The oldest film festival in the world, the Venice International Film Festival, opens its 70th edition tonight, and continues through Saturday, September 7. Together with Locarno, Telluride, Toronto, and the New York Film Festival, Venice is one of the key film events of the late Summer/early Fall, introducing the latest slate of high profile titles that will figure on cinephiles’ must-see lists. Decidedly more focused on fiction offerings, only 20 new documentary features screen in the fest’s relatively tight 100-strong lineup, which is split between the larger official selection and two smaller autonomous sections programmed by independent film associations. The following offers a brief overview, highlighting the more notable nonfiction scheduled to screen:
Venice’s official selection is composed of several sections, including two competitions – the official international competition, and Orizzonti, the more brash discovery section. No documentaries appear in the latter, and two have spots in the former – Errol Morris’ eagerly anticipated portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, THE UNKNOWN KNOWN, and Gianfranco Rosi’s more local interest collection of stories while traveling Rome’s major roadway, SACRO GRA. Screening in the main out of competition strand are eight additional docs, including Frederick Wiseman’s AT BERKELEY, an inside look at the operation of UC Berkeley; Alex Gibney’s THE ARMSTRONG LIE, his long-awaited Lance Armstrong comeback-turned-comeuppance tale; Bing Wang’s ‘TIL MADNESS DO US PART (pictured), which explores a Chinese mental institution; Anna Eborn’s PINE RIDGE, a look at life on a South Dakota Native American reservation; and Kitty Green’s UKRAINE IS NOT A BROTHEL, an exposé of a would-be feminist movement in Ukraine.
The official selection is rounded out by Venice Classics, which offers retrospective programming of restored work, the vast majority fiction, as well as several new documentaries paying tribute to auteurs – from Pasolini (pictured) to Bergman, Bertolucci to Fuller. One doc each appears in the work-in-progress Final Cut in Venice section – MADE IN MADAGASCAR – AVEC PRESQUE RIEN… – and in Special Screenings, the latest edition in the festival’s meta-historical self-celebration through the years.
Finally, the autonomous sections – the International Critics’ Week and Venice Days – offer a meager two docs out of 29 feature selections, both in the latter section: LENNY COOKE, which premiered at Tribeca; and J Jackie Baier’s JULIA (pictured), a portrait of a trans Lithuanian art school student turned sex worker.