×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice’s Biennale College Spawns Microbudget Movies That Travel Worldwide

Experimental 'Memphis,' by U.S. helmer Tim Sutton, plays in Karlovy Vary's Forum of Independents section

Among titles competing this year in Karlovy Vary’s Forum of Independents is the experimental “Memphis,” by U.S. helmer Tim Sutton, which owes its existence to the Venice Film Festival’s recently launched Biennale College, a groundbreaking production program lab that shepherds microbudget movies from development through distribution, and is making Venice topper Alberto Barbera particularly proud.

After world-preeming in Venice (where else?) and also going to Sundance, this character study of a moody Memphis musician seeking a deeper spiritual meaning in life, made for Euros 150,00 ($200,000), has been sold in some 30 countries, in some cases even for theatrical distribution.

Another work within the trio of titles spawned by Biennale College’s first edition, launched in 2012, is Thai first-time helmer Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy,” depicting a year in the life of a female student in Bangkok based on her tweets. The pic went to Pusan and was a commercial success in Thailand, where protag Patcha Poonpiriya, in her first film role, scooped the actress prize at the country’s national film awards.

“It’s gone beyond my wildest expectations,” Barbera boasts.

Popular on Variety

Conceived by Barbera in tandem with Torino Film Lab topper Savina Neirotti, who also heads the Venice initiative, Biennale College is being touted as the first festival initiative that shepherds films through their entire production cycle.

Instead of backing just one aspect of the filmmaking process — as is the case with Sundance, Cannes and Rotterdam — the Biennale College mentors work closely with director-producer teams on their projects from initial stages, offering experts — such as former Arte France topper Michel Reilhac, who has greenlit thousands of indie pics — to coach them on script development and production plans during 10-day sessions in a former monastery on the island of San Servolo in the Venetian lagoon.

These days “you can’t limit the function of a festival to being a showcase for completed films. It’s increasingly important that Venice develops an aspect connected to the market with an attention towards the needs of the market, especially the needs of young filmmakers,” Barbera says.

Venice, until recently the only major festival still lacking a market component, is now leading the way in the festival lab field with this pilot project.

“The success of the movies, the interest from indie producers around the world tell us two things: one is that we had a good intuition; the other is that there is a huge unoccupied space for whoever wants to do something similar,” Barbera notes. “We certainly don’t want the exclusive.”

Meanwhile, the next trio of Biennale College-produced pics is in post. They are: “H,” by U.S.-based directorial duo Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh (“OK, Enough, Goodbye”), which is being described as a contempo Greek tragedy about two women, both named Helen, whose lives and relationships begin to unravel in the wake of a meteor explosion over their town of Troy, NY; “Blood Cells,” a drama by Brit directorial duo Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore; and Italo helmer Duccio Chiarini’s “Short Skin.”

More Film

  • ‘Gravedigger,’ ‘Zanka Contact,’ ‘Sweet Annoyance’ Win

    ‘The Gravedigger,’ ‘Zanka Contact’ and ‘Sweet Annoyance’ Win Top Prizes at 2nd Atlas Workshops

    Djibouti’s “The Gravedigger,” Morocco’s “Zanka Contact” and Ethiopia’s “Sweet Annoyance” were among the major winners in the post-production and development categories of the second edition of the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. “The Gravedigger,” by Khadar Ahmed, and “Zanka Contact,” by Ismaël el Iraki, won the top awards – €20,000 ($22,000) and $11,000 respectively – [...]

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content