Our two Italian films selected at the 29. Venice International Film Critics’ Week will apparently seem like two estranged bodies. For the first time in competition, an Italian documentary: but it’s not about trends, we were just waiting for the right film and this is truly a surprising debut.
Dancing with Maria, by Gorizian born Ivan Gergolet tells the story of an extraordinary woman, Maria Fux. Maria is an energetic and passionate dancer of over ninety years old that in Buenos Aires became some sort of an institution with her dance therapy school mainly dedicated, but not only, to people with mental and physical disabilities. The film, produced by Igor Prinčič – who also produced last year’s winner of the Venice International Film Critic’s Week, Zoran, My Nephew the Idiot –, is the emotional incursion of a filmmaker in an engaging and poetic world, where word, movement, music and bodies draw the very essence of cinema in its most profound meaning.
Also the Italian comedy that closes, out of competition, our program is an estranged body to this selection, which is mainly characterized by dramas that hint to genres such as thriller and melodrama. Arance e martello (The Market) is the debut film of journalist and blogger, now TV presenter, Diego “Zoro” Bianchi. It is a Do the right thing set in a local market in the San Giovanni neighborhood of Rome. The city council decides to close down the stalls and the owners mobilize by looking for support in the local headquarters of the Democratic Party. A true story in the form of a “costume drama” but set in 2011. The film is an entertaining pastiche that mixes the typical language of Bianchi, a video camera catching the events and a more strictly cinematic point of view, with pleasant reminiscences of the popular film genre with “Roman” flavor and at the same time managing to tell one side of contemporary Italy.
This year’s opening film, out of the competition of seven world premieres, is an Iranian international premiere: Melbourne, directed by Nima Javidi and interpreted, among others, by the main character of A Separation, Peyman Maadi. A couple is leaving for Melbourne, but an unexpected event in the form of a newly born will complicate things. We are in the realm of Asghar Farhadi’s cinema, in the highest of its meanings: a dramatic film, tense as a thriller, in which lie and sense of guilt risk to mark the fate of two people about to radically change their lives.
There are a lot of youngsters and, curiously, pregnant women in the other debut films that are competing together with the Italian documentary for the RaroVideo Audience Award. In Vuk Ršumović’s Serbian film Ničije dete (No one’s Child), we have a boy who is some sort of a little wild animal found by chance in the Bosnian woods. We are in pre-war Yugoslavia and this boy is taken to an orphanage in Belgrade for an educational reinsertion. The outbreak of the war and the division of the territory will dramatically mark his regression towards solitude and, perhaps, death.
A boy gifted in tennis is, together with the parents interpreted by the great actors Oliver Gourmet and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, the main character of the French-Belgian film by Stéphane Demoustier, Terre battue (40-Love). The father loses his job and hustles to face the economic crisis, but also the conjugal one. The son, who would like to succeed in tennis, is afraid that he could only do that through deceit. The Dardennes’ produce a film that is tense and dramatic, speaking Main Sponsor about the disruptions caused by the crisis but also about the dynamics of emulation and escape from models of parenthood.
The young protagonist of Nguyễn Hoàng Điệp’s Vietnamese film Đập Cánh Giữa Không Trung (Flapping in The Middle of Nowhere) is pregnant but she would like to have an abortion. Her boyfriend is a foolish guy who bets on roosters and she finds herself only with the support of her transgender best friend. Forced to prostitution, she comes across a rich man obsessed by fetuses. This is the shock film of our selection, but it is also the certain revelation of a directing talent that for this project already received prices and funds of various international institutions.
Pregnant is also the young girl who ends up being welcomed by her aunts in a house of Ramallah. Villa Touma is the first feature film of Suha Arraf, Palestinian screenwriter of The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree, and author of the beautiful documentary Women of Hamas. Elegant and seductive, the film tells the story of three sisters that live secluded in a villa as if the world around them wouldn’t have changed, indifferent to the winds of war that still in these hours trouble those territories.
Certainly, a mature expressive debut of great charm. The intricate Chinese noir Binguan (The Coffin in The Mountain) directed by the young filmmaker Xin Yukun also revolves around a possible pregnancy. Narratively it is constructed as an inexorable device that faces the story from several points of view. The film speaks of themes such as death, betrayal and lies, all set during a ritual funeral in a small Chinese village. Except that the body to be buried in the “coffin in the mountain” is never of the person that from time to time we are led to believe.
We conclude with the German film by Timm Kröger, Zerrumpelt Herz (The Council of Birds – the original title is quite untranslatable and it would be something like “Shattered Heart”). It’s the graduation film of a 29-years-old. This information could however shock you after watching the film, which looks like an expressively mature and rigorous work of an uncommon directing talent. It says a lot about how cinema is taught in some schools outside of our borders. The film is set in the 1920s and tells the story of a music professor, his wife and a friend who go to a house immersed in the forest, invited by their musician friend who wants to show them his new symphony. This trip will turn the life of the participants upside down, be that in a conjugal point of view as well as in terms of loss of identity, all set in the nature, which was never before filmed in such a starring way. A certain discovery in our program.