The official selection presented by artistic director Gaia Furrer.
With a golden leap, drawn for us by Italian artist Rä di Martino, designer of our poster this year, based on an image from his series Allunati, the 19th edition of Giornate degli Autori shoots for the moon as well, dreaming of a landing on the satellite that harbors earthlings’ hopes and dreams. And it does so by way of a poetic leap that speaks of the urgency to move forward, explore lands unknown, sound out new chances. This leap of ours is an active, political act, just as the films on our lineup are: political themselves, and full of yearning.
As we sorted through the film entries for this year’s program, we did indeed discover and seize on works about separation, suffering and all the ills of this world, yet the same works stress cooperation and fellowship. Stories that are about society, personal or fantastical tales, inspired by reality, or an imaginary version of it, which still succeed in providing an original take on contemporary life.
Probing political issues or reworking the past; abiding by the status quo or attempting to catapult oneself into a different future; the solitude of human beings, hence the search for alliances: these are the cornerstones of our program.
The above are themes that transcend content; they underlie the practice of making films and making festivals. All of Giornate’s sections – the Competition, Special Events, and Venetian Nights, to which it is our custom to add Miu Miu Women’s Tales – dialogue with each other, in a common discourse that is ongoing. We offer numerous films that are co-directed, reinforcing the idea of cinema as a practice, and in the plural. Gender parity on the program reflects the evolution of women filmmakers, finally free to express themselves and, above all, gain access to that intricate economic machine that is cinema. Lastly, we’ll have the honor of welcoming to our ranks a jury president of the stature of Céline Sciamma, whose filmmaking has shaken our society to its foundations and laid out new directions for us to take.
One film in which the past serves as still raw material to come to terms with the present is The March on Rome, the new film by Irish filmmaker Mark Cousins and the opening title on the out-of-competition slate.
On the competition front, Blue Jean by British director Georgia Oakley plunges us into Thatcher’s England in the late ‘80s, for a look at homophobia. In The Last Queen, Adila Bendimerad and Damien Ounouri take a leap backwards into the 16th century, to tell the epic tale, part legend, part historical record, of the last queen of Algiers.
The two Italian films in competition also hone in on the past, as seen through today’s eyes. The subject, the setting and the production are all Italian in Abel Ferrara’s new film, his mystical, feverish Padre Pio, with a star turn by Shia LaBeouf. The film revisits a tragic early-twentieth century event in Italian history, the San Giovanni Rotondo Massacre in October 1920. And Salvatore Mereu is back at the Venice Film Festival, after two years, to share with us the painful yet uplifting story of his film Bentu, a tale of wind and wheat set in Sardinia in the 1950s, and a metaphor that could hardly be more relevant to the eternal battle between man and nature.
Fast forward to the present day – a present that is oppressive, contradictory, yet not without glimpses of hope – for the two films Dirty Difficult Dangerous by Wissam Charaf and The damned don’t cry by Fyzal Boulifa. In the former, two young lovers, a Syrian refugee and an Eritrean caregiver, pursue the thrill of romance against the backdrop of a country on the verge of collapse, Lebanon. In the latter, a mother and son, united, yet distant from each other at the same time, travel across Morocco, a nation riven by social and economic differences.
A wholly contemporary portrait of China comes to us in the form of Stonewalling, the last installment in a feminist trilogy from Chinese filmmaker Huang Ji (who co-directs this film with her husband, the Japanese cinematographer Ryuji Otsuka). The trilogy kicked off in 2014, when Ji Huang’s debut film won the top prize at Rotterdam.
From the past to the present and up to the future, and that promise of a future embodied in adolescence. The stars are teenagers, in fact, in The Maiden, the debut film, swinging between reality and imagination, by Canada’s Graham Foy, and a lyrical account of the fragile, traumatic transition to adult life. And for her first narrative feature, Wolf and Dog, Portuguese documentarian Cláudia Varejão immersed herself in the queer community on the island of Sao Miguel, in the distant Azores, to paint a moving portrait of solitary youths who seek to defy the moral order in order to reach out to each other and coexist as best they can with a hostile world.
A woman filmmaker straddling film and art, Hungarian-Romanian director Cristina Groșan offers up a warning about a world that is mysteriously collapsing, coupled with an exhortation to not give in to the widening gyre of the apocalypse and to react by finding allies in misfortune: it’s the story of her film Ordinary Failures, about three women’s rebellion against the ordinariness of failure.
The Listener by Steve Buscemi is the perfect note to end the ten films in competition on. It almost seems as if American actress Tessa Thompson, playing a night-shift volunteer on a helpline for people in distress, is listening to the characters of our own films at Giornate – soothing them with the promise that all will be well.
There’s a certain affinity between our Special Events and our competitive lineup as well. Starting with the Iranian documentary Alone by Jafar Najafi, in which a little boy doesn’t want his sisters, still children, to wed, and tries to overturn a rule and the world entire. In Siamo qui per provare (We’re Here to Try) Greta De Lazzaris and Jacopo Quadri track another couple, stage directors Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagliarini, who are in pursuit, in their turn, of a play that isn’t taking shape, yet may well be finding its own way of being in that very evident not-taking-shape, like life itself: a work in progress, with all its unpredictable trajectories.
In Casa Susanna, the third part of a trilogy about transsexuality, French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz revisits and reworks the past by using stock footage he turns into live, incandescent material.
An alliance between women, tender, vibrant, and poignant, is the subject of a road movie starring Stefania Sandrelli and Silvia D’Amico, the debut film by Veneto filmmaker Corrado Ceron, Acqua e anice (Olimpia’s Way).
On the verge of its 20th anniversary, in a world moving from crisis to crisis, changing before our eyes, Giornate degli Autori has served up a program that does, of course, echo the dark times we are living through, yet is also an act of resistance, a window that opens, a glimmer of hope in the face of endemic solitude, clashes of identity, and political dictates that imprison and oppress thought the world over.