The Venice of the Giornate degli Autori

This year, the fourteenth edition of the Giornate degli Autori is devoted to seeking out originality and diversity. Not to astonish, or provoke by riding the wave of easy titles, but to share the delight of discovery. Of celebrating difference. Of finding the ones who march to the beat of a different drummer.
 The Giornate’s General Delegate, Giorgio Gosetti, has this to say: “Our experience of viewing the films, which we shared this year with a group of programmers and experts whom we truly cannot thank enough, has taught us that there is an abundance of films out there that are very well made and thoroughly professional, but all too often fail to strike a chord with audiences. Surprise them. The fact that we select a handful of titles from all over the world allows us the privilege – and the challenge – of placing our bets on each filmmaker and each work as if it were unique, and all the more precious for that reason. We don’t aspire to offering solely masterpieces in our official selection and special events; we do want audiences to be able to say after each viewing, “Well, it was well worth it, flying on the wings of this story. I’m glad I’ve made this filmmaker’s acquaintance.”
The Giornate degli Autori has always been much more than just a showcase of films yet to be released. “Ever since our debut,” recalls Giornate President Roberto Barzanti, “we have stayed true to the mandate handed us by the film associations promoting us, now ANAC and 100autori. The essence of our event lies in the art of bringing people together, comparing notes, sparking discussions and experimentation. And our Villa degli Autori does just that. It’s hosting a packed program of events again this year, thanks in large part to long-standing projects like 28 Times Cinema, promoted by the European Parliament’s LUX Film PrizeWomen’s Tales, the film showcase we share with Miu Miu, and its conversations with filmmakers; and our ongoing investigation into the diverse transformations of the film medium in the digital age.”
A look at the lineup for our 2017 official selection reveals a well-deserved attention to Italian films, at a vibrant and courageous time in the industry; as well as important new works by Giornate alumni such as China’s Pengfei, Morocco’s Faouzi Bensaïdi, Italy’s Vincenzo MarraMatteo Botrugno and Daniele Coluccini; not to mention hotly-awaited titles by Canada’s Kim Nguyen, Iran’s Shirin Neshat, and Thailand’s Pen-ek Ratanaruang.

Add to that superlative events such as the long-lost documentary by Ermanno Olmi that, thanks to the efforts of researchers at the Istituto Luce, plunges us into Milan in the 1960s and a pioneering season in psychoanalysis, as well; or the American biopic Agnellithat offers a whole new perspective on one of the post-war era’s major international figures; or the deeply unsettling Il risoluto by Giovanni Donfrancesco, which dusts off a forgotten page of Italian history: that of the “child soldiers” in the death throes of fascism.

We think it all makes for eleven days of great film and great film personalities, too, talks with the public and entertainment. It’s hardly a coincidence, then, that two of the special events we’re most fond of are the American comedy Thirst Street by Nathan Silver(courtesy of a collaboration with the Tribeca Film Festival) and the touching close-up look at burlesque, Getting Naked by James Lester.

Competition

– “Candelaria,” Jhonny Hendrix Hinestroza (Colombia, Germany, Norway, Argentina)

The 90s. The world is changing drastically and Cuba, the island of the embargo, is drowning in rum and choking on hunger and cigars. In this grim landscape, the lives of Candelaria (64), and Victor Hugo (63), a couple who stays together out of inertia, take a surprising turn the day Candelaria finds a Hi8 camcorder. With this peculiar object, they look at each other, caress each other, and love each other once again. But this unexpected happiness, sweet as it is, is only the beginning of the end.

– “The Contagion,” Matteo Botrugno, Daniele Coluccini (Italy)

Marcello, Chiara, Mauro and Simona all live troubled lives in the same building on the outskirts of the city, along with the local ringleader, Carmine. Into the shifting sands of this perennially tragicomic humanity steps an eminently bourgeois professor and writer, Walter, who’s been conducting an affair with Marcello. While Marcello is a former bodybuilder unsure of his own sexuality, it is only Mauro, a coldly ambitious drug dealer, who seems to want things to change, as corruption and the powers behind it arrive in the ‘hood’.

– “Where Shadows Fall,” Valentina Pedicini (Italy)

Nurse Anna and her assistant Hans work in an old folks’ home that was once the orphanage where they were imprisoned as children, and they still seem trapped in time and space. The appearance of Gertrud is a blast from the past that brings the horror back to life, and the facility morphs into what it once was, a shelter for Jenisch children taken from their families to be subjected to Gertrud’s eugenetics experiments. A victim of this environment and her own painful childhood that haunts her still, Anna starts stubbornly searching for her old friend Franziska. Based on a true story – on seven hundred of them.

– “L’Equilibrio,” Vincenzo Marra (Italy)

Giuseppe, a priest from Italy’s Campania region and formerly a missionary in Africa, has been working in a small diocese in Rome, but asks to be transferred to a town in his native region when he finds himself in the middle of a spiritual crisis. In a small village outside Naples, Giuseppe fills the shoes of the local parish priest, Don Antonio, known and respected by one and all for his charisma, eloquence and campaigns against the illegal dumping of toxic wastes in the area. For his part, Don Antonio has earned the right to a transfer to Rome. Before he leaves, he fills Giuseppe in about the harsh reality of the neighborhood, and, once on his own, the new priest does his best to help the community in every way he can, until he finds out inconvenient truths about where he’s come to live. He chooses to set aside his fears to pursue his spiritual calling, but for all his courage and tenacity, in this tough environment Giuseppe finds himself with his back against the wall.

– “Eye on Juliet,” Kim Nguyen (Canada)

A love story through the eye of a spider drone. Across the landscape of a Middle Eastern desert and an oil pipeline, appears a strange spider-like robot that seems to be scoping the horizon. At the other end of the world, in America, Gordon, drone operator and safe keeper of the pipeline, surveys the desolated landscapes from his screens. Having lost his way in a world he no longer comprehends, he becomes fascinated by Ayusha, a young woman promised to an older man she doesn’t love. Despite the distance, their mutual fear and their imperfect interaction, Gordon will do everything in his power to help Ayusha escape her fate, falling for her in the process.

– “Longing,” Savi Gabizon (Israel)

Ariel, a well-off, childless man, gets a phone call from his college girlfriend. She needs to tell him a couple of very surprising things: first, when they broke up twenty years ago, she was pregnant and went on to have a lovely baby boy. The second thing will change his life forever. This is a journey that creates laboratory-like conditions under which to explore the hidden aspects of parenthood that go beyond giving and responsibility.

– “Life Guidance,” Ruth Mader (Austria)

The film is set in the near future, in a world that has achieved a perfected state of capitalism. Society is sustained by a class of top achievers. These cheerfully motivated people populate a bright, friendly, transparent and efficient middle-class world. Meanwhile, so-called minimum recipients live under sedation in Fortresses of Sleep. The great majority of top achievers view themselves as happy and self-fulfilled. An outsourced agency has been established for the rest: Life Guidance is charged with turning these individuals into optimal people as well. Alexander is a member of the middle class and works in the financial sector. Like the others, he has internalized the system. But one wrong word to his child is enough to trigger Life Guidance. An agent from Life Guidance counsels him about attaining his optimal potential and increasingly encroaches on Alexander’s life. Alexander starts to rebel and soon encounters the horror of the system in all its brightness and affability.

– “Looking For Oum Kulthum,” Shirin Neshat (Germany, Austria, Italy)

Mitra, an ambitious artist around 40, a mother and a wife, embarks on her dream of making a film about her hero, the legendary female singer of the Arab world, Oum Kalthoum. Her film’s central aim is to explore the struggles, sacrifices and the price of Oum Kalthoum’s success as a female artist living in a conservative male dominated society. However, the sudden disappearance of Mitra’s young teenage son during film production, and the mounting difficulties of capturing the essence of Oum Kalthoum as a myth, a woman, and an artist, lead Mitra to have an emotional and artistic breakdown.

– “M,” Sara Forestier (France)

Lila and Mo meet at a bus stop. Lila has a paralysing speech impediment. Mo is chatty and exuberant. Lila is preparing for her exams. Mo illegally races cars for a living. Opposites attract, and they fall in love. But Mo carries a secret burden.

– “Samui Song,” Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Thailand, Germany, Norway)

Viyada, a Thai soap opera actress in her mid-30s, finds herself increasingly pressured by her husband Jerome, a rich foreigner entirely devoted to a charismatic cult leader called The Holy One. Viyada has no other choice than to take the most drastic measures in order to escape from the cult’s influence for once and for all.

– “The Taste of Rice Flower,” Pengfei (China)

Ye Nan, a mother belonging to the Dai minority, comes back to her village after living in the city. She wants to take care of the 13-year-old daughter she’d left behind, but the road to rebuilding their relationship is full of obstacles. One day her daughter is arrested for stealing money from the village’s most sacred temple with her friend. Since people think the girls are possessed by the devil, they decide to save them by worshipping a stone Buddha in a 250-million-year-old karst cave during the Water-Sprinkling Festival.

– “Volubilis,” Faouzi Bensaidi (Morocco, France)

Abdelkader is a security guard and Malika is a domestic employee. They have just got married and they are madly in love. Despite their financial difficulties, they dream of moving in together and of fully live their love. But one day, Abdelkader experiences a violent and humiliating incident that will turn upside down their destiny.

WOMEN’S TALES PROJECT (shorts), en colaboración con Prada’s Miu Miu Label

– “Carmen,” Chloe Sevigny (Italy, U.S.)

Stand-up comedienne Carmen Lynch knows what you need to be, to be really funny. As she wanders from make-up mirror to performance stage, via Portland’s woozy streets and an all-night grocery store, we’re given an intimate insight into a talented individual. She confronts herself – her looks, her dreams, the weird rituals of mating in the modern world – by confronting her audiences. Sometimes they laugh with her. Sometimes they don’t laugh at all.
Carmen has a loose, voyeuristic, improvisational mood that reflects Sevigny’s interest, “in making a short-film about process, being a woman, celebrity and ego. It’s about the love of the craft, the love of the art, the repetition of it.” The script developed by Carmen Lynch first writing her own stand-up material and then Sevigny building intuitively around that. “The film captures a lot of who I am,” says Lynch. “When you’re on the road, being alone doesn’t even feel like being alone anymore. A lot of us comedians are introverts, observing and listening.”

– “#14 (The [End of History Illusion],” Celia Rowlson-Hall (Italy, U.S.)

(The [End) of History Illusion] is set in a luxury Las Vegas family home, buried eight meters underground. Tap dancing twins and a baker-ballerina feature in this aspirational lifestyle advertisement, which is soon undone by nuclear Armageddon. Part 1930s Hollywood musical, part 1960s Cold War nightmare, Celia Rowlson-Hall brings her characteristic choreography and dark humor to this tale of commercialism, fear and escapism.

Special Events

– “Agnelli,” Nick Hooker (U.S.)

Agnelli is the story of Gianni Agnelli, the legendary Italian industrialist and playboy as told by family, friends, lovers, professional confidantes, and rivals – even his butler and cook. The film chronicles Agnelli’s dramatic and colorful life, beginning with his years as the most glamorous international playboy of the mid-20th century, through the 70s and the “Years of Lead,” and closing on the mythic nature of his place in the minds of the people of Turin, the Italian people, and the world’s executive intelligentsia.

– “Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story,” James Lester (U.S.)

Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story peels back the curtain to reveal the sexy sub-culture of the neo-burlesque scene in New York City. This vérité documentary intimately follows four performers, each of whom has discovered a newfound identity and belonging in a world of bawdy comedy and striptease. However, they find all that glitters is not necessarily gold, as this liberating community does not insulate from the harsh realities of sexism, illness and existential crisis. Getting Naked explores what it means to be an artist, an entertainer, and a woman in the toughest city on Earth.

– “La Legge Del Numero Uno,” Alessandro D’Alatri (Italy)

Three men with nothing in common but a desire for freedom that absorbs them 24/7 pin all their hopes for a few day’s reprieve from prison on an audience with a judge. Actually, this trio – a shady dealer, a tough Roman mobster, and an Eastern European trafficker – shares something else, too: the unfounded belief that only the first man to go speak to the judge will obtain the leave. In a holding pen they find themselves in a no-holds-barred contest to land that vital first place in line.

– “The Resolute,” Giovanni Donfrancesco (Italy, France)

An eighty-seven-year-old Italian who has retired to the woods of Vermont meets a filmmaker and seizes the occasion to look back on his long life. Wartime memories long suppressed trigger recollections of his inconvenient past as a child soldier in the ranks of the Decima Mas, one of the most violent fascist militias. Including a revelation concerning Mussolini’s lost treasure, which he himself helped to hide. A journey down the winding road of memory that speaks to the present day.

– “Thirst Street,” Nathan Silver (U.S.)

Alone and depressed after the suicide of her lover, American flight attendant Gina travels to Paris and hooks up with nightclub bartender Jerome on her layover. But as Gina falls deeper into lust and opts to stay in France, this harmless rendezvous quickly turns into unrequited amour fou. When Jerome’s ex Clémence reenters the picture, Gina is sent on.

– “Il Tentato Suicidio NellAdolescenza,” Ermanno Olmi (Italy)

To Italo Calvino, nothing was more fresh and original than works of art that saw the light of day. As a man of letters, he was right; he lovingly reread texts. Yet Calvino, like Borges, also knew that even a newly discovered work of art can speak volumes about works past and even works to come.
Last spring, a significant and unexpected discovery was made in the archives of the Fondazione Luigi Micheletti in Brescia, thanks to an archivist from the Istituto Luce and a colleague at the Fondazione Micheletti. Four boxes out of the 1,200 stored in the foundation, marked simply “T.S.,” contained a never-released, totally unknown medium-length documentary by filmmaker Ermanno Olmi. The moviola revealed its title, which translates as “Attempted Suicide in Adolescence (Youthful A. S.).” The year was 1968. Leading off the opening credits was the name of a multinational pharmaceutical company, Sandoz, suggesting the documentary had been commissioned to address a sensitive topic in a crucial year in the history of young people.
The documentary looks at the early pioneer years at a psychiatric ward in Milan’s Policlinico hospital; it was an experimental ward, for its day, headed by a great psychiatrist, Carlo Lorenzo Cazzullo. A psychiatric emergency room for attempted suicides, with a shockingly high number of adolescents. The film features interviews, statistics and personal stories. It’s somewhat surprising, but all the hallmarks of Olmi’s filmmaking are found here, in miniature: his editing, pacing, casting, the expressions on his faces; his empathy. It seems that the documentary has never been shown in public, nor does it appear in any of the director’s filmographies drawn up over the years. The moviola presents us with what amounts to a brand-new film, never released, then salvaged – a time capsule of Olmi’s films from the 60s and 70s, with his inimitable touch.

 

Special Screenings

– “I’M (endless like the space),” Anne-Riitta Ciccone (Italy)

– “The Millionairs,” Claudio Santamaria (Italy)

– “Raccontare Venezia,” Wilma Labate (Italy, France)

X