Venice: ‘President,’ ‘Bypass’ and ‘H.’ Selected

Venice Fest launches third edition of the online limited-window distribution initiative

MADRID – Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s “The President,” Duane Hopkins’ “Bypass” and “H.,” from Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia, feature among 11 titles — eight from Venice’s Horizons section, three from its Biennale College-Cinema — selected for the Venice Festival’s third Sala Web.

An experiment in online distribution launched in 2012 in partnership with Festival Scope, Sala Web offers a limited-window – five days from 9 p.m. on the day of the official Lido presentation — for online audiences worldwide, capped at 800 viewers. Access costs €4 ($5.40) per film; movies are streamed to viewers.

The highest-profile of Web Sala’s lineup, Makhmalbaf’s anticipated return to fiction filmmaking after 2012’s docu “The Gardener” turns on an ousted dictator who comes face to face with the people he subjugated and the horrors his regime created. London’s Film & Music Entertainment (F&ME) produces with Makhmalbaf’s Film House Production and Georgia’s 20 Steps Production, in co-production with Germany’s Bruemmer and Herzog Filmproduktion and France’s Bac Films Production. Bac Films Intl. handles international sales.

Sold by the Match Factory, “Bypass,” about a young but ill father-to-be, marks Hopkins’ follow-up to 2008’s Cannes Critics’ Week player “Better Things,” which marked him out as a talent to track.

A product of the Biennale College-Cinema, the Venice Festival’s micro-budget development-production hub, “H.,” is billed as a lyrical reboot of a Greek tragedy, following the lives of two women whose lives begin to fall apart after a meteorite hits their home town, Troy, N.Y.

Two other Biennale College movies — U.K.-Italian co-pro “Blood Cells” from Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore and Italian Duccio Chiarini’s “Short Skin” – also feature in Web Sala.

Additionally in the Sala Web selection, coming-of-age tale “La Vita Oscena,” about a boy who flirts with death, is the latest from vet Italian film-TV helmer Renato de Maria (“Paz!” “La Prima Linea,” RAI series “Il segreto dell’acqua”).

Horizons highlights trends in world cinema. Inevitably, many Sala Web titles frame human stories set in a context of bruising poverty, unsettling violence and immigration. As theatrical distribution toughens for many small art films, the initiative also allows producers to establish levels of audience interest in social-issue dramas.

Established Croat helmer Ognjen Svivilicic’s “These Are the Rules” narrates how a couple rethink its values when its only son is assaulted by a boy his own age on the streets of Zagreb.

“Line of Credit,” the feature debut of Georgia’s Salome Alexi, is about a debt-crunched 40-year-old woman; in “Nabat,” from Azerbeijan’s Elchin Musaoglu, an aged couple’s existence depends on their only cow; “Court,” from India’s Chaitanya Tamhane, narrates a Mumbai court case.

Also making the cut is “Io sto con la sposa,” a directorial three-hander from Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele Del Grande and Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, based on true – and more uplifting – events: In November, a group of Palestinians and Syrians, all clandestine immigrants, staged a fake wedding to travel from Milan to Stockholm. The audience will, no doubt, be on the illegal immigrants’ side.

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