Venice Film Festival Opens

5 Golden Lion-Worthy Films Debut

BY: Claire Connors

Every year, people take notice of the films debuting at the Venice Film Festival. Often seen as a precursor to the Academy Awards, the movies shown there are taken seriously in terms of acting and directing. This year, as per usual with the Italian festival, there’s a serious lack of estrogen being represented in the selection of movies, with only one woman, Jennifer Kent, standing in consideration for directing her film, The Nightingale.

In the past, there seems to have always been an “understanding” that the Italians aren’t exactly revolutionary in their view of female filmmakers. Since The Golden Lion–the grand prize of the Venice Film Festival—was first introduced in 1949, there have been only four women to receive the coveted statue, also known as the Leone d’Oro: Margarethe von Totta for Marianne and Juliane (1981); Agnés Varda for Vagabond (1985); Mira Nair for Monsoon Wedding (2001); and Sophia Coppola for Somewhere (2010). Is it just us but wouldn’t this have been the perfect year to showcase more films made by women? Just sayin’.

That said, we are very excited about many of the films coming up during the elegant event, which kicks off the entire awards season when it opens on August 29th and runs through September 8th. Here are the ones we’re looking forward to. By the way, we would include Kent‘s film here if we could, just to show our support, but there isn’t a trailer yet. Look for our coverage of that film when we do have one to share.

First Man (opens October 12th)

The Festival’s opening film is Damien Chazell‘s highly anticipated space race drama, First Man, starring his—and our—favorite leading man and La La Land Oscar-nominee Ryan Gosling as legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong. The exciting adventure drama follows the many years of baby steps leading up to, well, Armstrong’s first historical steps on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. And talk about a spectacular supporting cast! Claire Foy (The Crown and The Girl in the Spider’s Web), the hottest and most versatile actor around right now, plays Janet Armstrong, Neil’s wife and nervous supporter; Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) as Deke Slayton; Corey Stoll (Girls) as Buzz Aldrin; plus Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black), Lukas Haas (Witness), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), and the hardest working actor in Hollywood, Jason Clarke (Mudbound and just about every other film from the last three years!).

A Star is Born (opens October 5th)

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star is Born, is already getting a lot of buzz, and not just because it’s the feature film debut of our favorite Mother Monster, Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta). Here, the outrageously talented singer plays Ally, an insecure yet outrageously talented singer who falls under the intoxicating spell of too-famous-for-his-own-good rock star, Jackson Maine, played by Cooper himself. One drink leads to another and soon the tables are turned and Ally is outshining her lover. The early word is that as familiar a trope as this story is—hell, there have been three previous versions of this film so the premise must work!—Cooper’s direction is outstanding and will most likely earn him recognition come Oscar time.

Acusada (American title Delores, opening this fall)

Argentinian director Gonzalo Tobal‘s second feature film, Acusada, is a murder mystery set in Buenos Aires. Huge international  pop star and actress Lali Espósito stars as Delores, a young student whose life is turned upside down by the brutal murder of her best friend. All fingers point to Delores, with the entire city accusing her of the horrible crime. Only her family believes in her innocence but as the evidence builds against her, it appears someone else close to the case may be the culprit. The wonderful Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También) co-stars.

Peterloo (coming November 9th)

In PROVOKR‘s opinion, director Mike Leigh can rarely do wrong. in fact, his heart-wrenching film, Vera Drake won this festival’s Golden Lion back in 2004. Here he takes on one of the most infamous bloody battles in Great Britain history known as the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. During a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester, lead by political agitator Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear), the British government sent armed forces into a crowd of 60,000 protesters, killing and injuring many. Sparking outrage throughout the country, the incident also helped in the creation of the Guardian newspaper.

The Sisters Brothers (opening this fall)

Who doesn’t love a good western? The Sisters Brothers is just that, about two hired guns on the trail of a gold prospector during the 1850s gold rush in Oregon. The violent, drunken siblings are played by Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, with our favorite actor/DJ Riz Ahmed (The Night Of) as Hermann Kermit Warm, a gold prospector with a secret formula that lights up gold in water like Christmas lights. Jake Gyllenhaal shows up as a deep-pocketed investor, takes the vulnerable Warm under his protective wing, and offers to stake his claim. At times funny, the poignant story realistically shows the hope and hardship of those early, rough days in the American West.