Orrizonti (Horizons) Awards at 74th Venice Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan
The special jury prize in the Orrizonti section of the 74th Venice Film Festival (Aug 30 -  Sept 9) was awarded to Caniba directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel. 
The filmmakers allege that they employ “a decentered, nonanthropocentric approach to the visual practice of the moving image" and that "their camera does not focus on humans as privileged actors”. Though this sounds impressive, their subject matter is one that has been medialized and fetishized since the 1980’s in numerous films and interviews, and hundreds of photographs, articles and publications.
In 1981, a Japanese graduate student was rejected by a Dutch woman who was his colleague. He then murdered and cannibalized her body. After a brief incarceration, Issei Sagawa signed himself out of the mental ward of a French hospital and returned home to Japan where he supported himself by writing manga and acting in cooking shows and pornographic films. 
The filmmakers approach involves an extensive use of close-ups of Issei and his brother Jun, often out of focus, often obscured by unknown objects in front of the camera. There are no questions, at least on camera, to the Sagawas.
The filmmakers display a celebrity, his brother, his playmate and found footage of his family through blurry close-ups and skewed camera angles and tracking shots. In the end, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel have succeeded in making a "spectacle" of a man by going against the grain of their ambitions.

The award for Best screenplay in the Horizons section went to the Iranian director Alireza Khatami for Oblivion Verses (Los versos del Olvido). It is Khatami’s first feature film, a film with no traditional plot or storyline and only 20% dialogue. 
Oblivion Verses (Los versos del Olvido)
Oblivion Verses, according to Khatami, is an art film about a man “who resists forgetting”. The film opens as a grave is being dug –The digger tells the story of the man he is burying to the morgue caretaker (Juan Margallo). He explains that the story of the dead is what gives them dignity as humans. Without a story, the living are not honored.  
The caretaker remembers everything but names and can recall the number of days he has worked or the number of days the visitors come to look for their missing relatives.  
Each shot and every scene of the film is calculated precisely but it is not movement in the sense of constant action, which Khatami equates with “capitalism”.
Alireza Khatami
The Orizzonti Award for Best Director went to Vahid Jalilvand for No Date, No Signature from Iranthe story of a government coroner. On his way home one night, Dr. Kaveh Nariman (Amir Agha’ee), is overtaken by a car that wants to pass. Nariman swerves his car in order to not be hit on the left even though a man on a motorbike with an eleven-year-old boy, a woman and a child are on the right and are knocked off the road. Narimen offers to drive them to the hospital but the father Moosa (Navid Mohammadzadeh) refuses and drives off with his wife and children.
The accident later comes to haunt Nariman. His colleague and intimate friend Dr. Sayeh Behbahani (Hediyeh Tehrani) later performs an autopsy on the same boy from the roadside accident who has apparently died of botulism. His parents are questioned about serving tainted food and deny any wrong doing.The Orizzonti Award for Best Actor went to Navid Mohammadzadeh for his portrayal of Moosa. 

Jalilvand is excellent in creating suspense through character studies by excellent actors. Everyone looks suspicious and seems to have something to hide. Given the political situation in Iran, the uncertainty of the characters reflects a society that treats offenders of the state harshly. 

© 2017 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/01/17
Movie Magazine International