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2023 Venice Film Festival – 75 Predictions: Bertrand Bonello, David Oelhoffen, Tarsem Singh & Viggo Mortensen…

2023 Venice Film Festival – 75 Predictions: Bertrand Bonello, David Oelhoffen, Tarsem Singh & Viggo Mortensen…

Sure we are about two weeks away from the official announcements for the films that will premiere on the Lido, but we are very much in the eleventh hour now with film teams making plans for waterways and gondola rides or… considering a different path that takes them to Toronto, Donostia-San Sebastian or they play the waiting game for Rotterdam, Sundance and the Berlinale. Artistic Directors in International Critics’ Week’s Beatrice Fiorentino (most likely 9 selections) and Giornate degli Autori’s Gaia Furrer (around 10 feature film selections) will have carved out their line-ups and will likely announce not too much time after Venice topper Alberto Barbera unveils the big titles. We’ll be at the 80th edition (August 30 – September 9th) and as per usual we got into prognostication mode (check out our 74 World Premiere predictions possibilities for TIFF) and will offer three days worth of films we believe have a great chance at filling up the festival and its sidebars.

The press conference takes place on the 25th of July and as a reminder we are looking at about 20-23 Competition films, 10-12 Out of Competition films, 8-10 Out of Competition docu films, 18-19 Orizzonti films and around nine Orizzonti Extra films – and we’ve also got the classics, VR stuff and shorts joining the already identified opener in Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers. And let’s not forget the Biennale College selections. Here we go with our first batch of twenty-five:

Dir. Stefano Sollima
Prod: The Apartment’s Lorenzo Mieli.

Assembling an A-list cast of Pierfrancesco Favino, Toni Servillo, Valerio Mastandrea and Adriano Giannini, Adagio is the last chapter of my Roman criminal trilogy that began with the series “Romanzo Criminale” and then pushed forward with the film Suburra. Stefano Sollima who directed the series for “Gomorrah” and the feature Sicario: Day of the Soldado has previously been on the Lido with “ZeroZeroZero” which preemed in 2019. Prediction: Competition.

Back to Alexandria
Dir. Tamer Ruggli
Prod: Francine Lusser, Gérard Monier

Swiss-Egyptian filmmaker Tamer Ruggli’s feature debut – a road movie dramedy that stars Nadine Labaki as Sue who returns to her native Egypt after twenty years of absence to see her estranged mother, Fairouz (Fanny Ardant), a splendid and eccentric aristocrat. Even if this has a release date for the first quarter of next year, Back to Alexandria could place itself just about anywhere and could be TIFF-bound. Prediction: Horizons Extra.

Dir. Isabella Torre
Prod: Paolo Carpignano, Jonas Carpignano, Lucia Vesco

With no official synopsis out there, from what we gather this is a fairy tale-esque set in the wilderness and where time is marked by nature, not by human events. Isabella Torre received a showcase for her shorts in Venice on two occasions – with Ninfe (2018) in the Orizzonti section and Luna Piena (2021) in the Critics’ Week. Basilea stars Angela Fontana, Godland‘s Elliot Crosset Hove and Koudous Seihon – filming began back in December of last year (see news) so the print on this one could still be wet. Prediction: International Critics’ Week.

Behind The Mountain
Dir. Mohamed Ben Attia
Prod: Dora Bouchoucha, Lina Chaabane.

Formerly titled “Floating in a Vacuum” and “Les Ordinaires,” Behind The Mountain tells the story of Rafik (Majd Mastoura), who after spending four years in jail, has only one plan, take his son behind the mountains and show him his amazing discovery. Mohamed Ben Attia‘s last feature in the sophomore Dear Son was a 2018 Directors’ Fortnight selection. Prediction: Horizons Extra.

La Bête
Dir. Bertrand Bonello
Prod: Justin Taurand, Xavier Dolan.

Tipped for a possible Cannes premiere as he is pretty much a mainstay there, the latest from Bertrand Bonello is now certainly being considered for a Golden Lion spot. La Bête stars Léa Seydoux and George MacKay and places us in three distinct periods: 1910, 2014 and 2044. In the near future where emotions have become a threat, Gabrielle finally decides to purify her DNA in a machine that will plunge her into her past lives and rid her of all strong feelings. She then meets Louis and feels a powerful connection, as if she had always known him. Prediction: Competition.

Bring Them Down
Dir. Chris Andrews
Prod: Ivana MacKinnon, Ruth Treacy, Julianne Forde, Jacob Swan Hyam, Jean-Yves Roubin, Cassandre Warnauts

Christopher Abbott, Barry Keoghan and Colm Meaney star in the tale of an Irish shepherding family forced into conflict on many levels–internal conflict, discord within the household, and strife with another rival farmer. Using a unique Irish cultural lens, Bring Them Down examines themes of paternalism, heritage, and the cycle of generational trauma. The MUBI-backed project is Chris Andrews‘ directorial debut. Prediction: International Critics’ Week.

The Burial
Dir. Maggie Betts
Prod: Jamie Foxx, Jenette Kahn, Celine Rattray, Adam Richman, Robert Shriver, Trudie Styler, Datari Turner.

After breaking out at Sundance with 2017’s Novitiate, Maggie Betts could see her sophomore fiction feature (an Amazon project) finding a slot in Venice. The Burial stars Tommy Lee Jones opposite Jamie Foxx, this essentially tells the tale about a lawyer who helps a funeral home owner save his family business from a corporate behemoth. In a move to bring resonance to a dry case, the lawyer digs up a complex web of race, power, and oppression that forces everyone to examine prejudices. Prediction: Out of Competition.

Comme le feu
Dir. Philippe Lesage
Prod: Galilé Marion-Gauvin

After showcasing 2015’s Les Démons (San Sebastian/TIFF) and 2018’s Genèse (Locarno), Philippe Lesage is poised to bring his latest project Comme le feu to another prestige fest. The simple logline is this tells the story of 17-year-old Jeff who is invited by his friend Max’s family to stay at the secluded home, lost in the woods, of film director Blake Cadieux. Noah Parker, Arie Worthalter, Aurélia Arandi-Longpré, Antoine Marchand-Gagnon, Sophie Desmarais, Guillaume Laurin, Carlo Harrietha, Irène Jacob and Laurent Lucas are part of the cast. Prediction: Horizons.

Coup de Chance
Dir. Woody Allen
Prod: Letty Aronson, Erika Aronson

Once the Cannes line-up was announced the trades have been pointing to a Lido showing (San Sebastián could also be in the cards) Woody Allen‘s French financed fiftieth feature. Coup de Chance (which receives a France release in late September) stars Niels Schneider, Lou de Laage, Valerie Lemercier, Melvil Poupaud and Elsa Zylberstein and tells the tale about two young people’s bond leads to marital infidelity and ultimately crime. Prediction: Out of Competition.

Dir. Levan Akin
Prod: Mathilde Dedye, Nadia Turincev, Nadir Öperli, Ersan Congar, Ketie Danelia

After the much beloved 2019 festival favorite And Then We Danced, Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin has been keeping it secret for his fourth feature, the Istanbul set Crossing (formerly known as set Passage). This stars Mzia Arabuli, Lucas Kankava and Deniz Dumanli. Prediction: Horizons Extra.

Daaaaaali !
Dir. Quentin Dupieux
Prod: Mathieu Verhaeghe, Thomas Verhaeghe

Starring Pierre Niney, Anaïs Demoustier, Gilles Lellouche, Romain Duris, Alain Chabat, Jonathan Cohen and Pio Marma, this latest Quentin Dupieux entry is about a French journalist meets the iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on several occasions for a documentary project that never came to be. He’ll be coming off the Locarno world premiere for Yannick, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Daaaaaali ! is then set for an Italian premiere. Dupieux has been to Venice with films such as Reality (2014) and Mandibles (2020). Prediction: Out of Competition.

The Dead Don’t Hurt
Dir. Viggo Mortensen
Prod: Viggo Mortensen, Regina Solórzano, Jeremy Thomas.

After 2020’s Falling, Viggo Mortensen moves in front of and behind the camera for his second film outing this time putting on cowboys hate and boots for The Dead Don’t Hurt. Also starring Vicky Krieps and Garret Dillahunt, this is set in the 1860s, French Canadian Vivienne Le Coudy falls in love with Danish immigrant to North America Holger Olsen in San Francisco but they are separated and kept apart by the Civil War. This could be going to TIFF and San Sebastián as well. Prediction: Horizons.

Dear Jassi
Dir. Tarsem Singh
Prod: Bhushan Kumar, Vipul D. Shah, Ashwin Varde, Rajesh Bahl, Sanjay Grover, Tarsem Singh

Known for more studio-sized film projects dating back to 2000’s The Cell, Tarsem Singh takes on a smaller caboose with what is actually his first Indian film project. Based on a true story, Dear Jassi stars Pavia Sidhu, Yugam Sood and Gulshan Grover and unfortunately the plot is currently under wraps. This is my wild-card pick from the entire list. Prediction: Out of Competition.

Dir. Luc Besson
Prod: Virginie Besson-Silla, Steve Rabineau.

Around the time of Cannes word spread that Luc Besson was heading to Venice with one of the two current projects in post. With Caleb Landry Jones toplining, this is about a boy, bruised by life finds his salvation through the love of his dogs. Prediction: Out of Competition.

Dir. Nehir Tuna
Prod: Tanay Abbasoglu, Dorothe Beinemeier.

Ahmet’s (Doğa Karakaş) life turns upside down when his father sends him to boarding school. While the father (Tansu Biçer) sees this as an opportunity for his child’s discipline, this is a nightmare for Ahmet, who is detached from the warm family environment he is used to. In his adventure of growing up, Ahmet has to constantly balance his father’s expectations with his own independence. Turkish filmmaker Nehir Tuna‘s feature debut titled Dormitory has been in the works for some time now and is poised for a major film festival play – with Sundance being among the options. Prediction: International Critics’ Week.

Dream Scenario
Dir. Kristoffer Borgli
Prod: Ari Aster, Lars Knudsen, Jacob Jaffke, Tyler Campellone.

Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli hit the Cannes (Un Certain Regard selection) jackpot with Sick of Myself and quickly followed that with the A24 backed comedy starring Julianne Nicholson, Nicolas Cage, Michael Cera, Tim Meadows, Kate Berlant, Dylan Baker and Dylan Gelula. Dream Scenario is about a schlubby professor who never made it becomes an overnight celebrity after appearing in everyone’s dream. Prediction: Out of Competition.

Drive-Away Dolls
Dir. Ethan Coen
Prod: Ethan Coen, Tricia Cooke, Robert Graf, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner.

With Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp and Matt Damon, Ethan Coen‘s Drive-Away Dolls is comedy caper follows Jamie, an uninhibited free spirit bemoaning yet another breakup with a girlfriend, and her demure friend Marian who desperately needs to loosen up. In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals along the way. Focus Features might try Telluride and TIFF as well. Prediction: Competition.

Dir. Johanna Pyykkö
Prod: Dyveke Bjørkly Graver, Andrea Berentsen Ottmar.

We thought that Johanna Pyykkö‘s directorial debut might be ready for Cannes but it appears we were in the wrong. Could it carve out a little home showing somewhere on the Lido? Ebba is about a 18-year-old girl who works as a housekeeper in Oslo’s upmarket port district. One day she meets a young Bulgarian man who is injured and has amnesia. Ebba will make him believe that they are lovers. Prediction: Giornate degli Autori.

El Conde
Dir. Pablo Larrain
Prod: Juan de Dios Larraín

Long understood to be a shoe-in for the competition section, the Netflix-backed El Conde centers on Augusto Pinochet who is not dead but an aged vampire. After living 250 years in this world, he has decided to die once and for all. A constant presence in Venice with Post Mortem, Jackie, Ema, and Spencer, this comedy reunites Pablo Larrain with his muse Alfredo Castro who is joined by players Paula Luchsinger and Gloria Münchmeyer. Prediction: Competition.

Dir. Pietro Castellitto

Pietro Castellitto‘s debut feature I predatori was a 2020 Horizons selection (the dramedy was the Best Screenplay Award winner) and his sophomore film which the synopsis has been closely guarded with no details available could bring him back but in a bigger showcase slot. Enea features Amanda‘s Benedetta Porcaroli and Castellitto himself. Prediction: Competition.

Dir. Michael Mann
Prod: John Lesher, Michael Mann, Thorsten Schumacher, Lars Sylvest, Gareth West, Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi.

Long tipped to be prominently featured on the Lido, what we weren’t anticipating is just where Ferrari will place. Venice 2012 Jury President Michael Mann landed Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz and Shailene Woodley for a project that began two decades back. This is a tale of Italian driver and entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari who deals with family problems, while preparing for the 1957 Mille Miglia. Prediction: Competition.

Finalmente L’alba
Dir. Saverio Costanzo
Prod: Lorenzo Gangarossa, Mario Gianani

Landing big in Venice with 2014’s Hungry Hearts, Saverio Costanzo is due to return with the very polished Finalmente L’alba which features Lily James, Joe Keery, Willem Dafoe, Alba Rohrwacher and Rachel Sennott. This is about a young Roman woman during the 1950s is on the verge of becoming engaged to a man. She goes to Cinecittà to do an audition as an extra and is thrust into this almost infinite night during which she discovers herself. Prediction: Competition.

Dir. Christos Nikou
Prod: Christos Nikou, Coco Francini, Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton.

Starring Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, Luke Wilson and Annie Murphy, Anna (Buckley) increasingly suspects that her relationship with her longtime partner may not actually be the real thing. In an attempt to improve things, she secretly embarks on a new assignment working at a mysterious institute designed to incite and test the presence of romantic love in increasingly desperate couples. Christos Nikou‘s 2020 debut Apples was selected for the Horizons section and we figure that Fingernails could land a step higher. Prediction: Competition.

The Fourth Wall (Le Quatrième Mur)
Dir. David Oelhoffen
Prod: Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu, Maya Hariri, Bady Minck, Christine Rouxel.

Dating back to the short form and more recently, with his features Loin des hommes (2014) and Close Enemies (2018), David Oelhoffen could consider Lido as his launching pad and with two films in post we believe he’ll come packing with at least one in the book to film project based on Sorj Chalandon’s novel – Le Quatrième Mur follows Georges, who driven by his pacifist beliefs and high ideals of uniting people of different religions, embarks on a journey to set up a play based on Jean Anouilh’s “Antigone” in war-torn Beirut in 1982. It stars Manal Issa, Simon Abkarian and Laurent Lafitte. Prediction: Competition.

Hesitation Wound
Dir. Selman Nacar
Prod: Burak Çevik.

Turkish filmmaker Selman Nacar‘s directorial debut Between Two Dawns premiered at the 2021 San Sebastian Film Festival and he has quickly followed that up with Hesitation Wound – about a criminal lawyer (Tülin Özen) spends her days in the courthouse, and nights in the hospital by her mother’s side. The film is set on the day of the verdict hearing for a murder suspect whom Canan is defending. During the hearing we begin to trust the defendant. Canan later doubts whether the suspect has actually committed the crime. Canan must make a moral choice, with the lives of her mother, the judge and the accused at stake. We imagine if it hits Venice first, it’ll shore up in Spain as well. Prediction: Horizons.

Stay tuned for more!
Check out parts II and III.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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