70th Venice Film Festival
Italy, August 28 - September 7 2013
The Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica, better known as The Venice Film Festival, does not need introduction. The oldest film festival in the world celebrated its 70th year with an abundance of Hollywood stars on the red carpet and a special project. 70 movie directors from around the world were invited to make a short film lasting between 60 and 90 seconds, and these were assembled under the title Venezia 70 — Future Reloaded. Among the better known directors in the bunch were Kim Ki-duk in a friendly mode, who introduced his loving old mother to the viewers, Abbas Kiarostami who recreated the 1895 silent short The Sprinkler Sprinkled through the eyes of a very young filmmaker, and president of the jury Bernardo Bertolucci who made a personal and metaphoric film about a wheelchair struggling to advance in the stone cobbled streets of Rome. Bertolucci was also the subject of Luca Guadagnino and Walter Fasano’s documentary Bertolucci on Bertolucci presented in the Venice Classics section. This film is an elaborate and well put together montage of interviews given by the great Italian director over the years, offering a fascinating insight into his artistic sphere.
Headed by Bertolucci, the jury of the international competition — which also included directors Andrea Arnold and Pablo Larrain, actors Martina Gedeck, Carrie Fisher, Jiang Wen and Virginie Ledoyen, cinematographer Renato Berta and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto—awarded the top prizes to the films that got the warmest and longest applause in the press screenings. The Grand Jury Prize was handed to Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs (Jiaoyou ) — a minimalistic and harrowing meditation on the state of humanity. The Golden Lion for Best Film went to Sacro Gra, the first Italian film in 15 years to win this award. Gianfranco Rosi’s tender and poetic documentary is dedicated to the people living on the outskirts of Rome’s giant ring-road. Among the major award winners were also two films about abuse in the family. Alexandros Avranas won the Silver Lion for best Director for his second film Miss Violence that opens with a kick to the stomach — a birthday for the 11 year old daughter ends with the birthday girl jumping out of the porch to her death. We gradually realize that the tyrannical patriarch of the family (Themis Panou — winner of the Coppa Volpi for best actor) serves as his daughters’ pimp and rapist. Winner of the Special Jury Prize was Philip Gröning’s stylistically challenging The Police Officer’s Wife (Die frau des polizisten) in which the wife in the title is physically and psychologically abused by her loving husband causing her to finally take the life of her own daughter. All the above winner are distinctively artistic and not commercially oriented, which is why it is almost strange to find among them Stephen Frears’ Oscar oriented Philomena. The award for best screenplay was given to Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for their “mainstreamly” entertaining and heart wrenching true story about one more woman who was cruelly betrayed by the church.
Three members of the FIPRESCI jury also focused on the films in the international competition and awarded Xavier Dolan’s fourth film Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme), a thrilling and sensual drama with a touch of horror which serves as a fascinating and multi-layered reflection on fluid sexual identities. The FIPRESCI prize for best debut film In the Orizzonti and International Critics’ Week sections went to The Reunion (Återträffen) directed by Anna Odell. This Swedish film tells of a group of people who meet for their high school reunion and struggle with memories of bullying. The FIPRESCI jury awarded the film for the intelligent and engaging way in which it blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary and speaks about marginalization, bullying, and the complicated nature of group dynamics. (Yael Shuv)
Venice Film Festival: www.labiennale.org