Venice Film Festival jury president Bong Joon-Ho told the press corps at the opening press conference this morning that he’s looking forward to bringing his panelists together and hoping to “have an explosion with them” as they judge the 19 movies in competition. He added that the jury is “ready to fight, maybe, on the very last day.”
Musing on the past 18 months of the pandemic, the Parasite Oscar winner said, “In a way, looking back on it, it feels like this was a test and it shows the life force of cinema… As a filmmaker I don’t believe that the history of cinema and cinema could be stopped so easily. So, Covid will pass and cinema will continue.”
Bong’s jury includes Oscar winner and last year’s Golden Lion laureate Chloe Zhao who was unable to attend the 2020 festival to collect her prize for Nomadland. Said Zhao, “I was devastated that I couldn’t be here last year, to be able to come back on my first time in Italy and to serve under director Bong, I’m just honored.”
Discussion also centered around the festival being able to lure Pedro Almodovar and Paolo Sorrentino to screen their new works this year. Fest chief Alberto Barbera noted that Almodovar — whose Parallel Mothers officially opens the event tonight — is “one of the best directors of contemporary cinema. We have been courting him to convince him to come back to Venice after his debut in 1982, and in competition in 1988 with the film (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) that really launched his international career. Then, then he followed a different path, and was very often in Cannes due to the timing of his films.” Barbera said Almodovar has more recently been “struck” by the warm reception he’s received in Italy for his Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion and for his short film, The Human Voice, which screened on the Lido in 2020. After that experience, “He promised me his next film would be in competition here,” said Barbera.
As for Sorrentino, that was “a little bit easier.” Although his films generally play in Cannes, this year’s The Hand Of God is a Netflix title and Barbera noted how Cannes does not allow Netflix movies in competition because of the country’s 20-month windowing rules between theatrical and VOD. Hence, “it was quite a natural process which led Sorrentino and Jane Campion (with Netflix’s The Power Of The Dog) to come to Venice. That is a great satisfaction for us.”
Expanding on the Netflix situation — Venice was the first festival to put one of its films in competition with 2015’s Beasts Of No Nation — Barbera noted that apart from Cannes, “every other festival regularly admits in their competitions films produced by Netflix.” But in France, “You can’t ask Netflix to produce a film commercially and wait 20 months before showing it.” He called the window “a long and unacceptable period of time for any platform that is also a producer.”
Barbera said, “We are in a situation of great change. When we go back to normal, we will be facing a very different distribution scenario… The relationship between cinema and platforms is a relationship that will radically change. I am firmly convinced that traditional distribution in cinemas will not disappear and that we are moving towards a double distribution system.”
Still, those discussions are between producers and platforms and the “festivals can just observe what will happen. I’m hoping that the choices go in the right direction and that cinema will come out of this reinforced. I don’t think we have to demonize the platforms, they are a reality in the production scenario.”
Barbera continued, “We have to encourage youngsters to make a simple experiment: Ask them to watch a film at home and then ask them to watch the same film in a theater. They will realize the film they have seen is completely different, much more in terms of emotions, and the viewing at home has lost a lot of wealth of experience.”
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