Venice 2016: Documentary Overview

Venezia-73-legiurieThis Wednesday, August 31 kicks off the 73rd Venice Film Festival, which runs until Sunday, September 10. Positioned at the start of Fall, the oldest film fest in the world is once again being eyed as a launchpad for awards season hopefuls, together with Telluride and Toronto. Among its more than a hundred feature offerings are nearly three dozen new feature documentaries, spread throughout most of its programming sections and in the autonomous Venice Days lineup:

dawson cityThe competitive sections remain overwhelmingly fiction-focused, with only two works of nonfiction represented in Venezia 73 – Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY and Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s elemental “visual sympathy,” SPIRA MIRABILIS – and three in the innovation-oriented Orizzonti: Bill Morrison’s excavation of a long-lost cache of early films, DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (pictured); Wang Bing’s look at the challenges for migrants in East China, BITTER MONEY; and Federica Di Giacomo’s modern-day exorcism profile, LIBERAMI.

austerlitzThere’s more parity in the Out of Competition strand, with docs making up nearly half of the 19 features, including: Sergei Loznitsa’s AUSTERLITZ (pictured), a meditation on Holocaust memorials as tourist attractions; Ulrich Seidl’s SAFARI, which follows European tourists on African hunting safaris; Charlie Siskel’s AMERICAN ANARCHIST, about the haunted writer of THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK; Kasper Collin’s I CALLED HIM MORGAN, on a noted jazz musician who was shot by his wife during a performance; and Bruno Chiaravalloti, Claudio Jampaglia, and Benedetta Argentieri’s OUR WAR, a profile of three Westerners battling ISIS alongside embattled Kurdish fighters.

along for the rideDocumentary’s primary home at Venice, like at Cannes, is in the Classics sidebar, where films about filmmaking appear alongside restored classics. Among the docs here are: Jon Nguyen, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, and Rick Barnes’ DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE, wherein the celebrated filmmaker discusses his artistic practice and history; Nick Ebeling’s ALONG FOR THE RIDE (pictured), an overview of Dennis Hopper’s career via his enigmatic, ever-present friend; Claire Simon’s LE CONCOURS, an intimate look at the admission process of the pre-eminent Paris film school, La Femis; and Michael Palm’s CINEMA FUTURES, about the impact on archives of cinema’s digital transition.

francaRounding out the official selection, Cinema nel Giardino offers local fare, including Francesco Carrozzini’s FRANCA: CHAOS AND CREATION (pictured), a portrait of the director’s mother, Italian Vogue‘s editor-in-chief; and Michele Santoro’s ROBINÙ, a profile of young Mafia heads; while one documentary appears in the festival’s Final Cut in Venice works-in-progress program, Soudade Kaadan’s OBSCURE.

Luomo-che-non-cambiò-la-storia-1-1024x781Of the two autonomously programmed sidebars, International Critics’ Week again includes no nonfiction, while Venice Days offers seven works of its 22 feature selections, including both opening and closing selections: Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, a personal chronicle of Syria’s descent into civil war; and Paola Piacenza’s THE WAR WITHIN, which follows a war correspondent back to the Syrian jail where he was held for five months. Among the other docs presented are Thierry Demaiziere and Alban Teurlai’s ROCCO, a profile of legendary Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi; and Enrico Caria’s L’UOMO CHE NON CAMBIÒ LA STORIA (pictured), about an anti-Fascist Italian professor who plotted to kill Mussolini and Hitler.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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