New films by Laura Poitras and Frederick Wiseman will represent documentary in competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Venice announced its key selections today with the two films grabbing rare competition slots at a major festival. Both films are world premieres. Venice is usually more open to non-fiction films than the documentary-averse Cannes is, but non-fiction films remain under-represented in the competition despite their growing popularity.
Poitras will debut The Beauty and the Bloodshed, which Variety described as portraying “photographer Nan Goldin’s battle against the notorious big-pharma Sackler family.” The film is Poitras’ first feature since 2016’s Risk, although she contributed to the COVID anthology The Year of the Everlasting Storm. The Citizenfour Oscar winner is one of several award season favourites in the stacked Venice competition, which includes new dramatic films from five-time Oscar winner Alejandro Iñárritu (Bardo), Florian Zeller (The Son, a follow-up to The Father), Todd Field (Tár), Darren Aronofsky (The Whale), and Andrew Dominik with the buzzy Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde.
Wiseman, who received an honorary Oscar in 2017 and a career Golden Lion from Venice in 2014, will debut A Couple. The film, Wiseman’s 45th feature at the age of 92, features French actress/filmmaker Nathalie Boutefeu in a study of Leo Tolstoy and his wife, Sophia. Perhaps most notable is the film’s brevity. A Couple clocks in at a mere 63 min, less than a quarter of the length of Wiseman’s four-and-a-half hour opus City Hall (2020).
Venice Gets Political
Outside the competition, Venice features a robust sidebar of documentaries from notable names tackling issues such as the war in Ukraine. Nine documentaries will screen out of competition. They include Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom from Evgeny Afineevsky and Alex Kashpur. The film is a follow-up to Afineevsky’s Oscar nominee and TIFF People’s Choice Award winner Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. Sergei Loznitsa also represents Ukraine with The Kiev Trial.
Other major names screening out of competition include Hoop Dreams director Steve James with A Compassionate Spy, Oliver Stone with Nuclear, and former Golden Lion winner Gianfranco Rosi (Sacro GRA) with In Viaggio. Rounding out the docs are The Matchmaker by Benedetta Argenteri, Gli Ultimi Giorni Dell’Umanità by Enrico Ghezzi and Alessandro Gagliardo, Music for Black Pigeons by Jørgen Leth and Andreas Koefoed, and Bobi Wine, Ghetto President by Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo. Doc fans can presumably anticipate a number of these Venice docs to appear in the TIFF Docs line-up when it drops in August.
On the Canadian front, the maple leaf is represented at Venice in two co-productions. L’origine du mal (The Origin of Evil) from French director Sébastien Marnier stars Suzanne Clément and screens in Venice’s Orizzonti sidebar, while out of competition title Dead for a Dollar by director Walter Hill stars Christoph Waltz and Willem Dafoe. The Canadian short III by Salomé Villeneuve, finally, screens in the Orizzoni section. The 2022 Venice Film Festival runs August 31 to September 10.