Shannon Murphy (L) and Ben Mendelsohn on set in ‘Babyteeth.’
Shannon Murphy’s debut feature Babyteeth, a bittersweet comedy starring Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis, Eliza Scanlen and Toby Wallace, will have its world premiere in official competition at the Venice International Film Festival.
Adapted by Rita Kalnejais from her Belvoir Theatre play, the film joins an illustrious line-up from such filmmakers as James Gray, Todd Phillips, Steven Soderbergh, Noah Baumbach, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Olivier Assayas and Mario Martone.
David Michôd’s Netflix-commissioned The King, an adaptation of several Shakespeare plays with an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Mendelsohn and Lily-Rose Depp, will screen out of competition. Michôd and Edgerton co-wrote the screenplay. Liz Watts and Brad Pitt are among the producers.
Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine’s Passenger, a 360 degree stop-motion VR film produced by Film Camp’s Philippa Campey, and Callum Cooper’s Porton Down will premiere in the Venice Virtual Reality competition.
Funded by Screen Australia, Passenger tells the story of arriving in a new country to live, with the taxi driver, himself a migrant to Australia, acting as the guide while also revealing small parts of his own story.
The directors said: “Creating a stop-motion VR experience was enormously challenging, but the film is everything we hoped it would be. We’re so happy that Venice will provide an incredible launching pad to allow many people to experience Passenger.”
Porton Down explores the disquieting experiences of Don Webb, who found himself entangled in a secret British Cold War program, an experience that mystified him for the next 50 years.
Jamie Helmer and Michael Leonard’s The Diver will screen in the short films competition. Written by Leonard, the film follows a socially awkward young man (Nicholas Denton) who lives at home with his parents (John Brumpton, Dana Miltins). They encourage him to grow and sell vegetables and to go diving. His underwater explorations are fuelled by stories from an eccentric older woman (Kaarin Fairfax).
Produced by Alex White with Jan Chapman as EP, Babyteeth is one of only two features from female filmmakers selected for competition: the other is Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate, a comedic drama about a young Saudi female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in municipal elections.
Among last year’s cohort of films vying for the Golden Lion there was only one helmed by a woman: Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale.
Mendelsohn and Davis play a couple who discover their ill teenage daughter Milla (Scanlen) has fallen in love with a drug dealer (Wallace). It’s her protective parents’ worst nightmare but Milla is teaching those in her orbit how to live like you have nothing to lose.
Screen Australia backed the film with Create NSW, WeirAnderson.com, Jan Chapman Films and Spectrum Films. Universal Pictures will release on behalf of eOne.
Murphy made her feature debut following TV credits including On the Ropes, Offspring, Love Child, Sisters and Rake.
Among the 21 titles in competition are Gray’s Ad Astra, a science-fiction drama starring Brad Pitt; Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, an espionage thriller featuring French actors Jean Dujardin and Louis Garrel; Phillips’ Joker, with Joaquin Phoenix in the villainous title role; Baumbach’s Marriage Story, a divorce drama pairing Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson; and Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, a comedy about the Panama Papers scandal starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas.
The festival had announced it would open with The Truth, starring Catherine Deneuve, Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche, the first foray into French-language filmmaking from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda.
The 76th Venice Film Festival runs from August 28 to September 7.
The Truth – Hirokazu Kore-eda (France/Japan) (opening film)
The Perfect Candidate – Haifaa Al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia/Germany)
About Endlessness – Roy Andersson (Sweden/Germany/Norway)
Wasp Network – Olivier Assayas (France/Belgium)
Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach (US)
Guest of Honour – Atom Egoyan (Canada)
Ad Astra – James Gray (US)
A herdade – Tiago Guedes (Portugal/France)
Gloria Mundi – Robert Guédiguian (France/Italy)
Waiting for the Barbarians – Ciro Guerra (US/Italy)
Ema – Pablo Larraín (Chile)
Saturday Fiction (Lan xin da ju yuan) – Lou Ye (China)
Martin Eden – Pietro Marcello (Italy/France)
La mafia non è più quella di una volta – Franco Maresco (Italy)
The Painted Bird – Václav Marhoul (Czech Republic/Ukraine/Slovakia)
Il sindaco del Rione Sanità – Mario Martone (Italy)
Babyteeth – Shannon Murphy (Australia)
Joker – Todd Phillips (US)
An Officer and a Spy – Roman Polanski (France/Italy)
The Laundromat – Steven Soderbergh (US)
No. 7 Cherry Lane (Ji yuan tai qi hao) – Yonfan (Hong Kong)
Check out the full Venice line-up here.