Venice jury president Alfonso Cuarón blew the doors off of the festival two years ago when his out-of-competition Gravity debuted here on opening day. The following year, Cuaron’s pal, Alejándro Gonzalez Iñárritu, captivated the Venice audience with ultimate Best Picture Oscar winner Birdman. When I asked Iñárritu on opening night last year if he thought their amigo Guillermo del Toro would be next on the Lido, he enthused, “Yes! It’s the Mexican cartel taking over Venice.” With del Toro’s Crimson Peak not part of the lineup here, Cuarón today encouraged a packed press conference, to “go see the film” when it’s released. He then added, “Obviously, I miss Guillermo not being here.”

crimson peakCrimson Peak, from Universal and Legendary, begins international rollout on October 9 and many had expected it to play here; not as the opener, but at least in some capacity. It’s another Universal film about a different sort of peak — Everest — which is handling opening night duties and screened here this morning for the press to widely positive reaction. Venice Fest chief Alberto Barbera told me in late July that he had wanted Crimson Peak, and so did del Toro. “We tried and tried and tried,” but there was concern about the fantasy-horror pic being “labeled as a festival film,” Barbera said.

There are a handful of movies from Mexico here and Cuarón was asked about the Mexican New Wave. Answering a reporter in Italian, he said he, Iñárritu and del Toro, were an “old generation” new wave and praised the current talent as making “more interesting cinema.”

venice poster 2015His jury has no pre-determined expecations. “I don’t think that coming to a festival expecting what films to see is a very healthy attitude. I think you have to come here being well-disposed to cinematographic work. Obviously the one clear issue is the diversity of films in their form and expression. It’s important to look at them with this in mind.”

Joathan Demme is leading the Horizons (Orrizonti) jury, which is akin to Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, or as Barbera says, “not a B-series jury, it’s the other side of the coin as it were.” Demme noted, “We are looking collectively for films that have been made with great passion and commitment that will cause us to engage. We’re wide open and have declared ourselves the ‘Socialist Republic of Orrizonti.’ We’re just excited to see films.”

Barbera added about the official selection, “A theme which is a very thin thread, but which is very strong, is that most of the directors around the world feel the need to reflect on reality and most of the films here are from real-life stories, based on historical facts or are highly contemporary. I don’t think it’s a lack of creativity or imagination. I think it’s a need on the part of creators to reflect on our world. We all have the impression we have lost control of our world.”