VERONIKA FRANZ AND JASMILA ZBANIC – AUSTRIA AT THE 77th VENICE FILM FESTIVAL

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Austrian director, screenwriter and film critic Veronika Franz will be part of the Jury for the competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival. Among the films in the running for the coveted Golden Lion will be Quo vadis, Aida?, directed by renowned Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, and a co-production between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France and Norway.

Austria at the Lido

Veronika Franz and Jasmila Zbanic. What do these two directors have in common? Soon told. The news is fresh: yesterday, Monday 27 July, the names of the jurors for the 77th Venice Film Festival were announced. Austrian director, screenwriter and film critic Veronika Franz, wife and long-time collaborator of Ulrich Seidl, will also be part of the main jury. Today, Tuesday 28 July, the press conference presenting the programme was held, chaired by the festival’s artistic director Alberto Barbera and the President of the Biennale Roberto Cicutto. Among the films in the running for the much-coveted Golden Lion is Quo vadis, Aida?, by renowned Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, as well as a co-production between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France and Norway. Austria, too, will therefore somehow leave its mark on this 77th Venice Film Festival.

A festival, this one, which – just as has happened with many other events – risked not happening at all this year. Or to being organised in a totally unconventional way. Yet, in the end, this was not the case and, despite the fact that the Covid-19 emergency is not yet over and the festival has had to take numerous measures in this regard, the legendary Lido event will take place from September 2 to 12. This Venice Film Festival 2020 will therefore be the first of the major international festivals to take place after the long lockdown period. But let’s return to our Veronika Franz and Jasmila Zbanic.

Together with names like Christi Puiu (director and screenwriter), Ludivine Sagnier (actress), Christian Petzold (director and screenwriter), Johanna Hogg (director and screenwriter) and Nicola Lagioia (writer) – all headed by actress Cate Blanchett – Veronika Franz will be present in Venice, in order to decide which will be the best films of this 77th edition. Yes, precisely in Venice, where in (not too) distant 2014 she presented – within the Orizzonti section – Goodnight Mommy, her first fiction feature film that she wrote and later directed together with her nephew Severin Fiala.

The reactions in the auditorium following the screening of Goodnight Mommy were quite divided. And given some particularly violent scenes, there were even those who left the theatre. Yet despite everything, it was impossible not to notice the extreme and sophisticated stylistic care with which the film was made, as well as an excellent mastery of the film medium itself on the part of the two directors.

And thanks to Goodnight Mommy, then, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala – after a debut in 2012 with the documentary Kern – have achieved international notoriety, confirming themselves as some of the most interesting contemporary European horror directors. A career, theirs, in continuous ascent, which has seen, at the beginning of this 2020, the theatrical release of the equally controversial The Lodge, already highly acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival 2019.

Now, therefore, it will (also) be Veronika Franz’s job to judge the best films of this 77th Venice Film Festival. And at a first impression, the choice would not seem – at least at first glance – to be easy at all. Alongside films like Dear Comrades (by Andrei Konchalovsky), Wife of a Spy (by Kiyoshi Kurosawa), Nomadland (by Chloe Zhao), Laila in Haifa (by Amos Gitai) and Notturno (by Gianfranco Rosi) – just to name a few – there will also be the aforementioned Quo vadis, Aida?, by Jasmila Zbanic.

This film is set in Bosnia in 1995 and tells the story of Aida, a translator for the UN who lives in the small town of Srebrenica and who, during the war, will have to do everything to protect herself and her family, as her job – mediating during important international negotiations – will put her in serious danger.

And who better than Jasmila Zbanic to bring to life characters from her beloved Bosnia who, through their personal stories, successfully depict the history of an entire nation? Yes. Because, in fact, the now famous director and documentary filmmaker – to whom, in 2016, the Bergamo Film Meeting also dedicated a small section – has been making herself known and appreciated on the international film scene for several years now.

Hers, for instance, are the excellent Grbavica – in competition in Berlin in 2006 – as well as On the Path (2010) and the romantic comedy Love Island (2014). And so, great is the expectation for Quo vadis, Aida?, also co-produced by Austria and, to be exact, by Coop99 Filmproduktion, the prestigious production company founded by directors Jessica Hausner, Barbara Albert, Antonin Svoboda and cameraman Martin Gschlacht.

In spite of the difficult past months, in spite of the fact that the Covid emergency is not yet over, then, it will soon be possible to return to Lido to see what new things the seventh art has to offer us. And Austria – with Veronika Franz and Jasmila Zbanic – will also be present at this legendary festival. The oldest film festival in the world, which has been giving us great emotions every year for the past seventy-seven years.

Info: the website of the Biennale di Venezia