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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Sezione Cinema EN (new)


Introduction by the Director of the 69th Festival, Alberto Barbera

“It is now established that the main function of a festival is to choose what we can and must see from among the huge blind mass of production”. Far from wishing to refute this claim, which may well be true, I feel I must add a few comments. Not marginal comments, however, if it is true that one of the reasons that led me to return to serving the Venice Film Festival, turns its gaze - in cross-eyed fashion - in a different direction. Nor am I referring to what's left of the freedom of choice of festival directors, increasingly influenced by other factors and other arguments, that I do not know whether it still makes sense to define as para-cinemagraphic or extra-cinemagraphic, given the increasing importance that the logics of marketing and the strategies (obscurely? irrationally? One could discuss them at length) determined by the product managers of the major companies or sales agents (increasingly intrusive) take on in regard to the fate of a film, the methods of promoting, launching and premiering a film. All this, it must be said, leads to a disregard for the fixed dates of the festival calendar, often by ignoring them entirely or accurately avoiding them.

I am referring indeed to the fact that what instead - or in addition - seems to be well established is the widespread awareness that a festival can no longer limit itself to being the venue of a hopefully sensible choice. In other words snapshots, however selective and critically-oriented they may be, of the production of a given time or historical period. They must instead rethink their role, according to the changes taking place in what, for want of a better term, continues to be called the cultural industry. Venice, which until now has evolved less by comparison with other festivals, is actually gearing up for more significant changes.

First, by undertaking a major renewal of its structures in a renovation project that over the next two or three years will include all the buildings, auditoriums, reception spaces and infrastructural logistics, which for too long have remained the same.

Secondly, by developing a genuine Film Market, an essential counterpart and commercial complement to the predominantly artistic nature of the Mostra (Show), the original and still relevant name of the festival, but without which Venice would increasingly look like a lame duck in the context of major festival events capable of joining together what have always been the two inseparable souls of cinema.

Giving life, in the end, to a permanent laboratory for training and supporting young emerging talents that in Venice will find not only a temporary home and tutors able to assist them in their process of developing a film project, but the economic conditions to be able to realize and present it, finally, at the Mostra the following year. An ambitious project titled Biennale College - Cinema, which we hope will overcome the challenge inherent in the uniqueness of its approach, to take on an increasing role in view of the proposals that the Venice festival offers its privileged interlocutors around the world. That we have succeeded after little more than six months of work, at least to give shape to and initiate all these projects, whose complete development will require much more time, is itself one of those small miracles whose secret the Biennale alone seems to possess.

A word, finally, on what is being called this year's “editorial line”, more restrained in both the number of films entered in competition and in its horizons, which have returned among other things to its initial appearance. Alongside the established authors and the expected names that certainly will be there, the most significant undercurrent concerns the large number of lesser-known filmmakers and of what we hope will be 'surprises'. Everyone will be free, once the Venice Film Festival is over, to make their own assessments. But if this year's Festival will have served to introduce a little better some filmmakers who have hitherto remained confined to their own country or within the limited circuit of a number of specialized festivals; and even more so, if it will have revealed unknown directors and young cinematographers from regions almost devoid of an established film tradition, then we can say that not only will it have done a service to the prestige of an institution that boasts an enviable past in this sense, but that it will have strongly reaffirmed the principle that a festival cannot be content to be a walkway of celebrities (albeit directors), but rather owes its main reason for being to its capacity to act as a sounding box, launched to probe the depths of a universe of which we all too often know only the surface.

There is one final novelty in the programme, which replaces the traditional retrospectives for which the Venice Film Festival was justly famous. Next to the splendid selection of restored films from the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts of the Biennale to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the Film Festival, the brand new section titled Venice Classics - acknowledging, from the very title, its debt to the laudable brainchild of the Cannes festival - does nothing but emphasize the growing importance and popularity of the steps designed to safeguard our enormous film heritage, paying tribute to all those who devote resources and expertise to restore the classics of the last century. It serves to raise an awareness among young people, of extraordinary films restored to their initial splendour and projected in the best possible conditions. Just to remember that the cinema, even the 'old' one, should be seen on the big screen, and that without the past there wouldn't be a future for the movies.

Alberto Barbera