Special Report: 62nd Venice International Film Festival, Report 2

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Films with a religious theme seemed to be well attended at the Venice Film Festival that ended September 10th. Two films this year stand out in particular.

Let's just say that Mary by Abel Ferrera that won a special jury prize was created to be controversial and yet this chaotic and demanding film was a difficult one to sift through. The producer wrote me to tell me that Mary was in the works since Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, yet in the film Ferrara has an agenda: to go after Mel Gibson and make a film about a film made by a director like Gibson (Matthew Modine). The part was to go to bad boy Vincent Gallo and it actually might have been a better choice. "This is My Blood", the film within the film, focuses on the relationship between Jesus the disciples and Mary Magdalene. When the film within the film wraps, Mary (Juliette Binoche) stays in Jerusalem, still caught up in her role. A talk show hosted by Ted Younger (Forest Whitaker) is investigating theories about Christianity. An intriguing one is the possibility that Mary wasn't a prostitute, that she might have been one of the disciples and wrote a gospel. Now if the director of the film within the film had made that film, you can understand the protests in the film - about the film, but you never get a sense of the thesis of Mary at all.

The Passion of Joshua the Jew, by Pasquale Scimeca takes an historical direction. In the 15th century King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle of Spain banished Jews and Muslim. Joshua and his family flee to Sicily where his religious acumen brings him to the attention of religious men in the village, who later plot to kill him by casting him in a Passion play where he is actually executed like Jesus. The rich cinematography and sparse budget of the film tackle a complex theme on the alienation of Jews and Christians. Most refreshingly, there is no statement to Mel Gibson

The Passion of Joshua the Jew was one of several entries in the Venice Days section of the festival where films are chosen for innovative cultural and political themes.

Another entry in this section was Man Push Cart by Ramin Bahrani from New York The film is about an immigrant Pakistani Muslim living in NYC. A credible circle of characters at cross-cultural borders and the successes and failures of starting a new life outside your homeland is richly explored. I caught the film directly after Mary and there is a lot to be said for its contemplative nature after experiencing forced anxiety.

C.R.A.Z.Y. was an additional Venice Day entry by Jean-Marc Valle (from Canada). It is a film that spans three generations from the 60s to the 90s with music such as classic hits by Patsy Cline, David Bowie and the Jefferson Airplane), and pristine vintage hairstyles and clothes. The tale is a coming out story of a gay son in a Catholic family with colorful and imaginative art direction and compelling script.

Next week more from the Venice Film Festival

For Movie Magazine This Is Moira Sullivan, Venice Italy
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62nd Venice International Film Festival, Report 2