Venice Film Festival: all the 21 films competing for the Golden Lion prize

The 78th edition of the world's oldest film festival returns with a glitzy line-up after a low-key event last year

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from 'The Power of the Dog', left, and Oscar Isaac in 'The Card Counter'. AP
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The Venice Film Festival returns on Wednesday with an ultra-glitzy line-up, including the world premiere of sci-fi blockbuster Dune and Kristen Stewart's turn as Princess Diana, cementing its status as a serious rival to Cannes.

After a low-key event last year owing to the pandemic, La Mostra is raising the stakes once again in the battle for film fest supremacy with the sort of line-up that has drool running down the chins of red carpet gawkers and pretentious film critics alike.

The world's oldest film festival has embraced Hollywood in recent years and its 78th edition, running September 1-11, is no exception.

Dune brings hot young things Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya to the Venice festival, while Ridley Scott's The Last Duel marks the bromantic return of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, writing and starring together for the first time since their Oscar-winning breakout Good Will Hunting in the 1990s.

But Venice still has serious arthouse chops, and the competition for the Golden Lion award features some of the era's most revered filmmakers, including Spain's Pedro Almodovar, Italy's Paolo Sorrentino and New Zealand's Jane Campion.

Almodovar opens the festival with the Penelope Cruz-starring Parallel Mothers.

The Princess Di biopic, Spencer, promises to be more than the usual fawning royal mush, as it comes from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, whose 2016 film was an intelligent and lauded take on Jackie Kennedy, starring Natalie Portman.

Since taking over in 2012, festival director Alberto Barbera is credited with rejuvenating La Mostra, partly by positioning it as the launch pad for Academy Award hopefuls.

Two of the last four Golden Lion winners, The Shape of Water and Nomadland, have gone on to win the best picture Oscar – something which had never previously happened.

Many other recent critical and box-office hits have debuted in the floating city, including La La Land, Joker and A Star Is Born.

The Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival will be awarded to one film among contenders from across the globe.

Here are the 21 films competing for the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion in no particular order:

1. 'Parallel Mothers'

Two single women prepare to give birth in a maternity ward in Pedro Almodovar's latest film with regulars Penelope Cruz and Rossy de Palma.

2. 'Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon'

Ana Lily Amirpour's fantasy film starring Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson and Jeon Jong-seo follows a girl with superpowers who escapes a mental asylum and rejoins the world in New Orleans.

3. 'Un autre monde'

The last of Stephane Brize's trilogy about the world of work, it stars Vincent Lindon as a boss forced to make tough decisions.

4. 'The Power of the Dog'

Two brothers feud on a Montana ranch after one comes home with a new wife, in Jane Campion's film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst.

5. 'America Latina'

Italian twins Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo wrote and directed this love story thriller starring Elio Germano.

6. 'L’evenement'

A young woman risks prison as she seeks an abortion in 1960s France in Audrey Diwan's drama.

7. 'Competencia oficial'

Penelope Cruz stars as a filmmaker dealing with two difficult leading men, including Antonio Banderas, in the comedy directed by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn.

8. 'Il Buco'

Michelangelo Frammartino's film is based on the true story of a group of speleologists who in 1961 discovered a deep cave in a remote area of Italy's south.

9. 'Sundown'

Tim Roth stars as a wealthy man seeking to walk away from his life while on holiday, in Mexican director Michel Franco's latest.

10. 'Illusions perdues'

Xavier Giannoli's film adaptation of the Balzac novel stars Benjamin Voisin, Xavier Dolan and Gerard Depardieu.

11. 'The Lost Daughter'

American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut is based on an Elena Ferrante novel and stars Olivia Colman as a woman obsessed with another mother and daughter.

12. 'Spencer'

Chilean director Pablo Larrain's film follows the last years of marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and stars Kristen Stewart and Jack Farthing.

13. 'Freaks Out'

A circus troupe in Rome becomes increasingly desperate with the onset of the Second World War in Gabriele Mainetti's film.

14. 'Qui rido io'

Toni Servillo stars as Naples' famous turn-of-the-century comedian Eduardo Scarpetta in Mario Martone's biopic.

15. 'On the Job: The Missing 8'

Erik Matti's action film with prisoners-turned-hitmen that explores corruption in the media is a sequel to 2013's On the Job.

16. 'Leave No Traces'

The true story of a witness to the fatal beating of a young activist in Warsaw by the militia under the Communist regime by Polish director Jan P Matuszynski.

17. 'Captain Volkovogov Escaped'

Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov's thriller follows a state interrogator in the former Soviet Union who flees, hoping to repent.

18. 'The Card Counter'

A gambler is haunted by his past as a serviceman in Paul Schrader's revenge thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe.

19. 'E stata la mano di Dio'

Paolo Sorrentino's drama is set in Naples during the heady years when football legend Diego Maradona delivered big dreams to the gritty southern city.

20. 'Reflection'

A Ukrainian surgeon seeks to rebuild his life after witnessing horrifying violence as a Russian prisoner, in Valentyn Vasyanovych's drama.

21. 'La Caja'

A Mexico City teen heads north to collect his father's remains but is drawn into the grim world of apparel assembly plants, in Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas' film.

The Venice Film Festival runs from Wednesday, September 1 to Saturday, September 11

Updated: August 28, 2021, 5:45 AM