Of the five major film festivals that every year herald the coming of exciting new cinema from master directors and bold newcomers alike, Venice might just be the strongest indicator of which films will be making the biggest splash come awards season. Though the oldest film festival in the world, certainly among the most prestigious, Venice has only become more attuned in recent years to the pulse of commercial filmmaking. This year is no exception, with the lineup boasting a melting pot of flavours, from the most anticipated Oscar fare – Baumbach’s White Noise and Inarritu’s Bardo – to the crowd pleasers – Blonde and Don’t Worry Darling (an out of competition entry) – to the lowkey flicks from festival darlings like Koji Fukada, Todd Field and Vahid Jalilvand. Below we’ve listed all the films that will be vying for the coveted Golden Lion this year, and marked out our personal most-anticipated here at ARF…
White Noise (opening film) (US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Noah Baumbach
Opening the festival this year is the follow up to Noah Baumbach’s 2019 acclaimed Marriage Story, a film that which earned critical acclaim, a host of award nominations, and most impressively, an induction into internet meme-dom (for better or worse, the true test of 21st century pop-culture immortality) with a clip of an impassioned Adam Driver punching a hole through the wall. A tall order for White Noise, which is Baumbach’s first foray adapting an existing novel as opposed to a story of his own conception, though his stellar track record and typically impressive ensemble cast leading the film (Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Andre Benjamin, Don Cheadle) more than instills hope that this will be another win for the filmmaker.
Il Signore Delle Formiche (It)
Dir. Gianni Amelio
Also known as “The Lord of The Ants”, Gianni Amelio’s powerful drama follows Italian poet, playwright and director Aldo Braibanti after he is jailed in 1968 due to a fascist-era anti-gay law.
The Whale (US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Darren Aronofsky
Never one to shy away from debate and controversy, Darren Aronofsky’s latest is exciting in more ways than one, not only marking a return to filmmaking after a 5-year hiatus (his last film was 2017’s analogical Mother!), but also a heavily-anticipated return to starring-roles for Brendan Fraser after a long retreat from the limelight. A departure from the roles you may remember him by, here he plays a 600-pound middle-aged man trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter.
Dir. Emanuele Crialese
Penelope Cruz returns to Venice this year in Emanuele Crialese’s feature set in 1970s Rome, playing a mother in a loveless marriage who finds solace in her special relationship with her three children.
Saint Omer (Fr)
Dir. Alice Diop
Documentary filmmaker Alice Diop tries her hand at a narrative feature about a novelist who attends the trial of a woman accused of murdering her 15-month old daughter in order to use her story as inspiration for a modern retelling of the Ancient Myth Madea.
Blonde (US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Andrew Dominik
Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic took the internet by storm after a series of sultry promo images of Ana De Armas as the iconic actress were released by Netflix, soon accompanied by a trailer that promises an intimate look into the woman behind the icon. Tightroping between vintage sepia and bold technicolour, with Armas having already been seen sporting some of the classic looks from Monroe’s wardrobe, we’re hoping for an authentic portrayal and deeper reflection of the woman we only ever knew through screens and magazine covers.
TÁR (US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Todd Field
There are a few reasons why we think Todd Field’s TAR – telling the story of renowned composer Lydia Tar as she conceives a groundbreaking new symphony – might just be one of the sneak-success stories of this year’s fest: 1) It’s Field’s first feature in 16 years, and only a true passion project can bring a filmmaker that reclusive out of the woodwork 2) Its ominous teaser trailer hints at an obsessed artist narrative (a top 10 movie sub-genre, see; Whiplash, Black Swan, Amadeus, 8 ½ and many more) and, finally, 3) Cate Blanchett 4) Cate Blanchett 5) Cate Blanch-etc etc
Love Life (Jap-Fr) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Koji Fukada
Japanese director Koji Fukada has been quietly dropping gems for a few years now, specializing in uneasy domestic dramas (perhaps a by-product of his tutelage under Kiyoshi Kurosawa), namely Harmonium and the more recent A Girl Is Missing. This year he’s back in competition with Love Life, named after the classic song and album by Akiko Yano, and following a happily married woman who decides to care for her husband’s ailing father.
Beyond The Wall (Iran)
Dir. Vahid Jalilvand
A triumphant return to Venice for Iranian filmmaker Vahid Jalilvand and actor Navid Mohammadzadeh after taking home best director and best actor at the festival for Jalilvand’s previous 2017 feature No Date, No Signature. Now the two are collaborating on Beyond The Wall, with Mohammadzadeh playing a blind man whose world is thrown out of sorts when a mysterious woman enters his life.
Bardo, False Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths (Mex) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Alejandro G. Inarritu
⅓ of Mexico’s “holy trinity” of maestro auteurs, Alejandro Inarritu’s last two films The Revenant and Birdman, while technically dazzling and featuring exceptional performances, haven’t necessarily aged as the classics we all suspected they might do. So then why can’t we wait for Inarritu’s latest? Starring Daniel Gimenez Cacho as a renowned Mexican journalist and filmmaker who returns to his hometown to confront demons past and overcome an existential crisis, Bardo looks like it may be the autobiographical epic a-la Cuaron’s Roma that’s arguably been missing from his oeuvre. Either way, whatever you might think of his previous work, Inarritu’s films are undoubtedly made with an expert awareness of the craft and the big screen, and consequently invites boiling hot anticipation.
The Banshees Of Inisherin (Ire-UK-US)
Dir. Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh’s 2017 feature Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, though lauded on the awards circuit, stirred controversy among film fans for its portrayal of small-town America. The Banshees of Inisherin brings the British filmmaker back to familiar shores with familiar friends, reuniting In Bruges alumni Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in this dark comedy-drama about a bromance on the rocks.
Athena (Fr) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Romain Gavras
“It is difficult to fight anger; for a man will buy revenge with his soul”.
The teaser trailer for French filmmaker Romain Gavras’ Athena features this quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus, backed by a foreboding choir and triumphant drumline that alone promises a modern-day Greek tragedy of epic proportions. Set to a backdrop of what looks like a city in revolution, the film follows three brothers who are thrown into chaos hours after the tragic death of their youngest sibling. From visuals alone, it’s clear Athena has style in spades, though the make-or-break is if it has the substance to back-it-up.
Argentina, 1985 (Arg-US)
Dir. Santiago Mitre
Argentinian director Santiago Mitre tells the powerful true story of a public prosecutor and the inexperienced legal team that dared to prosecute the heads of Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship.
Bones And All (US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Timothee Chalamet is back in collaboration with filmmaker Luca Guadagnino after 2017’s melancholic queer love story Call Me By Your Name launched his career as Hollywood’s favourite hearthrob into the stratosphere. Here, a different kind of love story, with Chalamet starring opposite Taylor Russell as a love-struck cannibal-couple trying to survive on the margins of Ronald Reagan’s America, in what’s being billed as a coming-of-age romance horror.
Dir. Susanna Nicchiarelli
A Venice regular, Susanna Nicchiarelli returns with the conclusion of her female biopic trilogy, this time recounting the life of St. Claire of Assisi who, after hearing St. Francis preach, leaves her wealthy family to embrace a life of poverty.
Dir. Andrea Pallaoro
Andrea Pallaoro is another Italian filmmaker at Venice this year promoting a female-led trilogy, following up his acclaimed 2017 film Hannah with Monica, a drama about a woman returning home to care for her dying mother.
No Bears (Iran)
Dir. Jafar Panahi
Panah Panahi has been making waves with his acclaimed first feature Hit The Road, so it only feels right that his father, renowned Iranian director Jafar, returns to Venice with a new feature himself, focusing on two couples whose love is derailed by the forces of superstition and the mechanics of power. We’re hoping to see some friendly father-son sparring come awards season this year…
The Eternal Daughter (UK-US) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Joanna Hogg
British filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s one-two punch The Souvenir and The Souvenir (Part II) were hailed as year-bests by many, twice topping the Sight & Sound end-of-year poll for best film. She’s back at Venice with a mystery-supernatural-drama surrounding Hogg-mainstay Tilda Swinton as a middle-aged woman who, accompanied by her elderly mother, returns to her family home, which has become a vacant hotel haunted by a mysterious past.
All The Beauty And The Bloodshed (documentary) (US)
Dir. Laura Poitras
A sobering documentary exploring the life of Nan Goldlin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty who were largely responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll.
A Couple (Fr-US)
Dir. Frederick Wiseman
A romance-drama following the true story of a long-term relationship between a married couple that ebbs and flows, is broken apart and put back together again several times in the span of their 36-year marriage.
The Son (UK) – ARF RECOMMENDS
Dir. Florian Zeller
Playwright, Theatre director and filmmaker Florian Zeller’s dementia-drama The Father polarized audiences, but remains one of the most emotionally devastating films to come out over the last 5 years, featuring a masterclass lead performance by Anthony Hopkins. Like The Father, Zeller’s follow up, The Son, is an adaptation of his original play, and is expected to be the second of a triptych of stage-screen adaptations, culminating with The Mother. This installment in the trilogy stars Hugh Jackman as a married man and new father whose life is shaken by the return of his ex-wife and estranged teenage son.
Our Ties (Fr)
Dir. Roschdy Zem
French director Roschdy Zem’s in-competition entry this year explores the relationship of two brothers, one who is loving and selfless, and the other, an egotistical TV presenter who is despised by most of the people in his life.
Other People’s Children (Fr)
Dir. Rebecca Zlotowski
A warm tale about a childless woman who forms a deep-bond with her boyfriend’s 4 year old daughter, starring Virginie Efira in her first spotlight role since Paul Verhoeven’s fantastic 2021 queer-nun flick Benedetta.