Venice SIC Critics' Week to close with Moroccan adventure tale 'Queens'

The Venice sidebar's mission is "to draft a map of the cinema of the future by choosing seven debut features from all over the world," and this year the line up includes the woman-centric debut feature from Morocco's Yasmine Benkiran as well as Kazakh-born Alex Schaad's psychological thriller 'Skin Deep'.
Venice SIC Critics' Week to close with Moroccan adventure tale 'Queens'

The Venice Settimana Internazionale della Critica (SIC), now in its 37th edition, is the result of tight teamwork, the crowning achievement of the Union of Italian Film Critics (SNCCI). Their selection committee is headed by SIC's general delegate Beatrice Fiorentino, who is joined this year by a new group made up of Enrico Azzano, Chiara Borroni, Ilaria Feole and Federico Pedroni.

This year, they also feature a new logo that represents their philosophy of openness and a constant dialogue between the filmmakers, the critics and the audience. Of course, the SIC also adopts a green philosophy and their catalogue, while a few copies will be made available, will encourage the press and the public to access it online.

"We start again from the future," declared Fiorentino, continuing "this is no easy task because the numbers speak of an important crisis, a progressive and drastic decline in attendance rates in what was once the temple of films and cinephilia." She asks the question "How to react then?" And gives a roadmap to the future, with her answer: "What should the Settimana do and what goals should it set itself in order to provide adequate answers to the thousands of questions that inevitably arise in such a situation? The answer, of course, lies on the screen. But most of all in the relationship between the images on screen and reality. A changed and changing reality, clearly in the process of readjustment."

This year's closing selection, which premieres out of competition, is Queens (Malikates) by Moroccan-born, Paris based filmmaker Yasmine Benkiran. In Casablanca, Morocco, "a trio of women with the police on their tail embarks on a long escape that takes them across the rugged red terrain and flower-filled valleys of the Atlas to finally reach the Atlantic coast," goes the film's synopsis. It is interesting to note that Queens went through the Doha Film Institute's Fall of 2019 Grants cycle as a film in production, so we can expect the same standard of greatness that we typically associate with DFI-aided projects. Their DoP is esteemed Paris-born cinematographer Pierre Aïm, whose latest MENA-focused project was the 2022 Cannes Competition title Boy from Heaven directed by Tarik Saleh -- for which Saleh won the Best Screenplay award.

Alex Schaad's Skin Deep is premiering in competition at SIC this year. The actor and filmmaker was born in Kaskelen, Kazakhstan and moved to Germany with his family as a child. The film's synopsis reads: "On first glance, Leyla and Tristan seem like a happy young couple. But when they travel to a mysterious, remote island, a game of identities begins, which changes everything – their perception, their sexuality, their whole “self”. Not only is their relationship in jeopardy, they may never be who they once were again..." The film also features Iranian-born actress Maryam Zaree, as well as Dimitrij Schaad, who serves as co-writer on the project. The cinematography is by Ahmed El Nagar, who also served as DoP on the Schaads' 2016 short Invention of Trust.

For the Critics' Week complete line-up and more info, check out the SIC website.

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