73rd Venice International Film Festival

Italy, August 31 - September 10 2016

The jury

Gerald Peary (US), Alexey Gusev (Russia), Nil Kural (Turkey), Nanna Frank Rasmussen (Denmark), Paola Casella (Italy), Massimo Lechi (Italy)

Awarded films

The critics jury presented two prizes: to a film in the international competition; and to a film either in the “Horizons” section or in the “Critics Week”.

As far as the main Competition and Out of Competition sections, the 73rd edition of the Venice Film Festival (which also features the parallel sections Orizzonti, Critics’ Week and Giornate degli Autori ) was a very interesting one. There were many North American productions among the 20 Competition entries, from the musical La La Land by Damien Chazelle to Jackie, Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s reflection on the former First Lady produced by a Hollywood major, as well as the works of auteurs Ana Lily Amirpour, Derek Cianfrance, Tom Ford and Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, all competing for the top prize.

But the Golden Lion was assigned by the international jury helmed by director Sam Mendes to Philipino director-editor-screenwriter-dop Lav Diaz and his four hour long exploration of the journey on the traces of her past of a woman just released from prison. Tom Ford won the Silver Lion for his Nocturnal Animals, Amat Escalante and Andrei Konchalovsky share the directing award for, respectively, the unsettlingly seductive The Untamed and the Holocaust themed Paradise. Winners of the Coppa Volpi for best actress and actor were Emma Stone and Oscar Martinez for their role in, respectively, La La Land and the Argentinian comedy The Distinguished Citizen.

It rests to see if the Mostra will kick start the Best Picture Oscar campaign for La La Land as it did in the past for Gravity and Birdman (Spotlight was shown also in Venice, but not in the main competition), earning its reputation as a good luck charm for directors with high artistic ambitions.

A good show of force from France too, with directors Francois Ozon and  Stéphane Brizé’s intelligent reflections on grief and women’s limited options in European society, Frantz and A life, which was awarded our Fipresci prize. Interesting competition entries also from Latin American talents such as Larrain’s countryman Christopher Murray, whose The Blind Christ was a favourite of festival director Alberto Barbera, as well as Mexican Escalante and Argentinian Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat.

Italy fell short of expectations with two light comedies, Piuma and These days, and one hermetic documentary, Spira Mirabilis, which divided the public between the many naysayers and the few ferventadmirers (as did the latest by director Wim Wenders, The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez). Thank God (as it’s the case to say) for Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope, a television miniseries presented at the Lido, which showed Italian capacity for grandeur and complex writing. Russia stood its ground with Konchalovsky’s Paradise and a much praised Out of Competition documentary, Austerlitz. Among the documentaries Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time, in Competition, gave us a bigger taste of his love of nature than his Tree of Life, while Ulrich Seidl took us into the heart of darkness of big game hunters with his controversial Safari. (Paola Casella, edited by Gerald Peary)

Venice International Film Festival: www.labiennale.org