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5 Films To See: Venice Film Festival 2023

The 80th Venice Film Festival is upon us, with the jury – led by La La Land director Damien Chazelle – tasked with mulling over a seriously impressive selection of films including new works by Sofia Coppola (Priscilla), Michael Mann (Ferrari) and David Fincher (The Killer). While the red carpets may be largely shorn of Hollywood actors, due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, the films will surely speak for themselves. With this in mind, ASFF has picked five features and shorts with a British flavour that are unspooling on the Lido over the next week.

Poor Things

Main competition sees the return of Greek-born, London-based director Yorgos Lanthimos, who was last in Venice with The Favourite, which claimed both the Grand Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Olivia Colman. So hopes are high for this Frankenstein-style tale of a young woman brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist. A Film4 co-production, it reunites Lanthimos with two major contributors from The Favourite – screenwriter Tony McNamara and actress Emma Stone, who plays the re-awakened lead.  

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Sky Peals

Back in 2013, Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin premiered in Venice, marking one of the great British science-fiction films of the 21st Century. It’d be unfair to heap that sort of pressure onto Sky Peals, which plays in Critics’ Week, but Moin Hussain’s film is certainly a tantalising prospect. Co-financed by Film4, the BFI and Screen Yorkshire, it sees rising star Faraz Ayub play Adam, a loner who works night shifts in a motorway service station. Events change when he learns his estranged father has died – a man who may not be who he thought he was.

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Area Boy

Selected for the Orizzonti Short Films strand, Area Boy is the latest work by the distinctive filmmaker Iggy London, whose previous short, Velvet, played at ASFF 2018. This new piece stars Joshua Cameron as Eli, an aimless teenager living in a provincial town with his mother, who divides his time between his friends and his church community. As the director has already stated, “Area Boy doesn’t resort to clichés or caricatures. It observes Eli as he sinks between conformity and escapism.” To say we’re excited is a vast understatement.

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Another British film given a berth in the Critics’ Week strand, Hoard marks the anticipated feature debut of Luna Carmoon, whose shorts Nosebleed (2018) and Shagbands (2020) previously premiered at the BFI London Film Festival. Backed by the BFI and BBC Film, this female-driven rites of passage drama features Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) and Stranger Things’ Joseph Quinn, as well as newcomer Saura Lightfoot Leon, soon to be seen in the forthcoming Amblin and Apple Studios series Masters of the Air.

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Wander To Wonder

Like Area Boy, this stop-motion animation is also part of the Orizzonti Short Films line-up. A co-production, between the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK, it’s directed and co-written by the Dutch-born, London-based animator Nina Grantz (Edmond), a former student at the National Film & Television School. The title refers to an Eighties TV show that sees its characters – Mary, Billybud and Fumbleton – left stranded in the studio after the death of their creator. British star Toby Jones features in the voice cast.

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Venice Film Festival | 30 August – 9 September

Words: James Mottram