Venice Film Festival 2021 | poster excerpt

Venice Film Festival 2021: Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, Pedro Almodovar, and Paolo Sorrentino Lead Outstanding Lineup 

Running 1-11 September the 78th edition of the legendary Venice Film Festival promises a bombastic mixture of blockbuster and indie premieres.

Venice Film Festival 2021
La Biennale di Venezia
1-11 September 2021

With 73 films and one television show (featuring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain) set to debut, back-to-back Academy Award winners spearheading the jury, prominent Hollywood actors showcasing their freshmen directorial efforts, and finally the global opening of one Denis’ Villeneuve’s Dune, the Venice Film Festival 2021 is not taking any prisoners. Running 1-11 September after the pandemic-subdued edition in 2020, this year promises a grandiose, albeit still COVID-cautious, event. The event traditionally combines head-turning household names with exposure for younger artists hoping for their moment of glory. 

To paraphrase festival director Alberto Barbera, behind us are two seasons worth of films waiting to be released, and the intensely versatile film selection, dovetailing a belated Cannes event from mid-July, attests to the artistic hunger and the desire to go back to business. A batch of steaming auteur works racing for the coveted Volpi Cup will be joined by blue-chip veteran blockbusters and other Hollywood-friendly releases screening out of competition.

La Biennale has traditionally been committed to fusing independent and mainstream cinema, and the jury, presided by Korea’s Bong Joon Ho, supported by this year’s winner, China’s Chloe Zhao, UK’s Cynthia Erivo, Canada’s Sarah Gadon, Romania’s Alexander Nanau, Belgia’s/France’s Virginie Efira, and Italy’s Saverio Constanzo, will have their hands full with the Official Selection.

The competing lineup opens with Pedro Almodóvar‘s Madres Paralelas, a touching drama about two expecting mothers whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined while waiting on labor in a maternity ward, starring Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit. 

Joining Almodóvar in the competition are some of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year, including new features from Jane Campion, Paolo Sorrentino, Pablo Larraín, and Paul Schrader, to single out a few. There will also be a high-profile directorial debut from Maggie Gylenhaal.  

Campion’s comeback release, The Power of the Dog, set in the early 20th-century, is a story of a sadistic Montana ranch owner who launches a vendetta against the young widow who marries his brother and comes to live on the ranch. The film, also written by Campion, is her first since 2009’s Bright Star, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Jesse Plemons.  

Chile’s Pablo Larraín, a global festival darling who’s already visited Venice thrice (2010’s Post Mortem, 2016’s Jackie, and 2019’s Ema), returns with Spencer, another deeply intimate biopic, this time of Princess Diana, portrayed by Kirsten Stewart. Larraín is recognized for his taste in character studies, and Spencer takes us to a weekend in Sandringham, where Diana agonizes over her marriage with Prince Charles. 

Paolo Sorrentino’s Hand of God–for legal purposes, not inspired by Diego Maradona–will be one of the five Italian films screening at Lido. The plot, still kept tightly under wraps, is purportedly a personal narrative of Sorrentino’s youth. 

Actress Maggie Gylenhaal will jump right in the deep end with her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of an Elena Ferrante novel starring Olivia Colman, Jesse Buckley, Dakota Johnson, and Ed Harris. The story follows a woman (Coleman), reminiscing about her experience of early motherhood, who becomes obsessed with another woman and her daughter.

Veteran Paul Schrader–who will be flaunting no less than three releases this year–returns to Lido with The Card Counter, starring Oscar Isaac. It’s a tale of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler. The film, both written and directed by the acclaimed author, will also star Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Defoe.

Speaking of Isaac, 2021 is his year: besides The Card Counter, he also stars with Jessica Chastain in the HBO miniseries, Scenes from a Marriage, a bold reimagining of Ingmar Bergman’s iconic 1973 drama. He also plays Duke Leto in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, likely the biggest release of the year, which will screen out-of-competition. Delayed thrice, the third attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s seminal literary franchise to the big screen will finally see the light of day on 3 September, before being released worldwide in cinema and on HBO Max on 22 October.

Besides Dune, another major blockbuster, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, will screen out-of-competition. In this historical drama, based on a (reportedly) true story, Matt Damon plays a French knight who challenges his squire, played by Adam Driver, to trial by combat, following his wife’s (Jodie Comer) allegations of rape. The film, which also stars Ben Affleck, who penned the script with Damon and Nicole Holofcener, focuses on what has been described as “France’s last legally sanctioned duel”.

Hollywood legend Jamie Lee Curtis will receive a lifetime achievement award, premiering the latest installment in the Halloween franchise, Halloween Kills; another lifetime achievement award will go to Italy’s Roberto Benigni.


Parallel Mothers (dir: Pedro Almodóvar) – opening film

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (dir: Ana Lily Amirpour)

Un autre monde (dir: Stéphane Brizé)

The Power of the Dog (dir: Jane Campion)

America Latina (dir: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo)

L’évènement (dir: Audrey Diwan)

Official Competition (dir: Gaston Depart, Mariano Cohn)

Il Buco (dir: Michelangelo Frammartino)

Sundown (dir: Michel Franco)

Lost Illusions (dir: Xavier Giannoli)

The Lost Daughter (dir: Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Spencer (dir: Pablo Larraín)

Freaks Out (dir: Gabriele Mainetti)

Qui Rido Io (dir: Mario Martone)

On The Job: The Missing 8 (dir: Eric Matti)

Leave No Traces (dir: Jan P Matuszyski)

Captain Volkonogov Escaped (dir: Yuriy Borisov)

The Card Counter (dir: Paul Schrader)

The Hand of God (dir: Paolo Sorrentino)

Reflection (dir: Valentin Vasyanovych)

La Caja (dir: Lorenzo Vigas)

Out of Competition: Fiction

Il Bambino Nascosto (dir: Roberto Andò) – closing film

Les Choses Humaines (dir: Yvan Attal)

Ariaferma (dir: Leonardo Di Costanzo)

Halloween Kills (dir: David Gordon Green.)

La Scuola Cattolica (dir: Stefano Mordini)

Old Henry (dir: Potsy Ponciroli)

The Last Duel (dir: Ridley Scott)

Dune (dir: Denis Villeneuve)

Last Night in Soho (dir: Edgar Wright)

Out of Competition: Non-Fiction

Life of Crime 1984-2020 (dir: Jon Albert)

Tranchées (dir: Loup Bureau)

Viaggio Nel Crepuscolo (dir: Augusto Contento)

Republic of Silence (dir: Diana El Jeiroudi)

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (dir: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine)

DeAndré#Deandré Storia di un Impiegato (dir: Roberta Lena)

Django&Django (dir: Luca Rea)

Ezio Bosso. Le Cose Che Restano (dir: Giorgio Verdelli)

Out of Competition: TV Series

Scenes From a Marriage (episodes 1-5) (dir: Hagai Levi)

Orizzonti (Horizons)

Les Promesses (dir: Thomas Kruithof) – opening film

Atlantide (dir: Yuri Ancarani)

Miracle (dir: Bogdan George Apetri)

Pilgrims (dir: Laurynas Bareisa)

The Peackock’s Paradise (dir: Laura Bispuri)

The Falls (dir: Chung Mong-Hong)

El Hoyo En La Cerca (dir: Joachin Del Paso)

Amira (dir: Mohamed Diab)

A Plein Temps (dir: Eric Gravel)

107 Mothers (dir: Peter Kerkekes)

Vera Dreams of the Sea (dir: Kaltrina Krasniqi)

White Building (dir: Kavich Neang)

Anatomy of Time (dir: Jakrawal Nilthamrong)

El Otro Tom (dir: Rodrigo Pla, Laura Santullo)

El Gran Movimiento (dir: Kiro Russo)

Once Upon a Time in Calcutta (dir: Adita Vikram Sengupta)

Rhino (dir: Oleg Sentsov)

True Things, (dir: Harry Wootliff)

Inu-Oh, (dir: Yuasa Masaaki)

Orizzonti (Horizons): Extra

Land of Dreams (dir: Shirin Nest, Shoja Azari) – opening film

Costa Brava (dir: Mounia Akl)

Mama, I’m Home (dir: Vladimir Bitokov)

Ma Nuit (dir: Antoinette Boulot)

La Ragazza Ha Volato (dir: Wilma Labate)

7 Prisoners (dir: Alexandre Moratto)

The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic, (dir: Teemu Nikki)

La Macchina Delle Immagini di Alfredo C (dir: Roland Sejko)