La Biennale di Venezia

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Remarks by

ALBERTO BARBERA

Director of the 74th Venice International Film Festival


Everything that is virtual is real

 

In the light of the latest developments in the revolution that is changing the audiovisual experience as conceived since the invention of the cinematograph, one might respectfully toy with Hegel's maxim, according to which everything that is rational is real, updating it to everything that is virtual is real. How else might we approach a phenomenon that until just a few months ago was considered little more than the latest technological gimmick, but that now seems destined to become one of the most colossal investments to which the cultural industry will devote a significant share of its future?

When, early this year, we decided to hesitate no longer and take a risk by dedicating a workshop of the Biennale College Cinema, as well as a totally new competition, to the products of Virtual Reality (more synthetically, VR), we never imagined that we would receive more than one hundred proposals for short films, features, and installations (interactive and not). From these we have chosen 22 titles, to be submitted to the evaluation of an international jury and to viewers who will enter the new specially-equipped space on the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio, a short distance from the Lido di Venezia.

Directions opening up for the future

It is likely that VR is not (will not be) an extension of cinema or indeed its future, but something else and completely different, that will coexist beside it and become rooted in dedicated spaces (theatres created ad hoc, contemporary art museums, etc.). The fact, however, that so many contemporary artists and filmmakers are now at work experimenting with the creative and expressive potential of this new language, seems to us a perfectly sufficient motivation to justify the decision we have made.

As for the core of this year's Venice Film Festival, I would like everyone to reflect on what Giulio Paolini said about museums, that "they must consist rather than be manifest". The temptation that many festivals seem to fall into these days, runs in the opposite direction, as they string together a number of films (often too many), scheduled one after the other (if not on top of the other) – as entertainment or as a pretext to offer audiences, with the sole aim of boosting attendance and justifying their own existence. Without presuming to maintain that we have been successful, what we are seeking to do is to try and present them as one might the classics which, as Mandelstam once said, should not be understood as what has been, but as what is yet to come. Rather than a snapshot of the present, or a souvenir selfie of our contemporary cinema, the films we propose are in some way a perception of the future, an indication of one or more (or better) directions that are opening up for the future, like a forward sprint, as we scrutinize the horizon to spot "what's next". If we have not moved too far from the uncertainty of this goal, we can once again claim that there is some meaning to our work.

Biennale Cinema
Biennale Cinema