The mark of the 30th edition represents for the Venice International Film Critics’ Week a clear reason for satisfaction, but also the right moment to think back, not only in a commemorative way, to the work developed in the last 30 years by the several selection committees. How much cinema has changed through time is clear to everyone: the production possibilities have changed for a first time filmmaker, certainly for the best, giving easier and simpler access to the means of production; for the worst it changed due to the contraction of economic investment, be that public as well as private. The ways of consumption also altered, specifically for the so called arthouse cinema; on one side there are less screens dedicated to this kind of cinema, although on the other side, extraordinary possibilities of access are emerging through new online and VoD platforms, some more some less legal. The constant effort of this section, organized by the National Union of Italian Film Critics’ is that of finding at an international level directors who are capable of proposing a renewal of cinema, of unfolding talents filled with courage but also with a certain thoughtlessness, typical of a debut, to anticipate tendencies and not to simply pursue reassuring paths.
This year’s program is richer than ever and includes some celebrative moments that refer to our history: a Special Award to the best Debut over the last 30 years, conferred through a referendum by Italian Film Critics’ to director and actor Peter Mullan, that in 1998 revealed his talent within the Critics’ Week program with his film Orphans, for then to win a Golden Lion with Magdalene four years later. Orphans will be screened in the opening day of Critics’ Week, with the presence of the author.
The closing event of this is edition is equally commemorative. In 1991 the Critics’ Week award went to Antonio Capuano’s Vito e gli altri (Vito and the others). Twenty-four years later and with a filmography that testifies a very personal and independent cinematographic path, never compromised with imperative fashions or tendencies, Capuano presents to Critics’ Week his latest film Bagnoli Jungle, yet another example of expressive and courageous freedom. A film that confronts three generations, through stories that merge into each other, that move in a difficult territory, often degraded but extremely vital as the northern periphery of Naples that developed around the former industrial complex of Bagnoli. Both films tackle not casually some topics that blend with the titles in our program: disrupted families, adolescent crisis and parental conflicts, generations that confront each other in their private lives but also politically, disorientation induced by the economic crisis that force drastic life choices.
To the seven titles in competition, this year we unexpectedly added another title presented as pre-opening. It’s a coup de foudre that lasts 4 hours and 40 minutes: it’s called Jia (The Family), and it’s the debut of a Chinese filmmaker of Australian citizenship, Liu Shumin. With autobiographical but fictionalized tones, Liu uses non professional but extremely expressive actors to recount a few days in the life of an old couple who live in a city of inland China. He follows movements and every-day rituals, relationship subtleties with their three children, their common worries and the threats of old age, through a long voyage that both undertake to visit their children. With them, we will discover a country in profound transformation, balanced between tradition and modernity.
Two young people cross their paths escaping a jobless reality without perspective and a broken marriage in the Italian film in competition: Banat by Adriano Valerio. From Puglia to Romania through a reverse migration process, agronomist Ivo (a convincing Edoardo Gabriellini) drags with him the destiny of Clara (an intense Elena Radonicich). A film that reveals a strong talent of a director already awarded with a David di Donatello and with a special mention in Cannes for his short-film.
Similarly, the director of the Portuguese film Montanha, João Salaviza displays a very respectable pedigree: winner of both a Palme d’Or in Cannes and a Golden Bear in Berlin with two of his short-films, enriches the Critics’ Week program with his first long feature film where he recounts a special moment in the life of David, a 14 year old boy who is living a crucial moment of his existence, forced to grow up fast, lacking strong family reference points. A fascinating and poetic gem, in line with the most successful tradition of contemporary Portuguese cinema.
Another family painfully marked by the momentary absence of their mother and the mysterious disappearance of their father, is exposed in the British revelation film, Light Years by Esther May Campbell, a young filmmaker who already directed a multiple awarded short film as well as TV series episodes. Three kids of different ages are forced to face “light years” distance that separates them from adulthood, in a walked road movie that will guide them through the consciousness of the real world that surrounds them. A certain discovery of this selection.
A very present mother that represents a traditional and preconceived conception of the world is found in the Turkish film of the second female director present in the selection, Senem Tuzen. In Ana yurdu (Motherland), the writer Nesrin, an emancipated woman with two marriages and an abortion behind her, returns to her hometown to confront herself with her past ghosts. A very personal but at the same time a political film. Yet another sample of the exemplary state of the art of Turkish cinematography.
In the Yakel tribe living in the Tanna island, there is no such thing as love marriages. Rules impose arranged marriages that also solve conflicts with neighboring communities. The film Tanna by Australian duo Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, documentary filmmakers who for the first time turn to fiction, tells the love story between Waea and Dain, a relationship that will be opposed until the very end and with extreme consequences. A flaming mise en scene, just like the archipelago’s volcano at the center of the film, using local indigenous people as actors.
A beautiful and eccentric melodrama. Politics as a ghost from the past reappear in the Singaporean film, The Return by Green Zeng: an old man returns home to his daughter and son after spending decades in jail accused of communism, an accusation that in the Singaporean regime equals one of the worst crimes. Wen will be confronted in the acceptance of his closest family and will also have to face the deep transformation that his country wen through, in a film with one of the most refined and classic styles of the entire selection.
Political conflicts are also in the background of the first Nepalese long feature film ever screened in Venice, a debut by Min Bahadur Bham, who already came to Venice with his previous short film. In Kalo Pothi (The Black Hen) the adventures of two kids and their hen are intertwined with those of the community of a small village consumed by the civil war between government army and Maoist guerrilla (we are at the end of the 90s). A delicious adventure film that will certainly conquer passionate fans.