‘Courage,’ ‘Deed’ Play at Venice’s Sala Web

Fourth edition of parallel online event offers blend of first-timers and well-established helmers

Merzak Allouache’s “Madame Courage” and Jake Mahaff’s “Free in Deed” are among the 15 titles lineup picked up for the Venice Festival’s fourth Sala Web.

An online limited platform distribution initiative running before and during Mostra, Sala Web incorporates most titles from Venice’s cutting-edge Horizons showcase and the annual productions from its Biennale College Cinema. In all, 2015’s Sala Web will feature productions from 20 countries.

One of the most talked-up helmers from the Arab World, Algerian Merzak Allouache (“The Rooftops”) will see featured his film “Madame Courage,” about an unstable and lonely teenager living in a slum in the suburbs of Mostaganem, in Algeria, who is addicted to psychotropic drugs, nicknamed “Madame Courage.” Allouache was Variety’s 2013 Middle East Filmmaker of the Year.

Religious redemption drama “Free in Deed,” by Jake Mahaffy, turns on one man’s attempts to perform a miracle. The grim pentecostal minister confronts his private demons when forced by a desperate mother to heal her child’s incurable illness. Mahaffy took SXSW Grand Prize with “Wellness” in 2008. He was also nominated at the 2012 Venice Horizons YouTube Award. Paris-based Stray Dogs handles “Deed’s” international sales.

Sala Web showcase features cutting-edged Horizons world cinema productions, well-established helmers blending with indie works and debuts. Three Sala Web titles are from the Biennale College-Cinema, the Venice Festival’s micro-budget development-production lab.

A distinctive new indie voice in Brazil’s arthouse arena, Gabriel Mascaro (“August Winds”) presents his sophomore effort “Neon Bull.” A pickup by Paris-based Memento Films’ Artscope label, “Bull” centers on Iremar, a “vaquiero” stable hand who cares for bulls at a traditional rodeo, until the Brazilian Northeast’s booming clothing industry spurs news ambitions.

Far from Brazil, but again set against huge social change, in Tibet, the main character in Pema Tseden’s “Tharlo” is a young shepherd with the pure and only ambition to serve people. He discovers the city, meets a girl and his illusions change.

Another Horizontes title, Alberto Caviglia’s “Pecore in Erba” delivers a comedy on the puzzling vanishing of activist Leonardo Zuliani in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere.

Renato de Maria (“The Obscene Life”) returns to Horizons with “Italian Gangsters,” a timeline fresco portraying 30 years of Italian crime marking out mjor social transformations in the history of Italy.

Also in Horizons, Hadar Morag’s debut, “Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?” turns on Muhammad, who, jilted, explores the streets of a his filthy city until he meets Gurevich, a lone wanderer.

In “Kill Me Please,” Anita Rocha Da Silveira delivers a teen horror film set at a college in Rio’s luxurious Barra de Tijuca, where apparently a serial killer is on the loose.“Please” is Rocha de Silveira’s first feature. Her celebrated short “The Living Dead” played at Cannes’ 2012 Directors Fortnight.

In “Wednesday, May 9,” the debut of Iran’s Vahid Jalilvand, Jalal publishes a surprising advertisement in one of Tehran’s morning papers, offering $10,000 to a needy person. The offer receives an avalanche of petitioners and sparks unexpected conflict.

First-time tyro Greek director Yorgos Zois, who won best European Short Film at Venice with his short “Out of Frame” in 2012, returns to the festivals with “Interruption” (formerly “Stage Fright”), set at the post-modern Athens theater adaptation of a classic Greek tragedy. Seven young armed people from the audience suddenly burst onto the stage.

“Tempete,” by Samuel Collarde, winner of the France’s prestigious Louis Delluc Award for best first film with “The Apprentice,” turns on a troubled 36-year-old sailor from a small French town.

The third pic from Indian helmer Vetri Maaran (“Polladhavan”), “Interrogation” delivers a true events-inspired story about a group of immigrants being detained by the state police, tortured and forced to admit a crime they have no idea about. “Interrogation” is the first Tamil-language film ever at Venice.

Three titles from the Biennale College-Cinema, a micro-pic production hub, are traditionally included in Sala Web. This year, all are in different ways coming-of-age dramas.

Helmed by Poland’s Kuba Czekaj “Baby Bump” centers on an 11-year-old kid facing emotional and sexual challenges and transformation.

“Blanka,” by Japanese Kohki Hasei, follows a young girl equally trying to survive on Manila’s mean streets facing likely admission to an orphanage.

“The Fits,” directed by the U.S.’ Anna Rose Holmer, explores the changes in a 13-year-old tomboyish girl boxer when a mysterious fainting fit strikes all her friends on a dancing team.

Launched in 2012 in partnership with Festival Scope, Sala Web marks an experiment in online distribution. Sala Web offers a limited-window – five days from 9 p.m. on the day of the official Lido world premiere — for online audiences worldwide, capped at 400 viewers. Access costs €4 ($4.6) per film.

The 72nd Venice Festival runs Sept. 2-12.

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