Hoard and Sky Peals take over the Venice Film Festival

two women and a man stand on stage smiling against a big screen

Hoard director Luna Carmoon and co-stars Saura Lightfoot Leon and Joseph Quinn, answer audience questions after their premiere

Catherine Bray, our Snr Festival Consultant, celebrates the UK films taking over Venice Critics' Week 2023

Way back in June, British Council ran an edition of our Festival Selector Screenings, where any new UK feature film hoping to play a major film festival can submit to play on a big screen for that festival’s decision makers, who come from all around the world to watch new UK films. June was the turn of Venice Critics’ Week (or the La Settimana internazionale della critica, as it’s known in Italy), a strand at the Venice Biennale focused entirely on filmmakers’ first films. We were joined by artistic director Beatrice Fiorentino, who was on the lookout for striking UK debuts to programme into their selection of just seven films competing for prizes on the Lido.

Happily, it was a strong year for the UK, with an incredible two UK films ultimately selected: Luna Carmoon’s Hoard and Moin Hussain’s Sky Peals. British Council's Film team was delighted to support both of these films with celebratory receptions at the Settimana headquarters, inviting a mixture of international industry reps, journalists from Screen International, Variety, The Telegraph, GQ, Little White Lies and The Guardian, and of course the cast and crew of the films.

Crowd of people talking animately with wine glasses at a party outdoors

Berlinale Festival head Carlo Chatrian chats to Venice Critics' head Beatrice Fiorentino

Hoard premiered first, and our celebration, co-sponsored by SODA, (The School Of Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University), was attended by stars Saura Lightfoot Leon and Joseph Quinn, director Luna Carmoon, producers Stephanie Aspin, Loran Dunn, Helen Simmons and Andy Starke, and BFI executives Mia Bays and Ama Ampadu. The reviews rolled in confirming Hoard was a hit: “fiercely intense and often macabre” (The Guardian), “Hoard makes you desperate to see what else its maker’s mind has in it” (The Telegraph) and “a genuinely audacious, unnerving British debut” (IndieWire).

Then three days later, we were delighted to welcome Sky Peals director Moin Hussain, star Faraz Ayub, producer Michelle Stein, BFI executive Ama Ampadu, Screen Yorkshire's Caroline Cooper Charles, and Film4 execs Ollie Madden and David Kimbangi, among a range of international guests, as British Council partnered with sales agent Bankside to deliver another reception celebrating the film. Once more, the press were blown away by another striking debut: “An intriguing premise builds into a melancholy exploration of loneliness, isolation and belonging” (Screen International), “a quintessentially British film” (Little White Lies), and “an arresting first feature – unsettling and effective” (The Guardian).

A smiling man with cropped hair holds a wine glass and laughs with friends at a party

Sky Peals director Moin Hussain enjoys his Venice moment

Hoard wins four prizes at Venice

At British Council, we love all of the films we support on their festival journey equally. But in a competitive strand, the festivals’ jury have some almost impossible decisions to make. We don’t envy them having to choose, but we were delighted to see the international Settimana jury, comprising head of Cannes Critics’ Week Ava Cahen, producer Bianca Oana, and artist Baloji, give Hoard lead actor Saura Lightfoot Leon a special mention for the grand prize, saying: “We were blown away by the charisma and talent of ...Saura Lightfoot Leon, and we wanted to pay tribute to her brilliant debut.” Luna Carmoon's directorial debut also scooped the Verona Cinema Club Prize, awarded by a jury of under-35s to the most innovative film. The jury said: “You asked us to soil ourselves, to swallow our securities and radically subvert the concept of waste. At that point we understood: only by sinking our hands into a dump of objects, memories and emotions can this accumulation be transformed into a home.”

The audience concurred, with the Audience Award, worth 3000 euros and voted for by Venice Critics’ Week audiences, also going to Hoard.

And finally, writer-director Luna Carmoon was also recognised for directing and screenwriting by the Authors under 40 Award, dedicated to the director Valentina Pedicini.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved, and giant thank you to the Settimana for their support and love for UK film.

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