Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley’s mountaineering thriller will open this year’s oldest surviving film festival, which is learning fast how to beat off competition from the likes of Toronto and Telluride
The Venice film biennale may be the world’s oldest surviving film festival, having staged its first edition in 1932, but venerable origins and a glorious past are no guarantee that Venice can secure its future. Especially if you consider its recent near-eclipse by the Toronto film festival, the near-simultaneous North American event that has in recent years become a powerhouse of international dealmaking and a magnet for world-premiere film launches. But the signs are increasingly evident that Venice is regaining its poise and making new headway in what has become a frantically competitive area of the film universe.
As it gears up for its 11-day extravaganza on the Lido, the long, narrow island to the south-east of the ancient city of Venice, the film festival is looking forward to better times. Its opening film is the British-produced mountaineering thriller Everest, featuring Anglo-American glamour in the shape of Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley and Josh Brolin; its competition strand has an impressive list of international auteurs, including Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl), Alexander Sokurov (Francofonia), Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) and Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa); and a number of authentic coups, including the world premiere screening of Black Mass, the much-hyped gangster film featuring Johnny Depp as James “Whitey” Bulger, and a first look at Beasts of No Nation, the African-set war thriller that represents Netflix’s most serious shot yet across Hollywood’s bows.