Following the announcement of the Venice lineup today, I sat down with fest chief Alberto Barbera in Rome. He’s got what looks like a very solid roster of 55 films across the official selection that will unspool between August 27 and September 6 on the Lido. It all kicks off with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman on opening night. Barbera told me he was excited for the film, which he says marks a departure for the helmer of Babel, 21 Grams and Biutiful. “It’s inventive and light” and full of surprises. After a truly out-of-this-world festival last year which blasted off with eventual awards-season juggernaut Gravity on opening night, did he feel pressure this time around? “I try not to think about that,” he said. But he did allow that Gravity‘s success may have helped convince Fox Searchlight to debut it on the Lido. Oscar-winning Gravity director, and Inarritu pal, Alfonso Cuaron was also “very supportive” and Barbera says Cuaron is expected in town to continue that support at the premiere next month.
Last year, there were some ruffled feathers when a handful of films, including Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, premiered in Telluride despite being billed as world premieres in Venice. The two fests overlap on Venice’s first weekend. But Barbera says he has sat down with Telluride’s Tom Luddy, whom he calls a friend, over the past year and everything has been worked out. “I don’t like the idea of a war amongst festivals. I make a festival to support films and filmmakers. I don’t care at all about competition with others. I want collaboration, not competition.” The only thing he says he couldn’t accept was that another festival show films without telling him. In the spirit of increased communication, Barbera says he knows there are five titles that will world premiere in Venice this year with the filmmakers immediately hopping a plane after the screening to get to Colorado.
With a small number of slots, Barbera says he’s trying to present a window, “generally speaking, on this moment that can give an idea of cinema today and in the future… I try to build strong relationships with the studios and the independents in the U.S. The majors are important because everybody expects that. But the idea is to have the widest possible range of films from Hollywood to new filmmakers in emerging countries. But, not at any cost.”
Were there any movies he would have loved to have had, but didn’t get? Si, David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. Both of those are skipping the Venice, Telluride, Toronto triumvirate and are headed straight to New York.