Damien Chazelle’s Ryan Gosling starrer, First Man, will open the Venice Film Festival on August 29. The 11-day event, the world's oldest movie festival having begun in 1932 – a full 14 years before Cannes started its run on the French Riviera – will be a big affair this year, celebrating as it will be its 75th edition on the lovely island of Lido, off mainland Venice.
First Man will tell us the story of Neil Armstrong, the first ever human to step on the moon on July 20 1969. Gosling plays Armstrong, and the film, written by Josh Singer (whose Spotlight screened at the 2015 Venice festival, and traced the Boston Globe's investigation into child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in and around the city, a daring inclusion in a predominantly Catholic country), recounts the preparations for the lunar landing and the trek itself.
Claire Foy appears as Armstrong’s wife, Janet, while Corey Stoll and Mike Collins play fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Lukas Haas, respectively.
Universal will release First Man in theatres this October, but India dates are still unclear.
For Chazelle and Gosling, Venice would be a kind of homecoming. Both were involved in 2015's La La Land, a hauntingly beautiful musical which opened the Festival and which went on to win six Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Actress/Emma Stone, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, etc). It was nominated under 14 categories – a record held by All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997).
In fact, Venice has in recent years become a high-profile platform for Oscar contenders: Black Swan in 2010 (which went on to clinch the Best Actress Academy Award for Natalie Portman), Gravity in 2013 won seven Oscars the following year (Best Director, Best Cinematography and so on), and Birdman in 2014 (Best Picture, Best Director).
The Festival will run from August 29 to September 8.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering the Venice Film Festival for over 15 years)