Mel Gibson makes a triumphant directorial return at the Venice Film Festival with Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and Teresa Palmer. This World War II film is not your average glamorized bloodbath. Unlike other war movies where combat and incessant violence may seem gratuitous, Gibson directs like a master composer, creating a visual symphony of war and relationships.
Fans swarmed the premiere of Hacksaw Ridge like starstruck bees to an illustrious honeyhive. Extra security flooded the theatre, escorting fans straight to their seats to protect some of Hollywood’s most revered stars. The film itself is an overwhelming masterpiece. Intentionally and with much success, Gibson juxtaposes the horrific scenes of war with the innocent protagonist, played by Andrew Garfield. Based on a true story, Hacksaw Ridge is about the first Seventh-Day conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, who declined to bear arms. A belief that almost sent him to military prison, but he not only persevered with his faith, he proved the military wrong and single-handedly saved 75 lives in one night. Regardless of any religious affiliation the audience may identify with, the real astonishment is Doss’s naive optimism and selflessness. Gibson is like a seasoned puppeteer, pulling each tiny string with precision and purpose, manipulating any audience into trusting humanity.
“I enjoy directing more…maybe I’m a megalomanic, I just love telling the story and I love to see the story the way I see it.” – Mel Gibson
Although Gibson’s name in the news has sparked controversy in the last ten years, journalists at the press conference neglected to ask him about his personal afflictions and only focused on questions of the film and his future. However, when Gibson was asked if he preferred acting or directing, he responded, “I enjoy directing more…maybe I’m a megalomanic, I just love telling the story and I love to see the story the way I see it.” Although the stories he chooses are directly linked to religion as Gibson is a devout Catholic, he explained that this story isn’t completely about faith. “He (Doss) didn’t regard his life to be any more valuable than his brothers…that’s the greatest expression of love.”
Gibson wanted to honor Doss as well as creating awareness of the unspeakable horrors soldiers deal with during and after war. “A lot of attention needs to be paid to our warriors when they come back. They need some love, they need some understanding.” Gibson says with a stern, concerned look. After a brief pause he continues, “I hope that this film departs that message and if it does nothing but that – that’s great.”
It’s a hot day at the Venice International Film Festival! Screening in competition in the Sala Grande theatre today: Paradise by Andrei Konchalovsky (5:00 pm) and Questi giorni by Giuseppe Piccioni (7:45 pm). Out of Competition, Gantz:O by Yasushi Kawamura (10:30 pm).
At 2:00 pm, Award Ceremony: Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Jean-Paul Belmondo.
In competition in the Orizzonti section, Koca Dünya by Reha Erdem (2:45 pm). Out of Competition, Planetarium by Rebecca Zlotowski (5:15 pm), both in the Sala Darsena theatre.
Among other screenings today, Orizzonti Short Films (11:00 am and 5:00 pm) and El vendedor de orquídedas by Lorenzo Vigas (3:00 pm) in the new Sala Giardino theatre.
The PalaBiennale theatre features screenings for the public from 1:30 pm until the double screening starting at 8:00 pm.
Screening in competition in the Sala Grande theatre today: Spira mirabilis by Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti (2 pm) and El ciudadano ilustre by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat (4:30 pm). Out of Competition, Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson (7:15 pm).
Among other screenings today, Una hermana by Verena Kuri and Sofía Brockenshire (11:15 am and 6:15 pm) and The Secret Life of Pets by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney (9 pm and 10:45 pm) in the new Sala Giardino theatre.
The PalaBiennale theatre features screenings for the public from 1:15 pm until the double screening starting at 8:15 pm.
Award ceremony on Sept. 5th at 2:00 pm at the Palazzo del Cinema
La Biennale di Venezia and Jaeger-LeCoultre are pleased to announce that the great Iranian director Amir Naderi (Vegas, Manhattan by Numbers, Davandeh-The Runner) will receive the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker award of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival (August 31st – September 10th 2016), dedicated to a personality who has made an original contribution to innovation in contemporary cinema.
Amin Naderi will be awarded the prize in a ceremony to be held Monday September 5th at 2:00 pm in the Sala Grande (Palazzo del Cinema), before the Out of Competition screening of his new film Monte, in its world premiere showing in Venice. The film (shot on location in Italy in the mountains of the Alto Adige and Friuli regions) is set in the year 1350 and tells the dramatic story of a man who makes every attempt to bring the sunlight into his village, where his family is barely able to survive because of the prevailing darkness. In 2014 Monte has been one of the projects selected for the Venice Gap-Financing Market, a programme launched by the Venice Production Bridge.
The Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, made the following statement about the award: “Amir Naderi gave fundamental impetus to the birth of the New Iranian Cinema during the 1970s and ‘80s with a number of masterpieces destined to leave their mark on the history of cinema, such as Davandeh (The Runner, 1985) and Ab, bâd, khâk (Water, Wind, Dust, 1988). But even after moving to New York in 1988, Naderi remained stubbornly true to himself and to a type of cinema dedicated to research and experimentation, which refuses to bow to trends and easy shortcuts. Every film he has made clearly displays the nucleus of an identical obsession which transcends the principle of reality in order to force individuals beyond their own limits. The last half hour of Monte is a sort of synthesis of his entire opus, a larger-than-life metaphor of a struggle for survival prevailing over the dividing lines, intimidations and insults which can sometimes make human existence miserable. The breathtaking epilogue transforms the ideas, emotions and visions at the basis of all his films into powerfully expressive images. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Award is a well-deserved recognition, a tribute to the originality and greatness of a filmmaker who stands out from the crowd, the talent of a passionate director, and the generosity of a man who seems to know no limits.”
Since the 1970s, Amir Naderi (Abadan, 1945) has been among the most influential figures of New Iranian Cinema. He entered the international spotlight with cinema classics such as Tangsir (1974), Entezar (1974), awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes children’s film festival, The Runner (1985) and Ab, Bad, Khak (1989), which both won the Golden Montgolfiere at Three Continents Festival in Nantes. The first prominent Iranian director to move abroad in the mid ’80s, Naderi’s American films have uniquely captured the vanishing texture of New York. SoundBarrier (2005) won the Roberto Rossellini Critics’ Prize at the Rome Film Festival. Vegas: Based on a True Story, premiered In Competition at Venice in 2008. Cut was shot in Japan and premiered as the Opening Film of the Orizzonti section at Venice in 2011, later winning the 21st Japan Professional Film Awards for Best Director and Best Actor. Naderi’s work has been the subject of retrospectives at museums and film festivals around the world. He has served on international juries such as Jury President for the Competition section of Tokyo FILMeX in 2011 and the Orizzonti section of Venice in 2012. His new film Monte, starring Andrea Sartoretti and Claudia Potenza, and premiering at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is the first film by Naderi to be set and directed in Italy. Monte is an Italian/American/French co-production, by Citrullo International, Zivago Media, Cineric, Ciné-sud Promotion and KNM, in collaboration with Rai Cinema and with the support of the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism – General Direction for Cinema.
The film was shot almost entirely on location in the mountains of the Alto Adige region, at an altitude of over 2500 metres on the Latemar mountain chain, and in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in the towns of Erto, Casso and Sott’Anzas, with the support of the Alto Adige IDM-Film Commission and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Film Commission. The shooting lasted 6 weeks.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is a sponsor of the Venice International Film Festival for the twelfth year in a row, and of the Glory to the Filmmaker prize for the tenth. The prize has been awarded in past years to Takeshi Kitano (2007), Abbas Kiarostami (2008), Agnès Varda (2008), Sylvester Stallone (2009), Mani Ratnam (2010), Al Pacino (2011), Spike Lee (2012), Ettore Scola (2013), James Franco (2014), and Brian De Palma (2015).
Screening in competition in the Sala Grande theatre today: Frantz by François Ozon (4:15 pm) and Brimstone by Martin Koolhoven (9:45 pm). Out of Competition, The Young Pope by Paolo Sorrentino (7:00 pm).
In competition in the Orizzonti section, Home by Fien Troch (2:30 pm) and King of the Belgians by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth (5:00 pm), both in the Sala Darsena theatre.
Among other screenings today, La Soledad by Jorge Thielen Armand (11:30 am and 5:30 pm) and In Dubious Battle by James Franco (9:00 pm) in the new Sala Giardino theatre.
The PalaBiennale theatre features screenings for the public from 1:15 pm until the double screening starting at 8:00 pm.
Absolutely the most excellent cinema! Screening in competition today in the Sala Grande theatre: El Cristo ciego by Christopher Murray (4:45 pm) and Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford (6:45 pm). At 9:45 pm Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award to Liev Schreiber.
In competition in the Orizzonti section: Tarde para la ira by Raúl Arévalo (2:45 pm) and Die Einsiedler by Ronny Trocker (5:00 pm), both in the Sala Darsena theatre.
Among other screenings today, Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) by Shubhashish Bhutiani (11:15 am and 5:00 pm) and Dawn of the Dead by George Romero, presented by Dario Argento and Nicolas Winding Refn (at midnight) in the new Sala Giardino theatre.
The PalaBiennale theatre features screenings for the public from 1:15 pm until the double screening starting at 8:15 pm.
The 73rd Venice International Film Festival, organized by La Biennale di Venezia, will run at Venice Lido from August 31st to September 10th, 2016, directed by Alberto Barbera.
The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness and promote the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms: as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue. The Festival also organizes retrospectives and tributes to major figures as a contribution towards a better understanding of the history of cinema.
The last two best picture Oscar-winners have premiered at Venice, part of a concerted bid to woo Hollywood that has revitalised the festival. LA-set musical La La Land, opening proceedings this year, is looking for the hat-trick.
As the summer ends, so begins the autumn film-festival season, more than ever inextricably linked with the end-of-year scrabble for awards that culminates in the Oscars in February 2017. The first shots have been fired, pundits are already talking up potential contenders, and the slow rollout of the actual films has begun. However, no single showcase has proved more talismanic in recent years than the Venice film festival, which has hosted the world premiere of the best picture Oscar winner for the last two years in succession – Spotlight and Birdman – and the biggest winner, numerically speaking, the year before that, with Gravity.
This year, Venice’s big pitch for Oscar augury is La La Land, a Los Angeles-set musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and directed by Damien Chazelle as a follow-up to his remarkable jazz-class drama Whiplash; La La Land has been given the prestigious opening-gala slot. Described by the Venice film festival’s director Alberto Barbera as “a wonderful film, a classical musical, and a marvellous tribute to American cinema from a contemporary perspective”, La La Land would appear to have instantly surged into the front rank of awards season contenders. Barbera is diffident as to Venice’s ability to confer automatic Oscar-statuette potential on to his picks – “I’ve been lucky for the last three years; I couldn’t have imagined when I first saw Gravity or Birdman they would win all those Oscars” – but admits he has put considerable effort into attracting major Hollywood players in recent years.
“We want Venice to be an important launching pad, the opening of the season, the real beginning of the race for the Oscar.” As well as making regular trips to New York and Los Angeles to chat up studio executives and preview material, Barbera says “we have invested a lot: we renovated the theatres, improved the quality of the screenings, as well as the general location and the services we are able to offer industry visitors.” By the latter, he means such initiatives as a fully fledged film market, which has been operating since 2012, and which has morphed into a production and development programme called Venice Production Bridge, or a “gap-financing” platform for film-makers looking for extra investment.
Barbera’s prescience has also proved crucial in Venice’s increasingly effective ability to fight its corner against its direct competitors in the film festival calendar: the boutique event in Telluride, Colorado, which begins on 2 September, and the giant-scale Toronto film festival, which kicks off on 8 September. As recently as 2012, industry observers considered that Venice appeared to be lagging well behind, trading on its reputation as the world’s oldest festival (having been founded in 1932) but struggling to attract the best films. But now the position is almost completely reversed, with Barbera making the case successfully to Hollywood producers that the extra expense of sending a film to Italy is worth it.
“Five years ago, the competition with Toronto and Telluride was very strong. For the American majors it was clear that it was easier, and cheaper, to take their films to Toronto. They could make the promotion for their domestic campaign for their films, and start their campaign for the Oscar.” Venice’s old-world glamour has been transformed into a potent weapon – “all the talent are happy to come to Venice, they like Cipriani’s, the hotels, the food and so on, the red carpet here you cannot get with our competitors” – as well as its more selective programme based around the competition for the Golden Lion. “It’s very different,” says Barbera, “from arriving in Toronto in the middle of 300 films, where you risk getting lost in a huge lineup.”
Perhaps even more important than the intra-festival politicking over world premieres is the current wealth of American cinema in general, which means Venice’s wooing of Hollywood is paying off. In Barbera’s words: “This is a very strong period for American cinema – [there] are lot of big, big films around.” La La Land will be joined on the Lido by the likes of The Light Between Oceans, the heartrending weepie starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, Terrence Malick’s documentary Voyage of Time, Nocturnal Animals, the second film from fashion designer Tom Ford, and Arrival, a first-contact alien sci-fi thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Inevitably, other areas of the film-making universe appear relatively neglected, with Venice unable to command quite the same level of participation from the elite of international auteur directors as Cannes – though Barbera is emphatic he is not competing with the venerable French festival staged each May. “Cannes comes before us in the year. The studios don’t like to show a film too far ahead of its release, so Venice is better for the American films that want to come out in the autumn. The films that are ready in the first half of the year go to Cannes: it is a matter of timing.”
Perhaps more surprising is Venice’s difficult relationship with its domestic industry. Not only do the most venerated contemporary Italian directors – Paolo Sorrentino, Nanni Moretti, Matteo Garrone – reserve their work primarily for Cannes, but those that do venture to Venice, such as Luca Guadagnino, can receive distinctly chilly receptions: Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash was booed at its premiere last year. Barbera is resigned to what he calls a “prejudice” on the part of the Italian film industry who are unwilling, he suggests, to grapple with a hostile press corps. On the other hand, he says he rejects numerous home films for “not being strong enough”. A special screening of the first two episodes of Sorrentino’s new TV drama The Young Pope, featuring Jude Law, may go some way to healing the breach.
Barbera may also be playing with fire by programming Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s first film as director since a series of public controversies – including an anit-semitic outburst during a DUI arrest in 2006 and accusations of abuse against his then-partner Oksana Grigorieva. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Medal of Honor-winning conscientious objector Desmond T Doss, and Barbera says its inclusion is “a quality issue”. “I was worried, of course, for all the reasons you expect, but when I saw the full film, I didn’t have any doubts.”
The Venice film festival runs from 31 August-10 September.
After premiering three major Academy Award winners in a row, the world’s oldest film fest is once again Hollywood’s awards-season launchpad.
The past few years, while Toronto bickered with Telluride over which festival could screen which premiere when and where, Venice — after some decidedly lackluster editions — took the high road and worked on improving. The result? It’s back on top after a scorecard that saw successful Oscar wins for Venice premieres three years in a row: Gravity, Birdman and, last year, Spotlight. Hollywood has taken notice. The festival is filled with studio titles this year, which means the red carpet will be filled with A-list talent. The four premieres that already are garnering awards buzz:
La La Land’s Oscar Launch
With Venice proving to be a good luck charm at the Oscars, one young contender seems to be taking the hint. Damien Chazelle is following up his 2014 best picture nominee Whiplash with festival opener La La Land. The musical stars Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist who falls in love with an aspiring actress (Emma Stone). The Venice committee, after watching the film, immediately offered Lionsgate the opening slot. “I was so honored to get the invitation to open Venice,” says Chazelle. “It’s the kind of place that seems to belong in a dream. That’s the feeling I wanted to capture with this movie: the way things look and sound in a dream, the magic and the romance of it all.”
Chazelle adds that it was a natural choice to follow up his critically acclaimed Whiplash with the challenging genre of the musical. “The thing I love about musicals is that everything is possible. You can combine all the arts — music, dance, painting, theater — to collectively produce an emotion that can’t be conveyed by words,” he says. “I wanted to try and make a film that told an honest, intimate story but also allowed for that kind of big-screen moviemaking.”
Festival director Alberto Barbera believes that the film, a tribute to old Hollywood musicals, is a natural candidate for the Oscars. “It has all the elements,” he says. “It’s a wonderful story, a classic film. It’s extremely well done with two outstanding lead performances. You have to go back to the ’60s and ’70s to see something that is similar to those performances. It has beautiful music, beautiful dance performances. Everything in the film is definitely outstanding.”
While Lionsgate is planning a big launch at the festival, unfortunately Gosling will not be present, as he couldn’t escape filming duties for Blade Runner 2. Stone will be back in Venice after her 2014 success with Birdman led her to an Oscar nomination.
Mel’s Big Comeback
After a public meltdown of epic proportions, Mel Gibson retreated from the spotlight, putting his work behind the camera on hold. Now Venice is premiering his first directorial effort since Apocalypto (2006). Never one to retreat from challenging topics, Gibson explores the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, in the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge.
“The movie is special,” says Stuart Ford, CEO of IM Global, which co-financed the film, putting up approximately half of the budget. “Audiences can look forward to a picture that is both an old-school, action-packed wartime epic and also an intelligent and very moving present day statement on the nature of conflict and forgiveness.”
Barbera firmly believes the film marks Gibson’s comeback. “There is a high expectation of course after the previous films and all the issues around his bizarre attitude. I didn’t know what I was going to say when I saw the film,” he says. “I was quite surprised because it is a beautiful, classic war film about a courageous hero and the capability to put one’s own life before others. I think it’s proved that he’s a really great director and I hope that it will forgive some mistakes that he did and some unacceptable behaviors in the past.”
Paolo Sorrentino’s TV Debut
It’s not just films that are having their moment in Venice. HBO’s launch of Olive Kitteridge in Venice led it to pick up eight Emmy awards last year. As more and more acclaimed cinema directors make the leap into longform TV, all eyes will be on Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino’s TV debut The Young Pope, starring Jude Law as a fictional American pope who is conservative, politically conniving, and incredibly self-reflective. The production is a joint effort of HBO, Sky and Canal Plus.
“The Young Pope is a 10-part series but at the same time is a collection of 10 movies, each of them with Sorrentino’s unique flair and enthusiasm in innovating visual storytelling, featuring an inimitable top-notch technical and quality style and starring an outstanding international cast,” says Andrea Scrosati, executive vp programming of Sky Italia says. “So there could not be a more suitable venue than the Venice Film Festival to premiere the first two episodes of this show, and this choice confirms, if any additional proof were needed, that the distinction between cinema and television no longer exists: It all comes down to storytelling.”
FremantleMedia International, which is handling sales, has, not surprisingly, already begun closing deals ahead of the Venice launch. “Jude Law plays a hyper-contemporary and conservative pope, revolutionary, a fundamentalist who goes through life with an absolute faith and devotion to God,” says Lorenzo Mieli, CEO of FremantleMedia Italy. “And all the while he continuously poses to himself and to us the question we are all compelled to ask at least once in our lives: What do we mean exactly when we talk about faith and God? Stories and themes like these inevitably involve a wide audience from each country.”
Sorrentino agrees with the potential wide appeal of the series. “Beyond the interest for the Vatican, a closed and mysterious place, the series turns its attention to the Vatican’s inhabitants,” he says. “I think that the audience, regardless of where they’re from, will be captivated by the human and spiritual lives of these people.”
And with the American election coming up, Sorrentino believes that the candidates could also heed the advice of The Young Pope. “There is always danger around the corner,” he says. “The private biography of a leader can influence his choices for the collective interest of the people and that these choices could be dangerous and ineffective.”
Focus Features’ $20 Million Gamble
Last year, Focus Features paid a reported $20 million for Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s sophomore directorial effort.
Now, Focus is planning on betting a big chunk of their Oscar-campaign money on the dark romance based on Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan andstarring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Adams plays an art gallery owner who receives her ex-husband’s violent manuscript in the mail, which she interprets as a threatening tale of revenge and regret. It plays out as a story within a story as Isla Fisher plays Adams in novel form.
Could the L.A.-set noir finally deliver Amy Adams and/or Jake Gyllenhaal their long-awaited Oscars? Focus hopes so, with many more categories to push for. “The film will be one of the highlights of Venice,” says Barbera. “Both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal could start an Oscar campaign from Venice, definitely.”
*Featured Photo: Brigitte Bardot illuminating Venice with her presence in 1958: the photographers chase her and she immediately becomes the center of social life on the Lido. “BB”, at the peak of her career, came to the 19th Venice Film Festival as part of the cast of the film En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) by Claude Autant-Lara. (Photo credit courtesy of Asac – la Biennale di Venezia.)