Oscar-nominated American director, producer and screenwriter Darren Aronofsky is a key figure in contemporary film, and his work constantly engages the evolution and mutations of the many languages of art. He garnered extraordinary critical and commercial success worldwide for Black Swan – opening film of the 67th Venice Film Festival – a film that was able to infuse the sensibility of the boldest independent cinema, which shaped Aronofsky’s early years, with mass appeal, and to combine the pulp universes of melodrama and horror with a totally original and sophisticated artistic vision. For his earlier work The Wrestler (2008), Aronofsky was awarded the Golden Lion at the 65th Venice Film Festival, and later won the Independent Spirit Award for best feature. Darren Aronofsky made his debut in 1998 with Pi, earning the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. His second film, Requiem for a Dream, from the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., was presented at Cannes in 2000, and later won wide international recognition, including an Oscar nomination for Ellen Burstyn as best actress. The formal audacity and visceral quality of the film have made it an important point of reference for young filmmakers. His cult 2006 release, The Fountain, feverishly divided audiences after its premier in Venice that year. It continues to attract passionate fans and fierce debate.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finland)
A contemporary visual artist/filmmaker who explores diverse areas of audiovisual expression, Ahtila has participated twice at the Venice Biennale. In 1999 her installation Consolation Service won an honourable mention. In 2005 she projected The Hour of Prayer, an exploration of the sense of loss and pain. Retrospectives of her cinematic installations and films have been shown both at major art museums and film festivals throughout the world. Her films/ installations include Me/We, Okay, Gray (1993), a trilogy of short spots examining the connection between short films and TV-commercials; If 6 was 9 (1995-96), a split screen film about teenage girls and sex; Today (1996-97), a 3-episode work about relations between fathers and daughters; Love is a Treasure (2002), The Present (2003), The House (2003), The Wind (2003), about women with mental disorders; Where is Where (2009), a video-installation and split screen film that addresses the theme of war and the trauma it provokes among civilians. Her latest project is The Annunciation (2010-11). Eija-Liisa Ahtila has won a series of international acknowledgments including the Edstrand Art Prize (1998); the Vincent Van Gogh Biannual Award for Contemporary Art in Europe (2000); Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award (2000); the Artes Mundi Prize (2006); the Prince Eugen Medal (2008) for outstanding artistic achievement. She has also earned major film festival prizes at Viper, Tampere, Bonn, Oberhausen, Nordisk Panorama, Vila do Condo.
David Byrne (UK)
Well known as the musician who co-founded the group Talking Heads (1976-88) in New York and later as the creator of the highly regarded record label Luaka Bop. David Byrne has been involved with photography and design since his college days and has been publishing and exhibiting his work for the past decade. Like his film and musical projects, his artwork is often described as elevating the mundane or the banal to the level of art, creating icons out of everyday materials to find the sacred in the profane. Since the beginning Byrne has mixed exhibitions with public art: among others are billboards in Belfast and Toronto, subway posters in Stockholm, fly posters during the presidential election in NY, LA and Chicago and lightboxes in the streets of San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. Several books have appeared in recent years, each a kind of piece on its own. Strange Ritual (Chronicle Press, 1995), Your Action World (Edimar, Italy, 1998 and Chronicle, 1999) and The New Sins / Los Nuevos Pecados, (McSweeney’s in the USA and by Faber & Faber in the UK) are some of them. In September, 2006, Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, an account of cycling in many cities around the world, was published by Viking Press in 2009. Most recently Byrne released an audio book version of Bicycle Diaries complete with street sounds and narration and music by Byrne.
Todd Haynes (USA)
A director native to California, Todd Haynes relies on a complex imaginative narrative to explore obsessions, dealing with awkward or scandalous themes and focused on characters that are ill at ease, driven by distress and deep-set impulses, quick to defy rules and conventions. In 1988 Haynes wrote and directed an Oscar-winning short film entitled Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, in which the director used Barbie dolls instead of actors to reconstruct the life of a singer killed by anorexia. Haynes’ first feature-length film, Poison (1991), won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Golden Leopard at Locarno. His second feature-length film, Safe (1994), was nominated Best Film of the Year by the most influential critics of newspapers and magazines. Haynes’ third film was the intense rock drama Velvet Goldmine (1997). The Cannes Film Festival awarded the film the prize for Best Artistic Contribution. Far from Heaven (2002), Haynes’ fourth film, was presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival where the star Julianne Moore won the Coppa Volpi, and was highly acclaimed. Far from Heaven won four Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Julianne Moore, and Best Screenplay for Haynes. In 2007 he returned to Venice, presenting I’m Not There in Competition, a film inspired by the life of Bob Dylan, played by six different actors. The film won the Special Jury Prize and Cate Blanchett won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress.
Mario Martone (Italy)
Born in Naples in 1959, from the outset he wove together his work as a theatrical director with film. His career began in theatre with his founding the “Falso Movimento“ group. Subsequently, he founded the “Teatri Uniti“ cooperative with which, on top of continuing his theatre work, he produced a number of feature films: Morte di un matematico napoletano (Jury Grand Prix at Venice in 1992), Rasoi (from the show of the same name produced with Enzo Moscato and Toni Servillo), L’amore molesto (1995), Teatro di guerra (1998). He has also produced many works in other formats: short films, documentaries, edited works. For his work in film, he has received, amongst other prizes, two David di Donatello awards and a Silver Ribbon. Among his theatrical works, his productions of Greek tragedies and operas stand out especially. Between 1999 and 2000, he was director of the Teatro di Roma, where he radically changed the typical programme, creating the Teatro India, a new theatre space. In 2003, he contributed to the founding of the Teatro Mercadante Stabile in Naples, for which he organised the Petrolio project involving dozens of Italian artists on the themes in Pasolini’s novel. And from a novel by Parise, he directed his film entitled L’odore del sangue. Last year, he was present in Venice in competition with Noi credevamo; the film won seven David di Donatello prizes (including Best Film and Best Screenplay), and the Silver Ribbon awarded by the national union of cinema journalists. He is currently director of the Teatro Stabile di Torino.
Alba Rohrwacher (Italy)
After completing the courses of the Accademia dei Piccoli in Florence (1997-98) and of the Compagnia de’ Pinti school (1998-2000), she graduated in 2003 from the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema. Her debut on the silver screen came in 2004 with Mazzacurati’s L’amore ritrovato, and this was followed by a series of films that saw her as one of the most sought-after talents in Italian cinema: from Melissa P. by Guadagnino (2005) to Mio fratello è figlio unico by Luchetti (2006); Giorni e nuvole by Soldini (2007), Il papà di Giovanna by Avati (2008), Due partite by Monteleone (2009) and La solitudine dei numeri primi by Costanzo (2010). Since 2003, her career in cinema has been accompanied by work for the theatre, appearing in La casa degli spiriti directed by Della Seta and Sevald (2003), Bric à Brac, directed by Lupaioli (2004), Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini by Cruciani (2005), Lisa directed by Gioielli (2006) and Noccioline by Binasco (2007). Among the numerous awards she has won: two David di Donatello prizes, for Giorni e nuvole (2008) and Il papà di Giovanna (2009), two Ciak d’Oro awards, as best young actress in 2008 and as best actress in a leading role for Cosa voglio di più (2010), together with the Premio Esercenti (2007), the Golden Graal (2008), the Premio Flaiano (2008) and nomination for a Shooting Star at Berlin Film Festival of 2008. For her role in La solitudine dei numeri primi, in Venice she won the Premio Francesco Pasinetti for best actress in a leading role and in 2011 won the Ciak d’Oro and Silver Ribbon.
André Téchiné (France)
After working as a film critic for “Cahiers du cinéma“, André Téchiné began working behind the camera as assistant director for Jacques Rivette, Luc Moullet and Marc’O. In 1969, he made his first feature-length film, Pauline s’en va, with its moving portrait by actress Bulle Ogier, presented at the Venice Film Festival in the same year. In 1976 he released Barocco, followed in 1981 by Hotel des Amériques, with Catherine Deneuve, who would become one of his actress symbols. In 1985, he achieved recognition at Cannes, winning the award for Best Director for Rendez-vous. Family and love are the focus of Ma saison préférée, presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993. Téchiné does not disdain television, and he brings surprising grace to a television production such as Les roseaux sauvages (Wild Reeds, 1993), the story of four young people set during the war in Algeria. A version of the film was released in theatres to great acclaim and it won three Césars, including Best Director and Best Screenplay. In 1996 he directed Catherine Deneuve again, and Daniel Auteuil, in the drama Les voleurs. In 2001, in competition at the Venice Film Festival, he presented Loin, a digitally-made film that highlights the talent of several young actors. In 2009 the director returned to the silver screen with La Fille du RER. Also in 2009, the Cinémathéque française in Paris dedicated a retrospective to Téchiné, showing all his films. In 2011, he presented Impardonnables, entirely filmed in Venice, at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.