Abel Ferrara’s “Padre Pio,” starring Shia LaBeouf as an Italian monk who gained rock-star status among the Catholic faithful, is among the titles set to launch from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Giornate Degli Autori.
The section, also known as Venice Days, will see LaBeouf back on the big screen after the actor — best known for his roles in the Transformers and Indiana Jones franchises — took a break from acting in 2020 following allegations made by his ex-girlfriend Tahliah Debrett Barnett. The singer, known as FKA twigs, sued the actor for sexual battery, assault and emotional distress.
It is not yet known whether LaBeouf will be on the Lido to promote “Padre Pio.”
In the latest film by Ferrara, who is known for cult classics such as “Bad Lieutenant,” LaBeouf puts in what Giornate chief Gaia Furrer called an “extraordinary” performance as the “mystic and feverish” Capuchin monk born in the late 19th century in a small Southern Italian town. Throughout his life, Padre Pio generated both devotion and controversy and galvanized the faithful who believe he bore the stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion.
Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999, and then canonized in 2002.
Other standout titles in the Venice section, which is modeled on Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, comprise Steve Buscemi’s “The Listener” — which is the closing film — featuring “Thor” star Tessa Thompson as a help call line volunteer who gets on the phone every night across America, fielding calls from people who feel lonely and hopeless.
The Venice Days opener is Lebanese director Wissam Charaf’s drama “Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous” about the struggles of two lovers in Beirut. One is an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker, while the other is a Syrian refugee.
Other competition titles comprise first-time British director Georgia Oakley’s “Blue Jean,” set during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as the British prime minister. It stars “The Alienist’s” Rosy McEwen as a gay physical education teacher forced to live a double life when Thatcher’s government passes a new law that stigmatizes the LGBTQ+ community.
Elsewhere, Chinese director Huang Ji and her husband Otsuka Ryuji are launching “Stonewalling,” which Furrer said is the final film in a feminist trilogy that started with “Egg and Stone” from 2012, which won the top prize in Rotterdam.
“March on Rome,” a high-profile doc by British director and film historian Mark Cousins (“The Story of Film: A New Generation”), exploring the roots of fascism by analyzing films, photographs and other documents found in Italian archives, is premiering out of competition.
Shorts by Carla Simón, whose sophomore feature “Alcarrás won this year’s Berlin Golden Bear, and U.S. director Janicza Bravo who broke out at Sundance in 2020 with her second film “Zola,” will unspool as part of the Prada-commissioned Miu Miu Women’s Tales, a series of short films directed by women.
A jury of 27 young film buffs from 27 EU countries will decide the Venice Days prizes, under the guidance this year of cutting-edge French director and screenwriter Celine Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”).
The 18th edition of Venice Days will run concurrently with the Venice Film Festival from Aug. 31 Sept. 10.
GIORNATE DEGLI AUTORI (VENICE DAYS) LINEUP
“Bentu,” Salvatore Mereu (Italy)
“Ordinary Failures,” Cristina Grosan (Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia)
“Blue Jean,” Georgia Oakley (U.K.)
“Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous,” Wissam Charaf (France, Italy, Lebanon) — Opening Film
“The Last Queen,” Adila Bendimerad, Damien Ounouri (Algeria, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Taiwan)
“The Damned Don’t Cry,” (Working Title), Fyzal Boulifa (France, Belgium, Morocco)
“Wolf And Dog,” Cláudia Varejão (Portugal, France)
“Padre Pio,” Abel Ferrara (Italy, Germany. U.K.)
“Stonewalling,” Huang Ji, Otsuka Ryuji (Japan)
“The Maiden,” Graham Foy (Canada, U.S.)
OUT OF COMPETITION –– SPECIAL EVENTS
“Olimpia’s Way,” Corrado Ceron (Italy)
“Alone,” Jafar Najafi (Iran)
“We’re Here to Try,” Greta De Lazzaris, Jacopo Quadri (Italy)
“Casa Susanna,” Sebastien Lifshitz (Italy)
“March on Rome,” Mark Cousins (Italy)
“The Listener,” Steve Buscemi (U.S.) — Closing Film
NOTTI VENEZIANE (Venetian Nights)
“Land of Upright People,” Christian Carmosino Mereu (Italy)
“Kristos, The Last Child,” Giulia Amati (Italy)
“The Crown Shyness,” Valentina Bertani (Italy)
“Las Leonas,” Isabel Achával, Chiara Biondi (Italy)
“Le Favolose,” Roberta Torre (Italy)
“Pablo From Neanderthal,” Antonello Matarazzo (Italy)
“Se Fate I Bravi,” Stefano Collizzoli, Daniele Gaglianone (Italy)
“The Bone Breakers,” Vincenzo Pirrotta (Italy)
“An Invisible Enemy,” Riccardo Campagna, Federico Savonitto (Italy)
WOMEN’S TALES PROJECT (shorts), in collaboration with Prada’s Miu Miu Label
“Carta a Mi Madre Para Mi Hijo,” Carla Simon (Italy)
“House Comes With a Bird,” Janicza Bravo (Italy)