By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood July 23, 2013 at 12:34PM
MAY IN THE SUMMER by Cherien Dabis
With Hiam Abbass, James Garson Chick, Cherien Dabis
USA/Qatar/Jordan, International Premiere
World sales: Elle Driver
From the director of Amreeka, a Mediterranean tragicomedy in which she also stars, alongside Palestinian film icon Hiam Abbass. Interrupting her successful career in Manhattan, May returns to Amman to arrange her wedding, and lands smack in the middle of a dysfunctional family crisis. Her mother, a born-again Christian, disapproves of her marriage to a Muslim; her father barely seems to care at all; no one cares about May´s happiness. But it´s also the story of May´s relationship with her two sisters, also back from the U.S., the New World where the three sisters all live without ever seeing each other, now reunited for an event they each somehow dread. Two worlds collide, and nothing turns out to be as it seems; modernity and tradition face off in this sentimental comedy.
LA MIA CLASSE by Daniele Gaglianone
With Valerio Mastandrea and the class
Italy, World Premiere
Production: Axelotil Film, Kimerafilm, Relief
with the support of Rai Cinema
This new film marks Daniele Gaglianone´s return to Venice Days, as well as a shift in direction from his recent works, relaunching as it does one of his favourite themes, reality film. Set in Rome´s multiethnic Pigneto area, it tells the collective story of a class made up of immigrants learning Italian. The ingredients are the individual life stories of the students and their teacher as well, for a true story in a rather unconventional classroom setting. Or is it a true story? It is for the classmates, with their own voices and memories; it´s true at a different level for the actor Valerio Mastandrea who plays their teacher; and for the director and crew who weave in and out of the scene, in an interplay between real experiences and the search for truth in a fictional form, which emerges as the real narrative heart of this film, more real than reality itself.
LA RECONSTRUCCION by Juan Taratugo
With Diego Peretti, Claudia Fontán, Alfredo Casero,
Maria Casali, and Eugenia Aguilar y Ariel Pérez
Argentina, International Premiere
Production: Concreto Film
Emotions seem to have no place in Eduardo´s perfect solitude. A model employee with a secretive, obsessive personality, he has locked the story of his life in one room of his house in Rio Grande, until the day he agrees to help an old friend and his family. The encounter between a loner, so alone that he has lost much of the veneer of civilisation, and people who rely on his help, becomes a rite of passage enabling Eduardo to rediscover his own humanity, and begin to reconstruct. Against the backdrop of an undefinable Argentina caught between past and present, itself colourful yet solitary, this very human ensemble comedy changes along with its lead actor. The third film by the director of It´s Not You, It´s Me (2004) and a surprise hit in South America and Spain, it once again stars the director´s alter ego, Diego Peretti.
RIGOR MORTIS by Juno Mak - First film
With Kara Hui, Siu-hou Chin, Richard Ng
Hong Kong, World Premiere
World sales: Fortissimo Film
In a leaden, deserted Hong Kong, very different from the visionary modernity of its gleaming towers, a famous actor has a fatal encounter with his own destiny. Co-produced by the master of the horror genre, Takashi Shimizu, with an "all-star" cast that reunites some of the film icons from the classic series Mr. Vampire, Juno Mak´s feature directorial debut brings a cult comic strip to the big screen with mind-blowing special effects, and pays tribute to the Asian tradition of vampire movies from the 80s. Accompanied by the living dead, the undead, ghosts and Dracula disciples, the lead character embarks on a dream journey to the farthest shores of the river of life, in an auteur horror flick that radically rejuvenates the tradition. Starring martial arts champion Siu-hou Chin, best known for his duels with Jet Li.
SIDDHARTH by Richie Mehta
With Rajesh Tailang, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anurag Arora,
Shobha Sharma Jassi, Geeta Agarwal Sharma, Naseeruddin Shah
India/Canada, World Premiere
Production: Poor Man's Productions Ltd.
Mahendra works on street corners as a chain-wallah (a zipper-fixer), while his wife Suman stays at home with their two young children, twelve-year-old Siddharth and his sister. To contribute to the family budget, the boy is sent far away from home, from New Dehli to Ludhiana, where a relative has a job for him and a place to sleep. It seems like a dream come true to his father, until he realises that his son has vanished into thin air: kidnapped, perhaps, or dead. Mahendra learns how confusing the world beyond his front door really is, but that doesn´t stop him from stubbornly seeking Siddharth all over India, its cities and countryside combined. Co-written by its star and the director (who now lives in Canada), the film builds on the emotions of one man´s painful awakening, and shows a different, almost neorealist India, described with that ingredient of universal humanity that is Italian film´s gift to the world.
TRAITORS di Sean Gullette - First film
With Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami,
Mourade Zeguindi, Driss Roukhe, Saleh Bensaleh
Morocco/USA, World Premiere
Production: White Light White Heat, Kasbah-Film Tanger
Malika's double life as a call-centre operator by day and the uninhibited leader of a punk-rock band in Tangiers' ancient casbah by night takes an unexpected turn when the young woman has to find the money to direct a music video that will be her band's ticket to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, Malika looks in all the wrong places and finds herself definitely out of her depth; she's going to need to rely on much more than her talent and her femininity to get herself out of this mess. Splendid directing debut by an American actor (a revelation in Pi by his best buddy Darren Aronofsky) and screenwriter, who has lived in Tangier for years, this is a heart-stopping thriller that reveals all the contradictions of Moroccan culture today. Features original songs sung by its riveting star Chaimae Ben Acha, and new music from much-hyped all-female bands Savages and Talk Normal.
THE DOOR by Ava DuVernay, 2012 - Italy/USA
Production: RSA Films, Hi! Production, Howard Barish, Ava DuVernay
Executive producers: Jules Daly, Max Brun, Marjio Abrahams, Maria Gallagher
The first African-American filmmaker to triumph at Sundance (Best Director 2012), Ava DuVernay brings to the screen "a celebration of the transformative power of the bonds between women, but also a symbolic tale that describes life changes".
LE DONNE DELLA VUCCIRIA by Hiam Abbass, 2013 Italy/France
Production: Hi! Production, NCN
Executive producers: Max Brun, Giorgio Guzzi
Filmed in Palermo in June of this year, this film by Hiam Abbass (a genuine icon of Palestinian film, a charismatic actress and the director of Inheritance, 2012) springs from her collaboration with Venice Days, which put her name forward for The Miu Miu Women´s Tales series.
JULIA by J. Jackie Baier World Premiere
World sales: M-Appeal
An all too human story of passion, abasement, self-discovery and rage directed at the whole world. What exactly makes a boy leave home and his country, Lithuania, to wind up dressed in women´s clothes on the streets of Berlin, selling his own body for money? For over ten years photographer and filmmaker J. Jackie Baier spent her days and nights alongside the transexual Julia K., filming the life and thought of a self-appointed outlaw and guerrilla fighter in the war of life. A film that can´t be pigeonholed, the unfiltered vision of a raw, extreme reality, Julia marks a milestone in reality cinema, with the camera no longer a simple eye-witness but an accomplice or first-hand observer of a person whose identity defies all labels.
VENEZIA SALVA by Serena Nono
With David Riondino, Nicola Golea, Domenico Palazzo,
Matteo Parrinello, Roxana Kenjeeva, Vincenza Petrella
Italy, World Premiere
Production: Giano Produzioni
Venezia salva, freely adapted from the play by Simone Weil, is the story of Spain´s failed attempt to sack of Venice in 1618. A plot is devised by the Spanish ambassador, the Marquis of Bedmar, and the Neapolitan viceroy, the Duke of Osuna, to conquer Venice on the night before the festival of the ‘Sensa´ which reenacts the marriage of Venice to the sea, the aim being to crush the Serenissima and annex it to the Kingdom of Spain. A faithful yet abstract depiction of the historical event and a remarkable journey through largely visual art forms (featuring theatre, history painting, music and images in motion), this third film by the Venetian director - and her feature directorial debut - came out of a workshop involving the residents of the Casa dell´ospitalità di Venezia e Mestre (a shelter for the homeless), the same residents who play most of the roles in the film.
In collaboration with the Tribeca Film Festival
LENNY COOKE by Benny Safdie, Joshua Safdie
USA, International Premiere
Production: A Shop Korn Prods
In 2001 Lenny Cooke was the most promising talent in college basketball, even more gifted, many believed, than future American greats such as LeBron James, Amar´e Stoudemire, or Carmelo Anthony. NBA stardom was within his reach, yet ten years on, Lenny takes stock: that stardom never materialised. He´s never played even once for the NBA. What went wrong? Filmed at Lenny´s home in Brooklyn and the New Jersey suburbs where he first learned to play, with the participation of friends and relations of the greatest loser of the new millenium, the new film by the Safdie brothers examines the quintessential American dream - shattered. Selected by the Tribeca Film Festival to screen at Venice Days, in a joint artistic collaboration.
Pre-opening event - Special Screening
L´ARBITRO by Paolo Zucca - First film
With Stefano Accorsi, Geppi Cucciari, Jacopo Cullin, Marco Messeri,
Benito Urgu, Francesco Pannofino, and Alessio Di Clemente
Italy/Argentina World Premiere
Production: Classic, Bd Cine, Rai Cinema
with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Autonomous Region of Sardinia
Italian distribution: Lucky Red
World sales: Le Pacte
The rise and fall of a corrupt referee. The timeless clash between two rival teams at the bottom of the rankings. The bedlam unleashed by the third tier of the football pyramid. Atletico Bonacattu, the most god-awful team in Sardinia, is humiliated once again this year by Sant´Andria, coached by Brai, the haughty wheeler-dealer used to hassling the peons of Atletico since he rules the roost. But the homecoming of the young emigrant Matzutzi, recruited to play for Atletico Bonaccattu, upsets the apple cart for the season. The story of the two teams alternates with that of the spectacular rise of Cruciani, an ambitious referee who shoots to the highest levels on the international scene, only to get an unpleasant surprise...For the birthday of Venice Days, a rising Italian filmmaker´s first film celebrates the event with an auteur comedy that surreally crystallises all the virtues and vices of our world.
Closing night film Special screening
TRES BODAS DE MAS by Javier Ruiz Caldera
With Inma Cuesta, Martiño Rivas, María Botto, Rossy de Palma
Spain World Premiere
Production: Antena 3 Films, Apaches Entertainment, Ciskul, Think Studio
What could be worse than being invited to your ex-boyfriend´s wedding? It´s a no-brainer: three similar invites all in one month. And if you can´t say no and have no one to escort you so you won´t look like a spinster, things are only going to get worse. Throw in a desperate search for a soulmate between one wedding and the next, and success in your chosen career, and it´s a recipe for disaster. Everything clicks into place in this perfect comedy about love and the light-hearted pursuit of happiness to a musical beat. Venice Days 2013 ends on a light note to pay homage to popular entertainment and usher the festival out with a lively party atmosphere.