x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Venice Film Festival 2017: the top draws at this year's event 

Festival hype grows ahead of winter award season

Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Kerry Hayes / Twentieth Century Fox
Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Kerry Hayes / Twentieth Century Fox

The Autumn film festival frenzy is now well under way, with the Venice Film Festival having announced its line-up, hot on the heels of Toronto.

The trio of overlapping September festivals – Venice, Toronto and the upmarket Telluride ­Festival in the United States – traditionally represent a good insight into which films will make a mark during the forthcoming awards season.

The three battle it out year after year in a bid to claim the rights to the world premieres of the year’s most hotly tipped movies.

Venice (August 30 to September 9) has enjoyed particularly good form with premiering Oscar winners in recent years, with Birdman, Gravity, The Hurt Locker and Arrival all debuting at the festival’s famous Lido before going on to Oscars glory.

Top-draw premieres in Venice this year include Darren Aronofsky’s much-anticipated horror film Mother!, featuring Jennifer ­Lawrence, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, reported by those who have seen it in the lead-up to the festival to be a return to Del Toro’s very best form.

Venice chief Alberto Barbera called the film Del Toro’s “best in a decade”.

George Clooney’s home-invasion comedy Suburbicon, starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, and taken from a Coen Brothers script, will also take a bow, alongside Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Schrader is best known as the writer of classics including Taxi Driver and ­Raging Bull, although he has also directed more than 20 films.

His latest stars Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried in what appears to be a gritty-looking drama, and marks Schrader’s debut in competition at Venice.

Andrew Haigh, director of 2015’s multi-award-winning 45 Years brings his latest, Lean on Pete, for a Venice debut, too. Charlie Plummer and Chloë Sevigny star.

As previously announced, Alexander Payne’s sci-fi Downsizing will premiere as this year’s opening film, while Jane Fonda and Robert ­Redford will be the recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards.

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Highlights from the festival’s ­documentary strand include Chris Smith’s multi-comic biopic Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, the story of Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton, and the Michael Caine-produced My ­Generation, a look back at London in the 1960s. Both Carrey and Caine are expected to attend the festival.

Unlike Toronto, which sees movies from both Hany Abu Assad and Haifaa Al Mansour make their global debut, there’s relatively little of ­Middle Eastern interest in Venice so far.

French-Tunisian writer and director Abdellatif Kechiche (Blue Is the Warmest Colour) brings his latest, Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno, to the Italian city after it was kept from Cannes in May, thanks to a contractual dispute between ­Kechiche and his producers because he made two films instead of the intended one.

Director and activist Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow, meanwhile, also has plenty of involvement from the region, despite technically being a German/American co-production with a Chinese director.

Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow will show at the Venice Film Festival. Michalis Karagiannis / Reuters
Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow will show at the Venice Film Festival. Michalis Karagiannis / Reuters

The documentary investigates the global refugee crisis and was filmed in 23 countries around the world, including some in the Middle East. Production credits are given to companies in ­Jordan and Iraq, while Participant Media, a regular collaborator with Image Nation Abu Dhabi on movies including He Named Me ­Malala and The Help, is also a main producer.

For full details of this year’s line-up, as well as late additions or changes, visit www.labiennale.org