Interview: Alberto Barbera, Director of 69th Venice International Film Festival
The new director of the Venice International Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, commented on the films in Competition and the novelties of this 69th edition. He compared the section for Italian Films ‘Controcampo’ to the Indian Reservation system. Some extracts from the press conference:
On the difficulty and the criteria of the selection
This year the Festival is presenting only 60 films in total, a number that allows people to see most of the films. They are all world premieres, except for one (Shokuzai, a film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa that began as a TV series only transmitted in Japan). The 18th film in Competition is yet to be revealed. I can only say that it won’t be Chinese and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. The last few weeks have been extremely tiring, almost dramatic. I invited my colleague and friend, the director of the Toronto Film Festival who can take 350 films and not say no to anyone. We, on the other hand, through sacrifices, discussions, second thoughts and feelings of guilt, selected one third of those that were suitable candidates. The selection criteria were the absolute quality and the respect of diversity.
The program: confirmed auteurs and young directors coming from far
We have taken some risks. The program includes confirmed auteurs, many Europeans, but also lesser known directors and unknown young filmmakers coming from distant countries that lack a film industry. Two prime examples are a short film produced in Nepal and the first film directed by a Saudi Arabian woman. What is interesting is that, despite the crisis, there is a great excitement for production worldwide. Countries such as Guatemala, Indonesia, and Malaysia are beginning to emerge thanks to new low cost digital technologies. This phenomenon is followed and encouraged. Festivals must recuperate their function as explorations of new aesthetics and languages and not only be an opportunity for recognition and homage. The recurrent themes of the selection are the crisis (economic, but also of values, behaviors, patterns and human relations), solitude (a consequence of the crisis) and fundamentalism (religious and economic).
The new additions: the Film Market, Biennale College and online projections
I must admit having made an error all those years ago when I said that markets were no longer necessary because they had been replaced by other places for exchange such as Internet. A fixed space for encounters is essential. The Venice Film Market will be concentrated over the first five days of the festival and the response of most buyers has been encouraging. Another novelty is the Biennale College, a one of a kind training workshop open to young talents: as a result, at least three low-budget projects will be maintained from the beginning to the end of their production over the coming year. The films will be presented at the Festival the following year. But the greatest innovation is that the festival is going online: each film from the Horizons section will also be projected on the net to 500 spectators at the cost of 4 euros. I don’t see any risks for anyone: online platforms are secure and unassailable, and with regards to the festival, the physical space remains essential. Films are made for the big screen but this initiative can help independent productions. Today, certain functional standards of festivals have become obsolete.
Farewell to the Italian Controcampo section and to retrospectives
Controcampo had become much too similar to an Indian reservation. Italian films in Venice should be considered as foreign films. You will see that they are less than last year (30-40% less) but they are in no way underrepresented: 14 Italian directors in the Official Selection and 8-9 more in the Venice Classics. It is a way in which to give more value to national production, not counting those films that will be part of the SIC and the Venice days, with whom we worked in perfect harmony. As for the retrospectives, I think they have had their moment. To organize a retrospective on a single auteur is a huge amount of work for acquisition of rights. There is, however, a new phenomenon that we considered: the restoration of classics. Twenty years ago it was the prerogative of very few cinematheques, today it is a common practice. Furthermore, the reinsertion of classics into commercial circuits is profitable. The restoration of classics will become a recurrent part of the Festival.
(Vittoria Scarpa for Cineuropa.org)