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.”
Screening in competition in the Sala Grande theatre today: La región salvaje by Amat Escalante (4:45 pm) and Piuma by Roan Johnson (7:30 pm). At 2:00 pm, Jaeger-leCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award to Amir Naderi; followed by Monte, screening Out of Competition.
I just experienced Jesus VR – The Story of Christ: a special 40-minute presentation of the first feature length Virtual Reality (VR) film in the VR Theater at the Venice Film Festival. The film, with a run time of 90 minutes, is slated for a timely Christmas Season release and is being produced by AUTUMN VR Inc. and VRWERX, LLC.
From start to release the project will cover eighteen months come December 2016. With roughly 2.5 billion Christians and more than 2 billion smartphones globally, Jesus VR seems positioned to make a strong entrance into the VR platform with the big production AUTUMN VR Inc. and VRWERX, LLC put together. And viewers won’t be disappointed.
Jesus VR has a strong story line, solid acting and strong production values to match. Put this one on your Christmas list of films to watch. You’ll be glad you did. Special equipment is required. And, a theatrical experience including the VR goggles is part of the distribution roll out.
Yesterday at 1:00PM, Biennale Cinema titans, Paolo Baratta and Alberto Barbera welcomed media guests and visitors to Venice and to the Opening Press Conference of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
Festival Chairman, Paolo Baratta
Festival Director, Alberto Barbera
Mr. Baratta opened the remarks detailing the commitment Venice has made to making the festival the best it can be for its visitors and its stakeholders alike. Mr. Barbera then presented the various Juries, VENEZIA 73, ORIZZONTI, OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS, and VENICE CLASSICS and their respective members in alphabetical order as follows; Laurie Anderson (VENEZIA 73), Roberto Ando (VENICE CLASSICS, President), Gemma Arterton (VENEZIA 73), Rosa Bosch (OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS), Brady Corbet (OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS), Giancarlo De Cataldo (VENEZIA 73), Robert Guediguian (ORIZZONTI, President), Jim Hoberman (ORIZZONTI), Nina Hoss (VENEZIA 73), Nelly Karim (ORIZZONTI), Valentina, Lodovini (ORIZZONTI), Pilar Lopez de Ayala (OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS), Chiara Mastroianni (VENEZIA 73), Sam Mendez (VENEZIA 73, President), Joshua Oppenheimer (VENEZIA 73), Jose Maria (Chema) Prado (ORIZZONTI), Moon So-ri (ORIZZONTI), Kim Rossi Stuart (OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS, President), Chaitanya Tamhane (ORIZZONTI), Serge Toubiana (OPERA PRIMA – LUIGI LAURENTIS), Lorenzo Vigas (VENEZIA 73), and Zhao Wei (VENEZIA 73).
The conference was quickly opened up to audience members for questions. One of the first questions came from a Chinese agency asking the lovely Zhao Wei, the first Chinese female to sit on the VENEZIA Jury, what she was looking for in films.
Ms. Zhao Wei responded while she has considerable experience in the film industry she was also a still learning about films and would look for quality in all aspects of the film’s production. Next, an Austrian entity inquired regarding the safety in attending such a prestigious and noteworthy festival. Mr. Barbera quickly responded informing the audience the festival had an increased security presence this year and had taken precautionary measures to safeguard this year’s attendees. The second question was no less in ease to answer and came from a Japanese party. The inquiry came from the fact no Japanese film had made the festival for three consecutive years and why? Another quick response from Mr. Barbera provided insight into the festival’s lineup from over 50 countries out of upwards to 188 countries so every country won’t be represented every year. The third question hit the mark with what does VENEZIA73 President, Sam Mendez look for in his analysis of films. Mr. Mendez responded with while he does view many films, he doesn’t have a structured format for his analysis preferring to enjoy the film and find it’s excellence within. Mendez humbly admitted he is still learning about film!
And, as the conference was limited in the amount of time, Barbera thanked the audience for coming and wished each and everyone a safe and wonderful festival.
I wasn’t disappointed a bit on this one. Quite the opposite. The sanctity of the cinema and the reverence of the Italian audience is a “must experience.”
So after I waited in line for nearly two hours (in position number one), I found an aisle seat with an abundance of leg room. I settled in to hear Festival Director Alberto Barbera and Biennale President Paolo Baratta address the near-capacity audience at the Sala Dardene in Italian. As I am not fluent in Italian, I watched intently for cues in tone and body language. Both men seem to have had something important to say and the manner in which they delivered it made me sense there was a bit of philosophy floating through the sound waves.
Homage was paid to Luigi Comenechi by a few of his relatives, including his beautiful daughter Francesca, in a highly eloquent manner.
The final guest speaker, Thierry Fremaux, gave the audience a quick barrage of words in French on the importance of the Lumiere Brothers work and the nedd for it to be preserved. Mr. Barbera translatedMr. Fremeaux’s French into Italian then followed the French gentleman to his front row seat microphone in hand. With adept timing as Barbera took his seat next to the French gentlemen, the lights dimmed and the screen was illuminated with “Lumiere!”
To celebrate this important anniversary, on the Pre-opening night of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival (Tuesday August 30th, at 8:30 pm) in the Sala Darsena on the Lido, the public gathered to celebrate Comencini’s one-hundredth birthday. Prior to the screening of the previously announced restored version of Luigi Comencini’s Tutti a casa, the audience was invited to enjoy the program of nine “views” made in Venice by the operators of the Cinématographe Lumière said the Director Fremaux of the Institut Lumière of Lyon.
The films, which were made over three consecutive years (1896-98), were:
Arrivée en gondole, 1896, N°291
Pigeons sur la place Saint-Marc, N°292
Tramway sur le Grand Canal, 1896, N°293
Grand Canal avec barques, 1896, N°294
Panorama du Grand Canal pris d’un bateau, 1896, N°295
Panorama de la place Saint-Marc pris d’un bateau, N°296
Venise, place Saint-Marc, 1897, N°430
Arrivée en gondole des souveraines d’Allemagne et d’Italie au palais royal de Venise, 1898, N°1058
Départ en gondole, 1898, N°1059
The Biennale di Venezia thanked Thierry Fremaux and the Institut Lumière for their valuable collaboration, as well as the Alliance française and Carlo Montanaro of La Fabbrica del Vedere in Venice.
The screening of the “views” will be followed, for the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the great director Luigi Comencini (1916 – 2007), by the previously announced screening of Comencini‘s masterpiece Tutti a casa (Everybody Go Home, Italy/France, 1960) starring Alberto Sordi, Serge Reggiani, Carla Gravina and Eduardo De Filippo, produced by Dino De Laurentiis, for the world premiere of the digitallyrestored copy by Filmauro and CSC – Cineteca Nazionale di Roma.
Venetian audiences were invited to the special Pre-opening tribute-night at the Sala Darsena on the Lido, beginning at 8:30 pm, thanks to the collaboration with the daily newspapers “Il Gazzettino”, “La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre” and “Il Corriere del Veneto”.
Tutti a casa by Luigi Comencini is one of the most famous and successful examples of what made the “commedia all’italiana” immortal: the blend of comedy and drama, of real and grotesque, of courage and determination to survive. Comencini, with the autobiographical complicity of the two great screenwriters Age and Scarpelli and the bitter laughs provoked by the remarkable performance of Alberto Sordi, tells the story of the chaos that ensued on September 8th 1943, when Badoglio signed the armistice and the soldiers loyal to the King and Mussolini were abandoned to their own destinies, to face many dangers alone. In the film, Alberto Sordi, on the phone under German gunfire, asks his superiors: “Colonel, Sir, this is Lieutenant Innocenzi, something amazing just happened, the Germans have become allies of the Americans. What are we supposed to do?”
Tutti a casa is a “road movie” across the ruins and confusion reigning in Italy at that time, when the soldiers had no one to give them orders and one after another they decided to head back home: tutti a casa, everybody go home. In the story, Second Lieutenant Alberto Innocenzi (Sordi), who is used to obeying and not answering back, is abandoned by his soldiers and flees from north to south with his sick friend, the Neapolitan military engineer Ceccarelli (Serge Reggiani). He runs into German soldiers eager for retaliation who shoot at them, witnesses the odyssey of a Jewish girl attempting to escape (for whom a young Venetian soldier gives his life), meets an American prisoner hiding in an attic, is united with his father (Eduardo De Filippo) who wants to send him back to the Fascist army, until the final redemption during the 4 days of Naples. At the time Comencini stated: “On the 8th of September, people were abandoned to themselves, and that is what I wanted to describe”. The film was a box office hit, bringing in over a billion lire in ticket sales.
Luigi Comencini (1916-2007) who was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 1987 by the Biennale di Venezia, is considered one of the greatest masters of Italian-style comedy, as well as “the children’s director“. Among his comedies, his first masterpiece was Pane, amore e fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams, 1953), with Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio De Sica, winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin, the prototype for what is known as “neorealismo rosa” and one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Italian cinema, followed over the years by other hit comedies such as Pane, amore e gelosia (Bread, Love and Jealousy, 1954), Mariti in città (Husbands in the City, 1957), Lo scopone scientifico (The Scientific Cardplayer, 1957) and Mio Dio, come sono caduta in basso! (Till Marriage Do Us Part, 1974).
Comencini addressed the theme of childhood early on in 1946 with Bambini in città, his first short documentary (which won an award in Venice and a Nastro d’argento), while Proibito rubare (Hey Boy, 1948), set among the street children in Naples, was his first feature-length film. His significant production of films on the theme of “childhood” continued with La finestra sul Luna Park (The Window to Luna Park, 1956), Incompreso (Misunderstood, 1966, in competition at Cannes and winner of a David di Donatello), Voltati Eugenio (1980, presented at the Venice Film Festival), Un ragazzo di Calabria (A Boy from Calabria, 1987, in competition in Venice) and Marcellino pane e vino (1991) his last film directed with his daughter Francesca. Also worthy of note are his versions of two classics of children’s literature, such as Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1972) and Cuore (1984).
A co-founder in 1935 with Alberto Lattuada and Mario Ferrari of the Cineteca italiana in Milan, Comencini directed a total of forty feature-length films, excluding his documentaries, screenplays, and investigative reports for Rai television. He experimented with many genres other than comedy, such as murder mysteries (La donna della domenica, The Sunday Woman, 1975), melodrama (Incompreso, 1966), literary films (La ragazza di Bube, 1963), period films (Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova veneziano, 1974), film-operas (La Bohème, 1987), but also experimented with more particular films (Cercasi Gesù, 1982, winner of a Nastro d’argento). In an interview he granted in the early 1980s, Comencini declared that he was willing to defend ten of his films, that “would never have seen the light of day if I had not made other flawed films, wholly or in part. But I have never made a film in bad faith”.
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.
Workers have begun wrapping it up at Lido for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. A Pre-opening Night film showcase featuring the historic works from the Lumiere Brothers on “views” of Venice, shot and constructed over a three year period from 1896 through 1898 jump starts this year’s event with an 8:30PM Invitation-only SCEENING at Sala Darsena. Furthermore, in recognition of Luigi Comencini’s one-hundreth birthday, a screening of his Tutti a casa, will accompany the Lumiere Brothers” Venice. The Festival has decided to cancel the Opening Night Gala out of respect for the earthquake victims in Amatrice. Nevertheless, the line-up features 20 films vying for this year’s Golden Lion. Each and every one of this year’s selection is a bona-fied contender.
In addition, Virtual reality has found a home with Jesus VR – The Story of Christ. A special 40 minute preview of the first feature length virtual reality film will be available for viewing on the 2nd floor of the Casino beginning September 1st.
Even though La La Land, the Opening Night Film, and Jackie, a hot ticket item, are not receiving the studios significant marketing and publicity efforts here at Lido this year, The Light Between Oceans, is generating heightened buzz commisserate with the blossoming chemistry, on and off-screen, between the film’s dynamic co-stars, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.
The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival will be held April 6-9 in Hollywood and will bear the theme “Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies.” The gathering of filmmakers, performers and fans for screenings and panels will represent the eighth TCM film fest.
TCM, part of Turner, described the films to be showcased as being “from lowbrow to high, slapstick to sophisticated comedies of manners” and said the 2017 festival “will showcase the greatest cinematic achievements of lone clowns, comedic duos and madcap ensembles.”
Tickets go on sale in November.
The 2016 festival, held in Hollywood, had the theme “Moving Pictures” and focused on rousing, inspiring and emotionally stirring films.
Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) has, for the second time, had one of its movie lovers chosen to represent the UK at Europa Cinemas’ 28 Times Cinema initiative. This year Steven Armour, a Queen’s University graduate and former member of QFT’s Takeover Film club, will represent QFT as a member of the Venice Days jury during the Venice Film Festival between 31st August – 11th September.
28 Times Cinema gives 28 young people from across Europe the opportunity to gain in-depth experience of the world famous Venice Film Festival. QFT is one of 28 cinemas from across the European Union states to be selected to send a young movie goer to spend ten days at the festival watching the Venice Days film selection and sharing their opinions and ideas.
Marion Campbell, QFT Learning Offcier said ‘We are all very proud of Steven! He will represent the UK and Queen’s Film Theatre during the Venice Days and watch all the films presented at Venice Days and the LUX film Prize 2016 Competition. While at the film festival, he will have the chance to meet international filmmakers and other film industry professionals and will be writing an online blog on his experiences.’
Following a tough selection process Steven was the one successful candidate selected from the UK and he is looking forward to the experience. “It’s an amazing opportunity to represent the UK as part of this year’s 28 Times Cinema initiative. Cinema has been a passion of mine from a young age, and so to have this chance to attend one of the world’s best film festivals is a dream come true. I can’t wait to join the 27 other young cinephiles from across Europe to watch new films, work together as a jury, and write reviews, gaining invaluable experience for my future aspirations of working in film.”
Susan Picken, Head of QFT recognises how important opportunities like this can be, “To have the chance to attend such a prestigious Film Festival in this way at the start of your career is priceless. The experience and the networking opportunities that this presents are not to be taken for granted and I know that Steven will make the most of every moment.”
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.”