18 Must-See Films at Venice 2020

By Pickle  August 5, 2020

After months of cancellations and postponements necessitated by the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns, big screens will flicker to welcome back international cinema at the 77th Venice Film Festival. Of course, the 2020 edition of the world’s oldest film festival has fewer films, curtailed sections, socially-distanced screenings and masked audiences. The raft of restrictions will be a bit of a dampener all right but the fact that a major celebration of cinema is finally going ahead, if only in the form of a scaled down version, is a cause for cheer. It may not be business as usual, but business it will be. By Saibal Chatterjee

Lacci(The Ties)

The first Italian film since 2009 to open the Venice Film Festival, Daniele Luchetti’sLacci, based on a 2017 novel of the same title written Domenico Starnone is about a marriage threatened by infidelity, bitter recriminations, agony and contrition. The film’s cast is led by Alba Rohrwacher and Luigi Lo Cascio. Lacci, set in 1980s Naples, plays Out of Competition.

Director: Daniele Luchetti
Country: Italia
Language: Italian
Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Luigi Lo Cascio, Laura Morante, Silvio Orlando, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Adriano Giannini, Linda Caridi

La Sorella Macaluso (The Macaluso Sisters)

The Palermo-set drama directed by playwright and actress Emma Dante is about a closely-knit group of five sisters whose lives are thrown into disarray following a tragic beach accident. The film, which is in Competition, is an adaptation of Dante’s own 2014 play. Her first film, A Street in Palermo (2013), won a clutch of prizes of Venice.

Director: Emma Dante
Country: Italia
Language: Italian
Cast: Viola Pusateri, Eleonora De Luca, Simona Malato, Susanna Piraino, Serena Barone, Maria Rosaria Alati, Anita Pomario, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ileana Rigano, Alissa Maria Orlando, Laura Giordani, Rosalba Bologna

Nuevo Orden (New Order)

Mexican director Michel Franco’s sixth feature is the only film from Latin America in the Venice Competition. The film, set in the near future, is about a high society wedding invaded by a group of seemingly poor people. It is a harrowing portrait of economic disparity and a society where violence has been normalized. 

Director: Michel Franco
Country: Mexico, France
Language: spanish
Cast: Naián González Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica Del Carmen, Fernando Cuautle, Darío Yazbek, Eligio Meléndez

Amants(Lovers)

French actress-director-screenwriter Nicole Garcia’s ninth feature, a thriller revolving around a love triangle, competes for the Golden Lion. In Paris, a woman, while on vacation with her husband, revives a passionate liaison with her former boyfriend. The dalliance threatens to lead to a murder. Amants stars Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney and Benoit Mogimel. 

Director: Nicole Garcia
Country: France
Language: English
Cast: Pierre Niney, Stacy Martin, Benoît Magimel

Dear Comrades

Top-flight Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky’s black-and-white Competition entry is an account of a real-life 1962 massacre of Soviet workers demonstrating for better working conditions in the town of Novocherkassk. The incident was covered up by the Soviet regime. It came to light only in 1992 after the fall of communism in Russia.

Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Country: Russia
Language: Russian
Cast: Julia Vysotskaya, Vladislav Komarov, Andrei Gusev, Yulia Burova, Sergei Erlish

Wife of a Spy

Cult Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, best known for his forays into horror and the supernatural, tackles wartime Japan for the first time in this drama that will compete for the Golden Lion. In the 1940s, a merchant leaves his wife behind and travels to Manchuria, where he witnesses an act of barbarism. The man’s subsequent actions trigger trouble for him and his wife.  

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Cast: Yu Aoi, Issey Takahashi

Sun Children

Iranian auteur Majid Majidi’s new film centres on a 12-year-old boy Ali and his three friends. To support their family, they work in a garage and resort to petty crime. Matters take a turn when Ali is entrusted with the task of finding an underground treasure. But to do so he must enrol in charitable institution for street children.

Director: Majid Majidi
Country: Iran
Language: Persian
Cast: Ali Nasirian, Javad Ezzati, Tannaz Tabatabaie, Rouhollah Zamani, Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mousavi Fard, Shamila Shirzad

Pieces of a Woman

Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo’s  seventh feature and first English-language film is an American-Canadian production. Pieces of a Woman, a Golden Lion contender, revolves around a mother who has lost her child after an ill-fated home birth. The tragedy has severe ramifications on her relationship with her husband and her estranged mother. The film stars Shia LeBeouf, Vanessa Kirby, Ellen Burstyn and Sarah Snook.  

Director: Kornél Mundrucz ó
Country: Canada , Hungary
Language: English
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Jimmie Fails, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie

Miss Marx

One of four Italian titles in the Competition lineup, Miss Marx, directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, is biopic about Karl Marx’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, played by RamolaGarai. A woman of exceptional drive as a social activist and women’s rights champion, her life was torn asunder by a passionate and tragic love affair.

Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Country: Italy , Belgium
Language: English
Cast: Romola Garai, Patrick Kennedy, John Gordon Sinclair, Felicity Montagu, Karina Fernandez, Oliver Chris, Philip Gröning Giordani, Rosalba Bologna

Never Gonna Snow Again

This Competition title is a Polish-German co-production helmed by Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert. It tells the story of a Ukrainian migrant working a masseur in Poland who becomes a guru-like figure in the gated community where her clients live.

Director: Małgorzata Szumowska , Michał Englert
Country: Poland, Germany
Language: Polish
Cast: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza, Weronika Rosati, Katarzyna Figura, Andrzej Chyra

Nomadland

California-based Chinese director Chloe Zhao’s competes for the Golden Lion with her third feature. The cast of the road movie is led by Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand and Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn. McDormand plays a woman in her 60s who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West living as a van-dwelling nomad. 

Director: Chloé Zhao
Country: United States
Language: English
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells

And Tomorrow the Entire World

German director Julia von Heinz is in Competition with this film, a timely drama set against a backdrop of racist violence in Germany. The female protagonist is a member of an anti-fascist front that is violently opposed to the neo-Nazis. As the situation worsens, she and her friends are forced to go into hiding. The film is the first feature of the production company set up by the filmmaker.

Director: Julia von Heinz
Country: Germany, France
Language: German
Cast: Viola Pusateri, Eleonora De Luca, Simona Malato, Susanna Piraino, Serena Barone, Maria Rosaria Alati, Anita Pomario, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ileana Rigano, Alissa Maria Orlando, Laura Giordani, Rosalba Bologna

The Duke

Playing Out of Competition, British theatre, television and film director Roger Michell’s The Duke, which brings to the big screen the true story of a 60-year-old taxi driver (played by Jim Broadbent) who stole a Francisco Goya painting from National Gallery and demanded as ransom free TV for the elderly. The film also has Helen Mirren in a stellar role.

Director: Roger Michell
Country: United States
Language: English
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Fionn Whitehead, Matthew Goode, Anna Maxwell Martin

Sportin’ Life

Another Out of Competition title, this non-fiction film by veteran American director Abel Ferrara was during quarantine. It is about the filmmaker taking his previous feature Siberia for its world premiere at the Berlinale in February before the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt. Sportin’ Life features Ferrara’s frequent collaborator, actor Willem Dafoe.

Director: Abel Ferrara
Country: Italia
Language: English
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Cristina Chiriac, Anna Ferrara, Paul Hipp, Joe Delia

Nowhere Special

Italian producer and director Uberto Pasolini, known for producing The Full Monty, directs James Norton as a window cleaner unwaveringly committed to his three-year-old son. When he is given months to live, he attempts to find a new family for the three-year-old. Nowhere Special, filmed in Northern Ireland, is in Venice Orizzonti.

Director: Uberto Pasolini
Country: Italy , Romania, United Kingdom
Language: English
Cast: James Norton, Daniel Lamont

Mainstream

Gia Coppola’s Orizzonti title, through a story set in Los Angeles and centered on a love triangle, questions the devastating power of social media. The cast of the American film featuresSpider-Man star Andrew Garfield, Maya Hawke, Nat Wolff and Jason Schwartzman. Coppola previously directed the critically acclaimed Palo Alto.

Director: Gia Coppola
Country: United States
Language: English
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Maya Hawke, Nat Wolff, Jason Schwartzman

The World to Come

An adaptation of a short story by Jim Shepard, Venezia 77 Competition title The World to Come is directed by the Brooklyn-based Norwegian director Mona Fastvold. The film, set in mid-19th century American East Coast, is about two neighbouring couples who battle hardships that are aggravated by isolation. Casey Affleck, Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston and Christopher Abbott star in The World to Come.

Director: Mona Fastvold
Country: United States
Language: English
Cast: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott, Casey Affleck

Laila in Haifa

Israeli auteur Amos Gitai is in Competition with Laila in Haifa. The story, which interweaves the experiences of five women, unfolds over one night in a club in the port town of Haifa. The French-Israeli co-production provides a snapshot of one of last remaining spaces in the country where Israelis and Palestinians can still freely interact.  

Director: Amos Gitai
Country: Israel
Language: Hebrew
Cast: Maria Zreik, Khawla Ibraheem, Bahira Ablassi, Naama Preis, Tsahi Halevi, Makram J. Khoury

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