Opening the 75th Venice Film Festival this afternoon, artistic director Alberto Barbara appeared to reference to any number of issues surrounding this year’s event — from a lack of female filmmakers to an abundance of Netflix movies — noting he was present to introduce the juries and quipping, “We have already said everything we can say about this festival.” He got a chuckle for the line, but that didn’t stop serious discussion on the topics.
Jury President and last year’s Golden Lion winner Guillermo del Toro jumped in on the representation issue — Venice this year has just one female filmmaker in competition with Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. For festivals, “The goal has to be clear and has to remain to be 50/50 by 2020. If it’s by 2019 that’s better,” del Toro said in reference to the gender parity campaign.
He continued, “It’s a real problem we have in the culture in general. Many of the voices that should be heard, need to be heard. It’s not a matter of establishing a quota, it’s a matter of precisely in this time it’s extremely important to call it out and to question it and to name it and make it known… It’s not a controversy, it’s a real problem” that needs to be addressed in “a signficant way when the conversation is at the significant stage as it is right now.” He concluded to applause, “It’s beyond a gesture, it’s a need.”
On the Netflix question, del Toro waxed, “I think that the films are judged by what exists in that rectangle. Everything else that exists outside we can discuss and have an opinion on. But the quality of filmmaking and storytelling is what we will occupy ourselves with; it’s only in that rectangle that we allow life to exist in cinema.”
Of judging the films — which include ROMA by del Toro’s pal Alfonso Cuaron — del Toro said that being a jury member “continues my pact with cinema that goes beyond the commercial, cultural aspect. It’s something very intimate that recreates a relation with cinema in a personal way. It is a unique experience. You know you can change somebody’s life, so we all agree our task is very serious. We have to be very careful. This is very important.”
On Cuaron, he added, “I am not a dictator in the jury, I am just the president. I have an important role but it is an important role because I am an adult, I am a professional. Going back to the rectangle as regards experts in cinema, those who acocmpany me in this experience, there is great agreement among us that it doesn’t matter if a movie comes from Australia or Mexico.”