Here Are The Contenders For The Golden Lion At The 76th Venice Film Festival

Abhishek Srivastava - 56 weeks ago

The search for Oscar probables for 2020 has begun with the oldest film festival of the world opening today. Peppered with work of ace filmmakers, it seems a foregone conclusion that the fight for the Golden Lion would be a tough one this year too. The Film Hashery picks ten films from the competition section which are front runner for the coveted award.

(Gael Garcia Bernal and Penelope Cruz in a still from Wasp Network)

WASP NETWORK (Director – Olivier Assayas)

Wasp Network features Penelope Cruz, Gael Garcia Bernal, Edgar Ramirez and Wagner Moura – all power packed performers from Latin cinema. The thriller directed by Olivier Assayas is based on a true story that transpired during the Castro regime. A Cuban airline pilot steals a plane and escapes the country. He is soon joined by other dissidents from his country who plot against Fidel Castro. Having directed films like Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper in the past, Assayas’ film remains a top contender.  

(Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in a still from Marriage Story)

MARRIAGE STORY (Director – Noah Baumbach)

Director Noah Baumbach is back in fray after his much acclaimed The Meyerowitz Stories. This time too, the plot is centered around a family. Marriage Story is a portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. 

(Johnny Depp and Mark Rylance in a still from Waiting for the Barbarians)


Ciro Guerra’s film Waiting for the Barbarians is based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee. Before this film, it was assumed that the plot of Coetzee’s novel was unfilmable. Guerra’s film is a starry affair and brings together Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson together. The plot revolves around the administrator of an isolated frontier settlement who is looking forward to his retirement. Retirement becomes a distant dream when colonel Joll arrives who is assigned the task to report on the activities of the barbarians and the security of the border. Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent was one of the five films listed for the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2016.

(Ethan Hawke, Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve, and Mehdi Taleghani in a still from The Truth)

THE TRUTH (Director – Kore-eda Hirokazu)

2018 solely belonged to Kore-eda Hirokazu’s film Shoplifters. He is back again and dabbles in a language which is not his own. Language is not the only factor here; the film was made with an all French crew. The Truth again explores the subject of family and deals with a French cinema star. When she publishes her memoir, her daughter and son in law return from New York to live with her in Paris. The reunion of mother and daughter is soon engulfed by confrontation. 

(Meryl Streep in a still from The Laundromat)

THE LAUNDROMAT (Director – Steven Soderbergh)

The cast of Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat could be a matter of envy for any filmmaker. Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Sharon Stone headline the cast. The film is based on the events that unearthed The Panama Papers. The film begins with Ellen Martin who begins investigating a fake insurance policy which sends her down a rabbit hole. The Laundromat is adapted from Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Jake Bernstein.

(Jean Dujardin and Louis Garrel in a still from An Officer and a Spy)

AN OFFICER AND A SPY (Director – Roman Polanski)

The conviction of Roman Polanski for raping a 13-year-old in 1978 still haunts him but this has not deterred Alberto Barbera, the director of the Venice Film Festival, from including his film for the competition segment. Starring Jean Dujardin and Emmanuelle Seigner, An Officer and a Spy is about the Dreyfus Affair that created chaos in France for 12 years and caused upheaval across Europe. The film begins with Captain Alfred Dreyfus who is degraded for spying for Germany and is sentenced to life imprisonment in 1895. 

(Joaquin Phoenix in a still from Joker)

JOKER (Director – Todd Phillips)

There is every possibility that Heath Ledger’s Joker now has competition. Joaquin Phoenix steps into the role of Joker and this tragic story deals with the early beginning of Joker. Arthur Fleck struggles to find his way in Gotham City but a bad decision escalates events and reaches a point of no return. 

(Filip Kankovský in a stil from The Painted Bird)

THE PAINTED BIRD (Director – Vaclav Marhoul)

According to director Vaclav Marhoul, his film is neither a war film nor a film centered around holocaust but it’s just a timeless story.  The film is based on a novel by acclaimed writer Jerzy Kosinski and is shot in 35 mm black and white. The film revolves around the journey of a boy during the closing day of World War II. 

(Massimimiliano Gallo and Francesco Di Leva in a still from The Mayor of Rione Sanita)

THE MAYOR OF RIONE SANITA (Director – Mario Martone)

Mario Martone’s film deals with a mayor who is able to distinguish between decent folks and swindlers. When a baker’s son, determined to kill his father, presents himself before the mayor, past comes haunting and reminds him of his youth. 

(Luca Marinelli and Jessica Cressy in a still from Martin Eden)

MARTIN EDEN (Director – Pietro Marcello)

Martin Eden is an Italian film by Pietro Marcello and deals with Martin Eden, a sailor. After he saves Arturo from a beating, he is invited to the boy’s family home. When he falls in love with Arturo’s sister, his world turns upside down.


Venice Film Festival / The Golden Lion / Wasp Network / The Laundromat / An Officer and a Spy / Marriage Story / Waiting for the Barbarians / The Truth / The Painted Bird / Joker / Martin Eden / The Mayor of Rione Sanita

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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