Roma, First Man, Tumbbad, A Star Is Born — Films to look out for at Venice Film Festival 2018

Mihir Fadnavis

Aug,23 2018 12:11:27 IST

The 2018 Venice Film Festival is turning out to be quite the blockbuster celebration of world cinema with some of the biggest, most anticipated titles of the year having their premiers. More interestingly, some of the biggies are going straight to Netflix within a month – unsubtly signaling the notion that Cannes’ arrogant ban on streaming picks will not become a worldwide boycott.

There is, however, a caveat – the festival has issued a blanket request to all journalists to not write reviews of the films until the films open to the public. This is essentially a humble embargo – which may not work in favor of the films playing at the fest, because buzz built around a title at the festival circuit is what makes or breaks a film. Film geeks rely on word of mouth from the press to hunt, anticipate and discuss new and interesting films trickling out of fests.

It’s a move that’s bound to upset a lot of publications considering they rely on quick reviews from the critics attending the fest – and the critics themselves will find it hard to refrain from banging out heartfelt essays on the films they love.

What, ultimately, is the point of being a passionate film writer attending a film fest and not be able to write about the movies you love? There isn’t much clarity on whether this rule is mandatory – the next couple of days will undoubtedly cast some more light, and one can expect an uproar from the press.

Films to be excited about

Some of the big names include new works from Alfoso Cuaron, who has made a small scale highly personal family drama called Roma; Luca Guadagnino’s follow up to Call Me By Your Name – a remake of the horror classic Surpriria; Mike Leigh’s period drama Peterloo; Damien Chazelle’s highly anticipated Neil Armstrong biopic First Man which opens the fest; and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs which, interestingly, is their first foray into Netflix.

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From L to R: Stills from First Man, A Star is Born, Roma and Tumbbad. Images from Facebook.

Bradley Cooper premiers his directorial debut A Star is Born that stars himself and Lady Gaga. There’s India’s fantasy horror drama Tumbbad directed by Rahi Barve which opens the critics week section – a huge deal for a film that is almost nine years in the making.

On the world cinema side Post Tenebras Lux and Japon director Carlos Reygadas is back with a new film called Nuestro tiempo; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schnabel returns with At Eternity's Gate – a film on Vincent Van Gogh which stars Willem Dafoe as the painter and a stacked supporting cast of Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen and Mathiew Amalric; Greek madman Yorgos Lanthimos returns with The Favourite – a Victoria era costume dark comedy drama with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; The Babadook director Jennifer Kent presents The Nightingale – a 19th century drama thriller set in a gothic Australian landscape.

Now that the big names are out of the way, here are five other interesting films to look out for:

22 July

Director Paul Greengrass goes back to his United 93 and Bloody Sunday roots with a true crime documentary like feature – this time he chronicles the aftermath of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik opening fire on a bunch of school children in 2011. Norway is a famously safe country, so this incident sent shockwaves, and Anders’ treatment in a ludicrously comfortable Norwegian jail has since become a topic of discussion. Greengass, with his prowess for balancing emotion and tension, will no doubt bring something special – and if it turns out to be good the wait won’t be long since it’s hitting Netflix in October.

Dachra

Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s horror film from Tunisia has a lot of buzz already – it’s the closing film of the critics week section of the festival and features a metaphorical horror element that’s become the new go-to art-house subgenre. The film features a young college student who travels to a small rural town to investigate a decades-old case where a woman was suspected to be involved in witchcraft, and was sent to an asylum. If the festival runs of The VVitch and Under the Shadow are anything to go by, we can expect Dachra to be the breakout horror hit of the year.

Sunset

Hungarian László Nemes blew everyone away with the WW2 drama thriller Son of Saul that bagged the 2016 Oscar for Foreign Language film – it was an especially impressive win considering it was his debut movie. Nemes is back with another historical drama – which seems a little lighter in tone though only on paper. The story chronicles a young woman (Juli Jakab who also appeared in Son of Saul) who travels to Budapest in 1913 to work at her family’s famous hat store. Things don’t work out so well as she is rejected by the new owner of the shop and she embarks on a quest to discover her heritage and her family roots, as Hungary wages into world war. Sunset will also play at the Toronto International Film Festival shortly after its premier in Venice.

The Ghost of Peter Sellers 

Back in the ’70s there was a famous Hollywood catastrophe. It was called Ghost in the Noonday Sun and starred Peter Sellers in a bizarre comedy about pirates drifting across the Mediterranean ocean in real ships. The failure of the story wasn’t the film’s most notable quality though – it was the nightmarish production and shoot that ballooned its budget to hilariously unmanageable levels, topped with Sellers himself behaving like a blown out Diva on set. The director of the film Peter Medak has now made a documentary funded by an Indiegogo campaign that details everything that went wrong behind the scenes – and if there’s anything we’ve learned it’s the BTS stuff about unmitigated cinematic disasters that are far more fascinating than those of good films. It would also be interesting to see Medak dealing with the demons of the past, particularly with the kind of reception his film got back then.

The Sisters Brothers 

This is a particularly fascinating project because there are a number of very odd things about it. For one, it packs an amazing star cast of Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, John C Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Rutget Hauer – but the film is a comedy and none of these actors barring Reilly are known for their comedic chops. Secondly, this is a Western written and directed by Jaques Audiard – and if you’ve seen his work (Dheepan, Rust and Bone, A Prophet) you would never associate this genre with him. This could either be a massive belly flop or a raging success – there doesn’t seem to be any scope for a middle ground.

The 2018 Venice Film Festival runs from 29 August to 8 September 2018.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 12:11 PM