fbpx Biennale Cinema 2019 | Introduction by Alberto Barbera
La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Alberto Barbera

Director of the 76th Venice International Film Festival

Cinema in the years to come

No film festival, whether it is considered a privileged vantage point or a more modest affair, can be asked to provide the answers to rather complex questions such as those concerning the future of cinema in the years to come. At most, one can expect it to provide examples of different approaches that inspire the production of films in various parts of the world, as least those that can be reached through the scouting efforts of the selection team. And since the first things to become obsolete seem to be the hierarchy of values by which we have abided until now, and the old system of categories consisting of "good and bad, right and left, high and low, strong and weak", all we can hope for is a new conception of common understanding that is in tune with our times.
There is no longer a rigid, unambiguous definition of what cinema is and what it isn't – assuming that that's what it ever was: André Bazin had already stood up for “impure” cinema as opposed to the cold rigour of the purists (and it was only the 1950s) – but a free and adventurous resolve to set sail without knowing where the journey will lead. I believe that this may be the most effective metaphor to evoke the spirit that guided us in putting together this year's line-up. The risk that we consciously took was to appear lacking in direction, and bound to an indulgent conception of cinema. This might very well be the most appropriate way to interrogate cinema, which in the eyes of many appears to be dangerously lost, or threatened and beleaguered by the dominance of other media that coexist with it within the galaxy of integrated communication. Yet, despite the signs that seem to converge towards a dystopic vision of the future, we are tempted to forcefully assert that this is not the threat of extinction, but rather a process of transformation in the making that is one of the most radical in the short-lived existence of cinema, at the end of which it will undoubtedly be different from what we have known and loved until now, but alive and vital, advancing new issues and languages and forms that we will become accustomed to with the speed that distinguishes our time.

Recurring elements and trends

In observing the line-up of films that we have selected for this edition of the Venice Film Festival, we can recognize several recurring elements which, however, I hesitate to define as trends. The first is the significant number of films that, each in its own way, address the problem of the status of women in contemporary society. These are not films directed by women – which unfortunately remain a small percentage – but portraits of women that, even when made by men, reveal a new sensibility and special attention to the female world, as has rarely been the case in the past. This may perhaps be an indication that the recent controversies triggered by the movements reacting to male abuse in every realm of society, have begun to leave their mark on the collective conscience. Another interesting recurring element may be found in the films dedicated to a meticulous and documented reconstruction of events from recent history or the past, with the clear and precise aim of bringing relevance to events that might otherwise be forgotten or worse, distorted by a misguided practice of oral memory. A remarkable example of this approach has been provided by Marco Bellocchio's film Il traditore, and many others will emerge from the line-up of this year's Festival. In all these cases, it is eminently clear that the interest is not only and exclusively historic, but reveals the intent to reflect upon and lead others to reflect upon the contemporary world.

Another recurring element is offered by the return (or perhaps the constant presence in recent years) of realist cinema, which rather than the temptation to escape into parallel or purely imaginary universes, chooses to address the problems of the present time, without necessarily falling into the trap of a pure and simple evocation of news reporting. But as always, there are films this year that may be classified within the standard genres (thriller, war, animation), a sign that cinema must still rely today on the supports that codes and conventions offer to those who wish to engage a wider audience than the public of auteur films – which are in the majority at the Venice Film Festival (and could it be any other way?) – are able to reach.

A varied and eclectic programme

We leave it to audiences at the Venice Film Festival to find other possible common themes, in a varied and eclectic programme that does not neglect any film continent, and where the number of filmmakers making their debut or awaiting recognition is far greater than that of more renowned and consecrated auteurs. A proof of our determination to assert our vocation to support lesser-known works, and to offer visibility to cinema that, from the margins in which it is confined, makes every effort to emerge and be recognized.

We hope that the experience of this year's Venice Film Festival may leave us with some reassurance as to the future that lies ahead, and less concerned about what appears to be inexorable change, but may very well not be. As they say, don't expect anything but be open to everything, because the purpose of art is to offer pleasure and recognition, not boredom and intimidation.

Biennale Cinema
Biennale Cinema