworld’ is one of the best shows ever made. Dakota Johnson in the ‘Suspiria’ remake is haunting, moving, and one of the best horror films of the entire decade. And last but certainly not least, Olivia Coleman; ‘The Favourite’ is one of the best films, regardless of genre, in the last decade. This film is shaping up to be one of the best on the entire slate.
‘The Last Duel’
Director: Ridley Scott
Continuing the trend of literary reboots, ‘The Last Duel’ is an adaptation of the historical drama novella titled The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager. The film is highlighted by its star-power and name recognition throughout the entirety of the production; from Director Ridley Scott all the way through the leading cast to cinematographer Dariusz Wolski of ‘Martian’ and three of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films fame. The film itself is a medieval epic centering around a woman coming forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct against an affluent man in France and her husband’s actions in defense of her. Obviously, the story culminates in some kind of epic duel, but the intricate details can only be known once seated for the showing of ‘The Last Duel.’
The film is set to show on September 3rd and, again like ‘Dune’, will not participate in the competition aspect of the fest. Setting up an absolutely packed October theatrical release slate alone with ‘Dune’, ‘The French Dispatch’, and ‘Last Night in Soho’, ‘The Last Duel’ is currently slated for wide release on October 15th and will be distributed by 20th Century Studios. After having been announced in 2015, the film was not greenlit until Affleck and Damon decided to come on as both stars and co-writers in July of 2019. After productions started in late 2019 the production was forced into hiatus a number of times due to the ongoing pandemic. The film’s grand scale and the proven track record of its leaders is enough to place it as one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Coming from two-time Academy Award-nominated director Pablo Larraín and BAFTA Award winner Kristen Stewart, ‘Spencer’ is another film where the name recognition is enough to drive hype on its own. After the ‘Twilight’ saga launched Stewart into the rafters of super-stardom, Stewart opted to take lesser-known roles, focusing on arthouse projects and correcting the image the teen drama may have unintentionally placed on her. ‘Personal Shopper’, ‘Still Alice’ and ‘Love, Antosha’ have gone a long way to cement the once teen-idol as a viable leading woman in somber and serious blockbusters. Stewart is also a very interesting casting choice for the role of Princess Diana and it will be very interesting to see how they approach the performance.
As mentioned above, ‘Spencer’ is a biopic about the life and divorce of Princess Diana from Prince Charles of England. Very little is known about the rest of the production or the more intricate details of the plot, but there are still signs of the film’s merit in the more obscure recess of the fine print. One of the hottest independent film distributors on Earth, Neon (‘I, Tonya’, ‘Possessor’, ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’), has signed a distribution deal with the production worth upwards of $4 million. This is one of the lesser-known and rarely discussed films in the U.S. currently however I am sure that will change following its World Premiere at Venice next month.
‘The Power of the Dog’
Director: Jane Campion
Even lesser-known than ‘Spencer’ is acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion’s ‘The Power of the Dog.’ I hesitate to say that this may be my most anticipated film on the entire Venice slate for 2021. Leading man Benedict Cumberbatch is about as sure-fire as any actor on the circuit today with masterpieces such as ‘The Imitation Game’, ‘12 Years a Slave’, and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ in his extensive filmography. Aside from Cumberbatch, the ensemble cast is shaping up to be a wonderful accessory to his subdued power. Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, and Thomasin McKenzie are all bonafide stars with years of experience and a number of awards-worthy performances, each. All of this is a bit of extra spice to add to the main course that is Jane Campion. The filmmaker behind generational hits like ‘The Piano’ and ‘An Angel at My Table’ has an inordinate knack for the emotional and resounding aspects of film.
The film is set for theatrical release on Netflix at some point in 2021, specifics still yet to be determined. The plot, like its predecessors, is derived from a work of literature of the same titular name as the film. ‘The Power of the Dog’ is set in rural, 20th Century Montana and is based around a sadistic ranch owner as he terrorizes a young woman who unexpectedly moves onto his Ranch after marrying his brother. The plot sounds like a haunting mix of ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Don’t Breathe’ and is just off-center enough for Campion to not only intrigue but send my expectations to the moon. This is one of my most highly anticipated films of the year.
Related article: The Evolution of Kristen Stewart: Reshaping Her Identity
Parallel Mothers (Sp) – Opening Film
Dir. Pedro Almodóvar
La Caja (Mex-US)
Dir. Lorenzo Vigas
Dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych
The Hand Of God (It)
Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
The Card Counter (US-UK-China)
Dir. Paul Schrader
Captain Volkonogov Escaped (Rus-Est-Fr)
Dirs. Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov
Leave No Traces (Pol-Fr-Czech)
Dir. Jan P. Matuszynski
On The Job: The Missing 8 (Phil)
Dir. Erik Matti
Oui Rido Io (It-Sp)
Dir. Mario Martone
Freaks Out (It-Bel)
Dir. Gabriele Mainetti
Dir. Pablo Larraín
The Lost Daughter (Greece-US-UK-Isr)
Dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal
Illusions Perdues (Fr)
Dir. Xavier Giannoli
Dir. Michel Franco
Il Buco (It-Fr)
Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino
Official Competition (Sp-Arg)
Dirs. Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Dir. Audrey Diwan
America Latina (It-Fr)
Dirs. Damian and Fabio D’Innocenzo
Un Autre Monde (Fr)
Dir. Stephane Brize
The Power Of The Dog (Australia-NZ)
Dir. Jane Campion
Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon (USA)
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Out Of Competition – fiction
Last Night In Soho (UK)
Dir. Edgar Wright
The Last Duel (US-UK)
Dir. Ridley Scott
Old Henry (US)
Dir. Potsy Ponciroli
La Scuola Cattolica (It)
Dir. Stefano Mordini
Halloween Kills (US)
Dir. David Gordon Green
Dir. Leonardo Di Constanzo
Les Choses Humaines – (Fr)
Dir. Yvan Attal
Il Bambino Nascosto (It-Fr)
Dir. Roberto Ando
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Out Of Competition – non-fiction
Ezio Bosso, Le Cose Che Restano (It)
Dir. Giorgio Verdelli
Django & Django (It)
Dir. Luca Rea
Becoming Led Zeppelin (UK/USA)
Dir. Bernard MacMahon
Dir. Roberta Lena
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (US)
Dirs. Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Republic Of Silence (Ger-Fr-Syria-Qat)
Dir. Diana El Jeiroudi
Viaggio Nel Crepuscolo (It)
Dir. Augusto Contento
Dir. Loup Bureau
Life Of Crime 1984-2020 (US)
Dir. Jon Alpert
Out Of Competition – Special Screenings
La Biennale Di Venezia: Il Cinema Al Tempo Del Covid (It)
Dir. Andrea Segre
Le 7 Giornate Di Bergamo (It)
Dir. Simona Ventura
Out Of Competition – series
Scenes From A Marriage (US)
Creator: Hagai Levi
Dir. Yuasa Masaaki
True Things (UK)
Dir. Harry Wootliff
Rhino (Ukr-Pol-Ger) – closing film
Dir. Oleg Sentsov
Once Upon A Time In Calcutta (India-Fr-Nor)
Dir. Aditya Vikram Sengupta
El Gran Movimiento (Bol-Fr-Qat-Switz)
Dir. Kiro Russo
El Otro Tom (Mex-US)
Dirs. Rodrigo Pla, Laura Santullo
Anatomy Of Time (Thai-Fr-Neth-Sing-Ger)
Dir. Jakrawal Nilthamrong
White Building (Camb-Fr-China-Qat)
Dir. Kavich Neang
Vera Dreams Of The Sea (Kosovo-Alb-North Macedonia)
Dir. Kaltrina Krasniqi
107 Mothers (Slovak-Czech-Ukr)
Dir. Peter Kerekes
A Plein Temps (Fr)
Dir. Eric Gravel
Amira (Egy-Jor-UAE-Saudi Arabia)
Dir. Mohamed Diab
El Hoyo En La Cerca (Mex-Pol)
Dir. Joaquin Del Paso
The Falls (Tai)
Dir. Chung Mong-Hong
Il Paradiso Del Pavone (It-Ger)
Dir. Laura Bispuri
Dir. Laurynas Bareisa
Dir. Yuri Ancarani
Dir. Bogdan George Apetri
Les Promesses (Fr) – Opening film
Dir. Thomas Kruithof
Horizons Extra (new section)
La Macchina Delle Immagini Di Alfredo C. (It)
Dir. Roland Sejko
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic (Fin)
Dir. Teemu Nikki
7 Prisioneiros (Bra)
Dir. Alexandre Moratto
La Ragazza Ha Volato (It-Slovenia)
Dir. Wilma Labate
Ma Nuit (Fr-Bel)
Dir. Antoinette Boulat
Mama, I’m Home (Rus)
Dir. Vladimir Bitokov
Costa Brava (Leb-Fr-Sp-Swe-Den-Nor-Qat)
Dir. Mounia Akl
Land Of Dreams (US-Ger-Qat)
Dir. Shirin Neshat, Soja Azari
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Andrew Valianti is a writer and an aspiring producer-director, and all-around film lover. While writing both features and reviews for the Hollywood Insider, Andrew has focused on the intersection of cinema and politics as they relate to empowering diverse stories and viewpoints. Through both study and practice, Andrew has seen first hand the many ways in which film and media can have a positive and meaningful impact on everyday lives. His personal views align with the Hollywood Insider, as he views journalism as a means to empower and mobilize positive change rather than spread gossip or negativity. He believes that art ignites action and has sought to pursue stories that further this goal.