Sanctorum directed by Joshua Gil
Sanctorum directed by Joshua Gil

The 34th Venice International Film Critics’ Week (SIC) which runs August 28th to September 7th, 2019, is an independent and parallel section organized by the National Union of Italian Film Critics (SNCCI) during the 76th Venice International Film Festival. The program includes a selection of seven debut films in competition and two special events out of competition, all presented in world premiere screenings.

Venice International Film Critics’ Week will open with Bombay Rose directed by Gitanjali Rao; and close with Sanctorum directed by Joshua Gil.

In competition

by Ahmad Ghossein. Lebanon, France, Qatar, 2019.

A long night of terror. A political and visionary thriller about a key moment of recent Lebanese history. To live under the same roof with a powerful enemy, armed to the teeth. Fear as the only card to play in war. A nocturnal film where conflict is always off screen. A game of tense massacre between internal oppressors and an unreachable external world.

Synopsis: Lebanon, July 2006. War is raging between Hezbollah and Israel. During a 24h ceasefire, Marwan heads out in search of his father who refused to leave his Southern village. As the ceasefire is quickly broken, Marwan finds himself under the rain of bombs and takes shelter in a house with a group of elders. Suddenly, a group of Israeli soldiers enter the first floor. Trapped in the house and hostages of their own fears, the next three days will see the situation spiral out of control.

Ahmad Ghossein (1981), is a filmmaker and video artist. He directed several documentaries, short films and videos including Operation Nb… (Best Director Prize at Busan Film Festival 2004), My Father is Still a Communist (Moma, Berlinale, Best Short Film at Tribeca 2011) and The Fourth Stage (Berlinale Forum Expanded 2016). He co-directed White Noise with Lucie La Chimia, a short that opened the Directors’ Fortnight in 2017. All This Victory is his first feature length film.

by Mantas Kvedaravičius. Lithuania, Ukraine, France, 2019.

A film that plays between Africa (Sudan), Europe (Greece), Turkey and Ukraine. Three destinies intertwine and overlap. And around it the ruins of the old world while the new one refuses to manifest itself. A film that does not resembles to anything in the cinematographic panorama. A numbing visual vortex held by an absolute visual mobility. The revelation of Mantas Kvedaravičius’ talent.

Synopsis: “I weep not with remorse, but for fear I won’t be able to satisfy my passion”. She said. The day it snowed in Istanbul, Garip killed Mahdi. It was Garip and Sofia who were madly in love once. This was in Odessa, but it all began when Saharan sand covered the city of Athens. Whose memory was it? Or will be?

Mantas Kvedaravičius (1976) is an associate professor at Vilnius University where he teaches visual cultures and cinema. He holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and is currently working on the book Knots of Absence, focusing on body politics, materiality, and affect. He is the author of two documentary films, Barzakh and Mariupolis, which explore dreams and death, and art forms and warfare, respectively. These have both premiered at the Berlinale and have been shown and awarded worldwide. Parthenon is his first feature film.

by Sebastián Muñoz. Chile, Argentina, Belgium, 2019.

A flamboyant prison melodrama. Sumptuous and baroque. On the background of a country, Chile, that is enthusiastically living the rise of Salvador Allende, a young man becomes the object of desire of a male society strained between oppression and seduction. A timeless film with an extraordinary interpretation by Alfredo Castro, where the ghosts of Jean Genet, Derek Jarman and Werner Schroeter intertwine.

Synopsis: Chile, 1970. During a night of heavy drinking, Jaime, a lonely 20-year-old young man, stabs his best friend in what seems a passion outburst. Sentenced to prison, he meets “The Stallion”, an older and respected man in whom he finds protection, and from whom he learns about love and loyalty. Behind bars, Jaime becomes “The Prince”. But as their relationship grows stronger, “The Stallion” faces the violent power struggles within the prison.

Sebastián Muñoz (1973) graduated from the Cinema School of the Arcis University and has been working as a production designer for some of the most significant films in contemporary Chilean cinema. In 1996 he shot his first short film Happiness and in 1997 Good Luck. Based on a novel by Mario Cruz (Elías O. Martínez), El Principe is his first feature film.

by Marie Grahtø. Denmark, Finland, 2019.

Inspired on the true medical story of the director, the film is suspended between atmospheres from Dario Argento’s cinema and the visual virtuosity Lars Von Trier style. An authentic praise of folly. And of cinema. An inebriating explosion of shapes outside any pre-defined scheme. A surprising and sensual thriller starring Tryne Dyrhol (Nico, 1988) and Victoria Carmen Sonne (Holiday, Winter Brothers).

Synopsis: Viktoria is an odd and extremely self-disciplined researcher in the field of suicide. She is invited to a psychiatric ward to treat the suicidal patient Jenny. Through intimate night conversations, they form a tight bond. Viktoria slowly opens up to experience closeness with another person for the first time in her life, but the closer the two women get, the more it becomes clear that something is not as it seems.

Marie Grahtø (1984) graduated from the independent film school Super16 in 2014. She has travelled to festivals around the world with her three short films Daimi (2012), Yolo (2013) and her graduation work Teenland (2014). Psychosia (2019) is her feature film debut.

by Billie Piper. United Kingdom, 2019.

Mandy wants a career and dreams about a great love. But it’s not easy to disentangle from charlatan suitors, incompetent bosses and a distracted family. The perfect anti rom-com with a hint of bitter craziness to complement it. Interpreted and directed by Billie Piper (Penny Dreadful, Doctor Who and Secret Diary of a Call Girl), the film also avails of the performances of David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Leo Bill (Peterloo) and Lily James (Downton Abbey).

Synopsis: Mandy is a mother, a writer, a nihilist. Mandy is a modern woman in a crisis. Raising a son in the midst of a female revolution, mining the pain of her parents’ separation and professionally writing about a love that no longer exists, she falls upon a troubled man, Pete, who’s searching for a sense of worth, belonging and ‘restored’ Male identity.

Billie Piper (1982) is an English actress, dancer, and singer. At the age of 15 she released her debut single “Because We Want To”, which made her the youngest artist to enter at number one on the UK Singles Chart. In 2003, she retired from the recording industry and began an acting career, starring in TV series Doctor Who, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Penny Dreadful. Piper has starred in five plays since 2007 and was given a Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Yerma. Rare Beasts is her first feature as a director.

by Shahad Ameen, UAE, Iraq, Saudi Arabia. 2019

A ferocious and enchanted fable directed by a very young Saudi director gifted with a spectacular talent. A film framed in a sculpted black & white. A lyric coming of age, visually dazzling. Sensual as the chant of sirens. Mysterious and urgent. A true surprise.

Synopsis: Hayat, a 12-year-old strong-willed girl, lives in a poor fishing village governed by dark tradition, in which every family must give away a daughter to the sea creatures who inhabit the waters near by. In turn, the sea creatures are hunted by the men of the village. Saved from this ordeal by her father, Hayat is outcasted by her village and considered a curse. But Hayat never surrenders. When Hayat’s mother gives birth to her new-born brother, Hayat must accept the brutal custom by sacrificing herself to these creatures or find a way to escape.

Shahad Ameen (1988), was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Video Production and Film Studies from the University of West London, and she also holds a degree in Screenwriting. Her short films include Our Own Musical, Leila’s Window (2011), and Eye & Mermaid (2013), this latter presented at the film festivals in Dubai, Toronto, and Stockholm. Scales is her first feature film.

by Ascanio Petrini, Italy, Mexico. 2019.

An upside-down epopee of an anti-Italian that could have easily been a forgotten script by Age & Scarpelli, a film never done by Dino Risi or Ettore Scola. A deconstructed commedia all’italiana, bitter and impossible, an absolutely out of the box film. An unclassifiable work. A film about the absurd uselessness of borders.

Synopsis: One day, Pasquale decides to change his name and to be called Tony. Because despite being born in Bari in the mid 60s, he crosses the ocean with his family at 9 years of age and grows up as a real American. He becomes a taxi driver in Yuma, but he is arrested due to his “side job”: carrying illegal immigrants to the US through the Mexican border. He is therefore forced to choose: jail in Arizona or deportation to Italy. Once back in the region of Puglia, he finds himself living alone in a cave in Polignano a Mare, looking at Italy as a small, stuck country, with no opportunities and without dreams. But Tony is not willing to surrender…

Ascanio Petrini (1979) was born in Bari. A DAMS graduate, he directed a few short films, among which Piscio, presented at Cortodorico and among the finalists of Nie Wiem. His first documentary Salva la cozza was selected at Sguardi Altrove Film Festival in Milan, and RIFF in Rome. He has been working as a first assistant director on several Italian and international films. Tony Driver is his debut feature.

Special event out of competition – Opening film

by Gitanjali Rao. United Kingdom, India, France.

A film made by hand. A melodrama drawn image by image and inspired by the iconography of the multiple Indian traditions. A tale of fragile love and full of hope, with male Bollywood stereotypes in the background. Bombay Rose is an authentic revelation destined to re-write the rules of contemporary animation cinema.

Synopsis: Amidst the struggle of survival in a big city, a red rose brings together three tales of impossible loves. Love between an unavailable girl and boy. Love between two women. Love of an entire city for its Bollywood stars.

Gitanjali Rao (1971), a self-taught animator and filmmaker, emerged into the international stage with her animated short Printed Rainbow which premiered in Cannes Critics’ Week in 2006 and went on to win 25 awards. Her body of work includes animated commercials, pre-production for animated features, logo-motions as well as graphic novels and illustrated stories. She is also an award-winning actress on stage and in films. Bombay Rose, a labour of love painted frame by frame and made over six years, is her debut feature.

Special event out of competition – Closing film

by Joshua Gil. Mexico, Qatar, Dominican Republic, 2019.

Joshua Gil showcases the apocalypse as redemption for the last and as revenge of the Creation, sacked and offended. The world upside down. Redemption for the World and for the Last. The chant of the Apocalypse in Eden’s garden. As a metaphysic version of Narcos between Death Angels and divine revenge. A visionary film that puts on the map a name that is to be placed side by side with Reygadas and Cuarón.

Synopsis: In a small, forgotten town surrounded by tree-covered mountains lives a small boy and his mother. Traditional life in the town has been uprooted ever since it got caught in the crossfire of the war between the military and the cartels. With few opportunities for work and not enough money to move somewhere else, the mother cultivates marijuana for the cartels. One day, she does not return from work. Struck with grief, the grandmother tells the little boy to go into the forest and pray to the sun, the wind, and the water so that they will return his mother unharmed. As the soldiers arrive and the villagers prepare for their last stand, the awesome power of nature manifests itself.

Joshua Gil (1976) has a Masters Degree in Cinematography by the School of Cinema and Audiovisual of Catalonia (ESCAC) in Barcelona Spain. Gil began his professional career in the photography department of the film Japón by Carlos Reygadas. Subsequently developed as a DoP in short films, feature films and documentaries while deepening his studies abroad with filmmakers such as Patricio Guzmán and The Quay Brothers. In 2007 he began his career as director of documentaries, commercials and television series. In 2015 he directed his first feature film La Maldad selected at the 65th Berlinale.

SIC@SIC – Short Italian Cinema @ Settimana Internazionale della Critica

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