• Taika Waititi (l) and Naomi Watts (r) will be among the jurors viewing 'The Nightingale' and 'First Man' (centre). (SBS Movies)
Director Jennifer Kent is in the Venice lineup, and Taika Waititi and Naomi Watts join Guillermo del Toro’s competition jury.
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26 Jul 2018 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 26 Jul 2018 - 11:59 AM

The ever-busy Taika Waititi may be currently shooting his World War Two comedy Jojo Rabbit in the Czech Republic, but the Hunt For The Wilderpeople director will undoubtedly have energy left over to bring his inimitable humour and most importantly, a younger perspective, to the Venice Film Festival’s Competition jury, which along with the programme was announced yesterday. 

Headed by the equally jovial Guillermo del Toro, whose film, The Shape of Water, took out last year’s top prize, The Golden Lion, the jury will also comprise Naomi Watts who was previously at the festival with The Bleeder. She is joined by another Venice regular, Trine Dyrholm, who starred in last year’s Nico, 1988. There’s also Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, Taiwan-born the actress, director, screenwriter and producer Sylvia Chang, Italian director Paolo Genovese, French actress and director Nicole Garcia as well as another lively talker, Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, whose work with Quentin Tarantino has landed him a pair of supporting actor Oscars. 

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In Venice he will have some interesting films to mull over. Certainly the festival has come up with a strong programme and given that so many best picture Oscar winners have world premiered on the Lido—The Shape of Water, Birdman, Spotlight--it’s a bit of a treasure trove.

Of course we’d love to see Aussie writer-director Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale take out a prize after her 2013 AACTA winner The Babadook became such a scary sensation.  Filmed in Tasmania in autumn-winter of 2017, The Nightingale, which Kent says is more a thriller than a horror film but is nonetheless “horrific”, is set in the 1820s wilderness as a 21 year-old Irish convict (Ireland’s Aisling Franciosi from The Fall and Game Of Thrones) pursues the men who murdered her family. She enlists the help of an aboriginal tracker, played by Djuki Mala dancer Baykali Ganambarr in his first leading role on film, while East Arnhem Land indigenous model, Magnolia Maymuru, plays a supporting part. Britain’s Sam Clafin and Ewen Leslie and Damon Herriman also star.

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The first recipient of Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Better Deals program, The Nightingale was produced by a female-led team including Kritina Ceyton (The Babadook) and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).

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Other Venice competition contenders include Damien Chazelle’s First Man, which follows Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon and marks the director’s second film starring Ryan Gosling to open the Venice Festival, after La La Land in 2016.

It seemed logical that an Italian director should update Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic Suspiria. In his 152-minute movie—which apparently is not strictly a remake--Luca Guadagnino has cast his regular actors, Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, as well as Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Meanwhile Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite is indeed favoured by critics as we await the festival. An historical epic, the film pits Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone against each other as they court favour with crazy Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman. Colman is currently having quite a regal moment, as she will soon be seen as Queen Elizabeth II in the third season of Netflix’s The Crown.

Speaking of the streaming giant, the three Netflix films Cannes dropped at the last moment are all set to screen in Venice. Two are in the competition. Alfonso Cuarón returns to the Lido (after opening with 2013’s Gravity )to present his autobiographical black-and-white 70 mm Mexican film, Roma; while Paul Greengrass will present Norway, about the Norwegian terrorist who in 2011 murdered 77 people.

The third Netflix film is Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind starring John Huston, Oja Kodar, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and Norman Foster. It was shot between 1970 and 1976 and has finally been completed. The Coen Brothers new movie, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, which started out as a Netflix anthology series, will also compete in Venice. It will eventually screen on Netflix.

Other competition entries include Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate with Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac and Mads Mikkelsen; Olivier Assayas’s Doubles Vies starring Guillaume Canet and Juliette Binoche; Mike Leigh’s Peterloo about the 1819 massacre where British forces attacked a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester; László Nemes’ Sunset, the Hungarian filmmaker’s follow up to Son of Saul; and Werk Ohne Autor by German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmark (The Lives of Others).

OUT OF COMPETITION

  • Already announced is the remake of A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper’s directing debut where he co-stars with Lady Gaga.
  • The Hacksaw Ridge duo of Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn star in the Canadian film, Dragged Across Concrete, directed by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk). It centres on two policemen, Gibson’s old-timer and his volatile younger partner who cross the line with their strong-arm tactics and are suspended from the force. They decide to give it a try on the other side of the law.
  • Hopefully Errol Morris brings his distinctive, interrogative style to his latest documentary, American Dharma, credited as starring Stephen K. Bannon.
  • Still no Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe or Joel Edgerton for Boy Erased, or Cate Blanchett and Jack Black for The House with a Clock in Its Walls, or Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie for Mary, Queen of Scots—as yet. These are very early days. But it seems that increasingly major film companies are keen to micro-manage their releases, rather than risk negative festival reviews that can kill a film. We shall see.