As suggested by Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera last week, the 77th edition has added to its lineup. Both Pedro Almodovar’s The Human Voice and Regina King’s One Night In Miami are now among the Out of Competition titles for the Lido event that runs September 2-12.
Almodóvar’s latest, a 30-minute adaptation of the original stage play by Jean Cocteau, was filmed and edited in record time as soon as the lockdown was lifted. Tilda Swinton, who is receiving the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award in Venice, stars in the Spanish master’s first English-language project. It centers on a desperate woman who waits for the phone call of the lover who has just abandoned her.
One Night In Miami is King’s feature debut to which Amazon Studios recently acquired global rights, and adds to the American contingent in Venice. The story follows a young Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali) as he emerges from the Miami Beach Convention Center as the new World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Against all odds, he has defeated Sonny Liston and shocked the sports world. While crowds of people swarm Miami Beach to celebrate the match, Clay — unable to stay on the island because of Jim Crow-era segregation laws — instead spends the night at the Hampton House Motel in one of Miami’s historically black neighborhoods, celebrating with three of his closest friends: activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown. The next morning, the four men emerge determined to define a new world for themselves and their people.
The film is based on Kemp Powers’ 2013 stage play and explores what happened during those pivotal hours. Eli Goree plays Clay, Kingsley Ben-Adir is Malcolm X, Aldis Hodge is Brown and Leslie Odom Jr plays Cooke. The film is also scheduled for Toronto.
Says King, “We are pinching ourselves to have been selected to be a part of the Venice Film Festival — such a prestigious festival. Excited to announce another step in this film’s journey.”
Almodóvar comments, “I am very excited about coming back to Venice in such a special year, with COVID-19 as involuntary guest. Everything will be different, and I am looking forward to discovering it in person. It is an honor to accompany Tilda in a year in which she is receiving a very much deserved award. As a matter of fact, The Human Voice is a festival of Tilda, a display of her infinite and assorted registers as an actress. It’s been a spectacle to direct her.”
“It is an extraordinary pleasure and a great honor to welcome Pedro Almodóvar back to Venice, a year after awarding him the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, with his new film,” said Barbera. Of Miami, Barbera added, “Regina King’s film could not be more in step with the events of recent months and the importance of fighting against every form of racism that continues to prevail in our society. We are delighted that Venice can help to bring to public attention a film that is important for its content and confirms the talent of a great actress in her debut as a director.”
This complements a 2020 roster that is light on major studio titles with only Searchligh’s Nomadland and Sony’s The World To Come figuring in the competition, though the latter is an international acquisition. Overall this year, there is a very global/art house sense to the main lineup for the first major international film gathering since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In early July, Venice organizers outlined certain changes owing to sanitary protocols imposed by the COVID crisis. The overall number of films in the official selection has been reduced, while the competitive sections will maintain their usual procedures and format, as will the Out of Competition section, and Biennale College Cinema — though social distancing will be imposed.
Also last week, Barbera shared with Deadline details of the process — and challenges — in building the lineup and preparing for the festival, saying “The fact that we had to work under huge uncertainty,” was the major difficulty during the months since the pandemic began, and even as he put the finishing touches on the roster.