Edoardo De Angelis’ “Commander,” a drama based on the true story of World War II Italian naval officer Salvatore Todaro, has been chosen as the new opening night film at the 2023 Venice International Film Festival, which begins on August 30.
The film will replace Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” a sports drama starring Zendaya and Josh O’Connor that was originally announced to open the festival but opted to be withdrawn rather than released during the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. The SAG strike would have prevented the actors from showing up in Venice to support the film.
“Challengers” is the first film to be pulled from a fall festival during the strikes.
“In the framework of period films, in which Italian cinema has invested considerable production resources, Edoardo De Angelis’s film resonates with unmistakably contemporary echoes,” Venice festival director Alberto Barbera said in a statement. “The true story of Commander Salvatore Todaro, who saved the lives of enemy sailors who had survived the sinking of his merchant ship, endangering the safety of his own submarine and his men, is a powerful call for the need to put the values of ethics and human solidarity before the brutal logic of military protocol. I thank the author, the producers Nicola Giuliano and Pier Paolo Verga and Paolo Del Brocco with Rai Cinema for having accepted our invitation to open the 80th Biennale di Venezia film festival”.
The full festival lineup will be announced next week.