Last year, the small Southern African nation of Lesotho entered the Academy Awards race for the first time with Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection,” one of 28 features spawned over the past decade by Biennale College — Cinema, the workshop created by Alberto Barbera for emerging filmmakers to develop and produce micro-budget feature-length films.
The College was conceived by Barbera in tandem with Torino Film Lab topper Savina Neirotti, who also heads the unique
Instead of backing just one aspect of the filmmaking process, this lab shepherds movies through their entire production cycle, working closely with director-producer teams on their projects from initial stages, offering experts and on-site workshop sessions in a former monastery on the island of San Servolo in the Venetian lagoon.
Other standout Biennale College titles include U.S. director Tim Sutton’s experimental “Memphis,” released theatrically stateside by Kino Lorber; and “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy,” by Thai helmer Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, a first-of-a-kind feature based on 410 consecutive Twitter updates that made a splash on the fest circuit and won four Thailand National Film Awards.
More recently, Venezuelan helmer Jorge Thielen Armand’s poetic social drama “La Soledad” scooped up several prizes on the fest circuit, while U.S. director Anna Rose Holmer’s horror movie “The Fits” went on to play at Sundance and was nominated at the 2016 Gotham Awards and nabbed a first feature nom at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards.
Biennale College films that will screen in Venice this year include drama “The Cathedral” by Brooklyn-based director Ricky D’Ambrose, starring Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer and William Bednar-Carter and produced by Graham Swon. Other films screening include “Al Oriente,” from Ecuador’s José María Avilés; “La Tana,” by Italy’s Beatrice Baldacci; Argentine entry “Nuestros Días Más Felices,” from Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière; Italy’s “La Santa Piccola,” from Silvia Brunelli; and U.S. drama “Mon Père, le Diable,” from Ellie Foumbi; plus VR entry “Lavrynthos,” from Fabito Rychter and Amir Admoni, starring Alice Braga and Louis Ozawa.