The Cinema Now section will present some of the most notable films of this year’s festival season. The retro fantasy The Shape of Water (2017) directedy by Guillermo del Toro, the black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) directed by Martin McDonagh and the family drama April’s Daughter (Las hijas de Abril, 2017) directedy by Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco.
The Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is regarded as one of the most original directors in the contemporary Hollywood. His most acclaimed works include the magic realism fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, 2006) and two lavish treatments of the comic book phenomenon Hellboy. His latest film The Shape of Water (2017) was crowned with the Golden Lion for Best Film, the top prize of the Venice Film Festival, and is one of the hottest candidates for the Academy Awards. Once again, Del Toro is balancing on genre borders bringing a sci-fi set in the past, specifically in the paranoid historical period of the Cold War. At the same time, he pays tribute to the 50s and 60s American monster film, particularly referring to the famous Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Shape of Water is a mixture of political thriller, horror and melodrama. Thanks to del Toro’s unique imagination, the universal story of David’s battle with Goliath and the forbidden love between the Beauty and the Beast, this genre mix comes across as consistent. The result is a unique emotional experience that will intrigue light as well as demanding viewers. The story of the film is set in 1963, in the midst of the Cold War. The main character, a maid called Elisa, works in a secret government laboratory, where authorities are holding captive their secret classified experiment – a fish-man of unknown origin. Using sign language, Elise manages to make contact with him. Gradually the two fall in love, which drives Elise to pursue her dangerous plan of setting him free. The main roles will sparkle with such big names as Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer.
Another Venetian premiere with no less of a successful festival career is the black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), written by the Oscar-winning screenwriter, director and distinguished playwright Martin McDonagh. The film was awarded Best Screenplay prize in Venice and received audience awards at festivals in Toronto and San Sebastian. Martin McDonagh is particularly famous for his black humour, grotesque depictions of violence, brilliant antihero characters and pop-culture references. His first feature film In Bruges (2008) won The Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri the director joined forces with such flm stars as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The main heroine, Mildred Hayes, is a mother whose daughter was murdered a few months ago. As waiting for the murderer’s capture proves fruitless, she decides to decorate the city entrance with three billboards, bearing uncompromising messages for the local venerable sheriff William Willoughby. When an immature and violent police officer Dixon gets involved in the conflict, the war can begin.
Another festival laurel-crowned film is Michel Franco’s April’s Daughter (Las hijas de Abril, 2017). The film received the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes and its world premiere met with fantastic response from the critics. Michel Franco has long been a favourite of this most important world film festival. In the year 2015, he received the Best Screenplay Award for the drama Chronic and in 2012 he won the Un Certain Regard competition with the film After Lucia (Después de Lucía, 2012). The family drama April’s Daughter tells the story of a young pregnant Valerie, living with her half-sister Clara. She’s expecting the child with her somewhat older boyfriend, but financial problems compel her to ask her mother April for help. Their family situation is far from ideal and April becomes convinced that Valeria is just not fit to be a mother. Therefore, she opts for a drastic solution. Once again, Michel Franco has shot a powerful psychological drama about tense relationships and characters that all of a sudden find themselves hard up and helpless. The main role of April is played by the fantastic Spanish actress Emma Suárez, whose talent could also be witnessed in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film Julieta (2016).