×

Billie Piper’s Directorial Debut, ‘Rare Beasts,’ to Bow in Venice Critics’ Week

“Rare Beasts,” the directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Collateral”) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, which has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, four of them from female filmmakers.

Produced by Vaughan Sivell of Western Edge Pictures in association with Moffen Media Limited, “Rare Beasts” is “a completely unhinged comedy,” section chief Giona Nazzaro said.

Piper plays Mandy, a struggling young writer and mother who comes from a dysfunctional family and falls upon a troubled man played by Leo Bill (“Peterloo”). The high-caliber cast of Brits also includes Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) and David Thewlis, best known as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter film series.

The out-of-competition opener for Critics’ Week will be Indian animation film “Bombay Rose” by Gitanjali Rao, which Nazzaro described as a love story between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy and also “a strong and interesting critique of the sexist male stereotypes of the Bollywood industry.” He noted that “Bombay Rose’s” animation is 100% handmade, not computer-generated.

Saudi Arabia will be represented by Shahad Ameen’s “Scales,” a magical-realist mermaid movie set during a mythical Arabian past, in which a young girl finds a path to empowerment in a patriarchal society. Also from the Middle East is “All This Victory,” a drama set in 2006 in Lebanon during the war between Hezbollah and Israel, directed by Lebanon’s Ahmad Ghossein.

Lithuania is in competition with “Parthenon,” the feature film debut of Lithuanian documentary director Mantas Kvedaravicius. Set in Istanbul, Athens, Odessa and Sudan, it’s a “haunting work,” Nazzaro said, involving a Ukranian prostitute, a small-time hood, and a Sudanese refugee whose paths intersect.

From Chile comes “The Prince,” a prison-set gay melodrama set against the backdrop of 1970s Chilean politics starring Alfredo Castro, who broke out internationally in Pablo Larrain’s films and then Lorenzo Vigas’ Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar” (“Desde Alla”).

Danish first-timer Marie Grahto will premiere “Psychosia,” a dark pic that harks back to the director’s personal experiences in psychiatric institutions, which Nazzaro describes as ”an extremely erotic psychological thriller.”

Italy is present with Ascanio Petrini’s “Tony Driver,” which is “something in between a documentary, a mockumentary, and a fiction film,” said Nazzaro, based on the true story of an Italian who after living in the U.S. for 40 years is deported by the U.S. back to Italy, from where he plots his return.

The out-of-competition closer is Mexican director Joshua Gil’s “Sanctorum” which Nazzaro described as “a kind of metaphysical ‘Narcos’ episode.” It takes place in the mountains of Mexico, where farmers are forced to work in illegal marijuana fields. They are exploited by the Narcos and harassed by the police until an apocalyptic payback occurs.

Nazzaro called his selection very straightforward and narrative-driven. “They are challenging but enjoyable, story-driven films,” he said.

All Venice Critics’ Week entries will compete alongside titles in the official selection for the fest’s Lion of the Future prize, worth $100,000. As usual, Critics’ Week films will be voted on by festival-goers rather than by a jury.

The full official-selection lineup of the 76th Venice Film Festival will be announced Thursday. The fest runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Noele trailer Anna Kendrick

    Disney Unveils 'Noelle' Trailer Starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader

    Among the many announcements at the D23 Expo, Disney debuted the first look at holiday feature “Noelle,” which is set to premiere exclusively on Disney Plus this fall. “It isn’t Christmas without Santa’s Sister,” Walt Disney Studios said of the film on Twitter. Starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, the Christmas flick tells the story [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie Austria

    Film News Roundup: Austin Festival Selects Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life'

    In today’s film news roundup, the Austin Film Festival selects a Terrence Malick title, “A Day Without a Mexican” gets a sequel and DCR Finance signs a first-look deal. FESTIVAL SCREENING The Austin Film Festival will screen Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which won the Francois Chalais and Ecumenical Jury awards at the Cannes Film [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved the release date of Blake Lively’s “The Rhythm Section” back two months from Nov. 22 to Jan. 31, 2020, the weekend of Super Bowl LIV. The spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is produced by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson through their [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    'The Mandalorian': Watch the First Trailer for 'Star Wars' Series

    The gunslinging lone warrior — the Mandalorian, as they call him — calls the far reaches of the “Star Wars” galaxy home. Disney dropped the first trailer for the spinoff series during its biennial D23 convention on Friday, finally giving fans a closer look at the franchise’s newest character. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, who [...]

  • Lady and the Tramp trailer

    'Lady and the Tramp': Disney's Live-Action Remake Gets First Trailer (Watch)

    Ready your dog-friendly bowl of spaghetti, Disney has debuted the first trailer for its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The teaser was released during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim at the Disney + presentation. In addition to Thompson and Theroux, who play the Lady and Tramp, respectively, [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    'Angel Has Fallen' to Dominate Modest Box Office With $20 Million Weekend

    Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are leading the way at the North American box office with “Angel Has Fallen” on its way to about $20 million, early estimates showed Friday. Should forecasts hold, “Angel Has Fallen” will take in about double the next title, Universal’s second weekend of raunchy comedy “Good Boys” with about $10 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content