Venice Film Festival: all the 21 films competing for the Golden Lion prize

© Uncredited Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from ‘The Power of the Dog’, left, and Oscar Isaac in ‘The Card Counter’. AP

The Venice Film Festival returns on Wednesday with an ultra-glitzy line-up, including the world premiere of sci-fi blockbuster Dune and Kristen Stewart’s turn as Princess Diana, cementing its status as a serious rival to Cannes.

After a low-key event last year owing to the pandemic, La Mostra is raising the stakes once again in the battle for film fest supremacy with the sort of line-up that has drool running down the chins of red carpet gawkers and pretentious film critics alike.

The world’s oldest film festival has embraced Hollywood in recent years and its 78th edition, running September 1-11, is no exception.

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Dune brings hot young things Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya to the Venice festival, while Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel marks the bromantic return of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, writing and starring together for the first time since their Oscar-winning breakout Good Will Hunting in the 1990s.

But Venice still has serious arthouse chops, and the competition for the Golden Lion award features some of the era’s most revered filmmakers, including Spain’s Pedro Almodovar, Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino and New Zealand’s Jane Campion.

Almodovar opens the festival with the Penelope Cruz-starring Parallel Mothers.

© Provided by The National Penelope Cruz and director Pedro Almodovar reunite for the film ‘Parallel Mothers’. AP

The Princess Di biopic, Spencer, promises to be more than the usual fawning royal mush, as it comes from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, whose 2016 film was an intelligent and lauded take on Jackie Kennedy, starring Natalie Portman.

Since taking over in 2012, festival director Alberto Barbera is credited with rejuvenating La Mostra, partly by positioning it as the launch pad for Academy Award hopefuls.

Two of the last four Golden Lion winners, The Shape of Water and Nomadland, have gone on to win the best picture Oscar – something which had never previously happened.

Many other recent critical and box-office hits have debuted in the floating city, including La La Land, Joker and A Star Is Born.

The Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival will be awarded to one film among contenders from across the globe.

Here are the 21 films competing for the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion in no particular order:

1. ‘Parallel Mothers’

Two single women prepare to give birth in a maternity ward in Pedro Almodovar’s latest film with regulars Penelope Cruz and Rossy de Palma.

2. ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78#AnaLilyAmirpour is back in #Venice with MONA LISA AND THE BLOOD MOON. A girl with strange abilities escapes from a mental asylum and rejoins the chaos of modern-day civilization → https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/FLXCJaKbzm

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 16, 2021

Ana Lily Amirpour’s fantasy film starring Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson and Jeon Jong-seo follows a girl with superpowers who escapes a mental asylum and rejoins the world in New Orleans.

3. ‘Un autre monde’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

Philippe (#VincentLindon) and his wife (#SandrineKiberlain) are splitting up due to his job. #StéphaneBrizé is back at the Lido with UN AUTRE MONDE, a sensitive depiction of the daily struggle of executives→https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/GzO8cTCo47

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 2, 2021

The last of Stephane Brize’s trilogy about the world of work, it stars Vincent Lindon as a boss forced to make tough decisions.

4. ‘The Power of the Dog’

Two brothers feud on a Montana ranch after one comes home with a new wife, in Jane Campion’s film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst.

5. ‘America Latina’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

“AMERICA LATINA is a love story, and like all love stories, it’s obviously a thriller”. The D’Innocenzo brothers, directors of #BoysCry and #BadTales, present their new film in #Competition → https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/BsUry2706X

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 10, 2021

Italian twins Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo wrote and directed this love story thriller starring Elio Germano.

6. ‘L’evenement’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

Starring @MarmaiPio, #SandrineBonnaire and #AnnaMouglalis, L’ÉVÉNEMENT by @AudreyDiwan is an adaptation of #AnnieErnaux‘s novel, looking back on her experience with abortion in 1960s France → https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/rU8tVvAHI4

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 4, 2021

A young woman risks prison as she seeks an abortion in 1960s France in Audrey Diwan’s drama.

7. ‘Competencia oficial’

Penelope Cruz stars as a filmmaker dealing with two difficult leading men, including Antonio Banderas, in the comedy directed by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn.

8. ‘Il Buco’

Michelangelo Frammartino’s film is based on the true story of a group of speleologists who in 1961 discovered a deep cave in a remote area of Italy’s south.

9. ‘Sundown’

Tim Roth stars as a wealthy man seeking to walk away from his life while on holiday, in Mexican director Michel Franco’s latest.

10. ‘Illusions perdues’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

ILLUSIONS PERDUES by #XavierGiannoli is set in 19th-century France and tells about a young poet who tries his luck in #Paris. Starring #BenjaminVoisin, #CécileDeFrance, #VincentLacoste and #XavierDolan → https://t.co/PknTORtED2 https://t.co/YVYMhePMTt

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 9, 2021

Xavier Giannoli’s film adaptation of the Balzac novel stars Benjamin Voisin, Xavier Dolan and Gerard Depardieu.

11. ‘The Lost Daughter’

Aspettando la #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

In vacanza al mare, Leda (#OliviaColman) rimane turbata da una giovane madre e da sua figlia. Tratto dal romanzo di #ElenaFerrante, THE LOST DAUGHTER è l’esordio alla regia di #MaggieGyllenhaal → https://t.co/ubDIvFLIUi pic.twitter.com/lR4fBT9Hwr

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 11, 2021

American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is based on an Elena Ferrante novel and stars Olivia Colman as a woman obsessed with another mother and daughter.

12. ‘Spencer’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

Lady D and #PrinceCharles‘ marriage has long since grown cold, but in 1991 they spend the Christmas festivities with the royal family. Directed by #PabloLarraín, #Spencer stars #KristenStewart as #LadyDiana→https://t.co/PknTORc3es pic.twitter.com/JIn839VWgz

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 12, 2021

Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s film follows the last years of marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and stars Kristen Stewart and Jack Farthing.

13. ‘Freaks Out’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78#Rome, 1943: Matilde, Cencio, Fulvio, Mario live together as brothers in Israel’s circus. When he disappears, they remain alone in the Nazi-occupied city. #GabrieleMainetti‘s in #Competition with #FreaksOut→https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/h3dKACpM3J

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 20, 2021

A circus troupe in Rome becomes increasingly desperate with the onset of the Second World War in Gabriele Mainetti’s film.

14. ‘Qui rido io’

Toni Servillo stars as Naples’ famous turn-of-the-century comedian Eduardo Scarpetta in Mario Martone’s biopic.

15. ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’

Waiting for the #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

ON THE JOB: THE MISSING 8 by @ErikMatti – the sequel to @OnTheJobMovie – “attempts to explore, through the disappearance of 8 people, the reality in the Philippines that is never shown on the news” → https://t.co/PknTORtED2 pic.twitter.com/Uz4VNQOGB1

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 24, 2021

Erik Matti’s action film with prisoners-turned-hitmen that explores corruption in the media is a sequel to 2013’s On the Job.

16. ‘Leave No Traces’

Aspettando la #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

Polonia, 1983. Il Paese è scosso dal caso di #GrzegorzPrzemyk, un liceale picchiato a morte dalla milizia. LEAVE NO TRACES di #JanPMatuszyński racconta la storia di Jurek, l’unico testimone del pestaggio → https://t.co/ubDIvFLIUi pic.twitter.com/Oss7TiAoZA

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 25, 2021

The true story of a witness to the fatal beating of a young activist in Warsaw by the militia under the Communist regime by Polish director Jan P Matuszynski.

17. ‘Captain Volkovogov Escaped’

Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov’s thriller follows a state interrogator in the former Soviet Union who flees, hoping to repent.

18. ‘The Card Counter’

Aspettando la #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78#PaulSchrader torna al Lido con #TheCardCounter: #OscarIsaac è un un ex militare assediato dai fantasmi del suo passato che vive nell’ombra come giocatore d’azzardo. Fino all’incontro con Cirk (#TyeSheridan) →https://t.co/ubDIvFLIUi pic.twitter.com/71rEWp3s2B

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 17, 2021

A gambler is haunted by his past as a serviceman in Paul Schrader’s revenge thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe.

19. ‘E stata la mano di Dio’

Paolo Sorrentino’s drama is set in Naples during the heady years when football legend Diego Maradona delivered big dreams to the gritty southern city.

20. ‘Reflection’

A Ukrainian surgeon seeks to rebuild his life after witnessing horrifying violence as a Russian prisoner, in Valentyn Vasyanovych’s drama.

21. ‘La Caja’

Aspettando la #BiennaleCinema2021 | #Venezia78

Un ragazzo di Città del Messico viaggia attraverso il Paese per recuperare i resti di suo padre. Scoprirà il cuore dell’industria manifatturiera della zona. Leone d’Oro 2015, #LorenzoVigas presenta LA CAJA → https://t.co/ubDIvFLIUi pic.twitter.com/PQz5X9CjLv

— La Biennale di Venezia (@la_Biennale) August 19, 2021

A Mexico City teen heads north to collect his father’s remains but is drawn into the grim world of apparel assembly plants, in Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas’ film.

The Venice Film Festival runs from Wednesday, September 1 to Saturday, September 11

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