For the past 10 days, I have been covering the Venice International Film Festival on the Lido di Venezia for FRED Film Radio. During this time, I watched about 40 movies presented within its program. Here is my personal top 5, compiled out of the films that I have watched across all sections of the festival.
5. LISTEN (Ana Rocha de Sousa, UK/Portugal)
Listen explores the seldom represented subject of forced adoptions. This is a fevered drama of two expats, down and out, living in Britain, whose lives go from bad to worse after their children are taken away from them. Enriched by narrative attention to detail, Ana Rocha de Sousa’s modern realist feature is focused, effective and at times downright frightening. It reveals horrible truths about society and human nature in a way that evokes the films of Ken Loach and John Cassavetes.
4. DEAR COMRADES! (Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia)
Andrei Konchalovsky revisits a page in Soviet Union history, when authorities opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the early ’60s. He does so by following the travails of a female authoritative figure whose staunch Communist beliefs are shaken by the event. Tense and compelling, Dear Comrades! is equally praise worthy for its style, which evokes such films of the period as The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier, complete with black and white photography.
3. IN BETWEEN DYING (Hilal Baydarov, Azerbaijan/Mexico/USA)
In Between Dying is an epic, meditative journey on the nature of existence, the likes of which have rarely been seen since Pier Paolo Pasolini. Beginning in the modern times and fading into timelessness, Hilal Baydarov follows his lead character, a young man on a scooter and his encounters with women along the way, which will lead him to an existential conclusion. Added point for the sheer delight of the landscapes, which the cameras revel in documenting.
2. SUN CHILDREN (Majid Majidi, Iran)
A cross between the films of Francois Truffaut and The Goonies. This is socially committed cinema that is unafraid to also be gripping and entertaining. The central theme of Majid Majidi’s film is that of child labour and the story is that of a young boy who enrols into school just to dig up a buried treasure for an exploitative mobster. Engaging and engaged.
1. RESIDUE (Merawi Gerima, USA)
A powerful and heartfelt portrait of Black life and gentrification in the United States. A cinematic poem that manages to be both tough-skinned and tender, both determined and melancholic. Residue feels like the essence of the rise of a new Black American cinema shake-up and, given that this is the feature debut of Merawi Gerima, the beginning of a very promising filmography.