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La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Alberto Barbera

Director of the 77th Venice International Film Festival

Responsibility and commitment

The winter of our dismay turned into a springtime of anxiety, and then slipped slowly into s summer marked by uncertainty and fear over a fraught future. What remains inside us is the memory of the many victims of the pandemic, who no one can or wants to forget, and worry about a recommencement which is struggling to take form. In this context, the decision to hold the 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival is experienced like a sign of confidence in - and concrete support of - the world of film and the audiovisual industry, which were so deeply affected by the propagation of the virus and its dramatic consequences. On-set productions were interrupted, the release of movies was postponed until further notice, cinemas were closed and then partially re-opened with severe limitations that were imposed for safety reasons. Thousands of jobs at risk and a shocking number of families kept on hold in uncertainty over the recovery of a sector which is by no means secondary to culture and the world economy. Until a short while ago, even the certainty of maintaining the late-summer appointment with Venice's Festival was anything but a given. In the meantime, many filmmakers went back to work to complete unfinished movies, as the festival's organizational machine got back in motion to be ready for the event. And thus, with a great sense of responsibility and commitment, we are dealing with an unknown and unprecedented situation, in which the rules of the game are constantly changing, demanding great flexibility and availability, and making us continuously change course.

A few sacrifices and innovation

The Festival will be held on its scheduled dates, at the cost of a few sacrifices but also bolstered by innovation fostered by the opportunities which the circumstances have made possible. It's true that the Sconfini section will have to await a return to normality before it can be reinstated, but the Venice VR Expanded competition has found a congenial and effective placement in streaming. This offers the advantage of giving many aficionados of this new art form the possibility for broader access that is less influenced by the physical limitations of its – undoubtedly - fascinating venue on the island of Lazzaretto. Lastly, the traditional appointment with Venice Classics will take advantage of a collaboration with the Cineteca of Bologna on the occasion of the 34th edition of the festival Il Cinema Ritrovato, which will be held in Bologna August 25-31, after which the already-scheduled repeat screenings will take place in Venice during the following months. This is a concrete sign of solidarity between the festivals and of our ability to react to the difficulties of the moment, finding new, shared ways to break free from the isolation caused by the pandemic and help reboot the country's cultural life. Another way to respond to the terrible difficulties generated by an unexpected and (almost) unprecedented health crisis, and to lay the foundation for the reconstruction of what has been lost along the way or risked destruction, confident that sooner or later “greenery will bloom again.”


This year, to borrow Bob Dylan's words, the program contains multitudes: of movies, of genres, of points of view. A consistent number of films have been invited, just slightly fewer than the usual number in Venice. A sign that cinema hasn't been overwhelmed by the pandemic tsunami and still conserves enviable vitality. As usual, the selection offers a multifaceted succession of different approaches, in the awareness that the Festival must not abstain from representing the wealth and variety of film. Which isn't a unicum, as people sometimes tend to believe, but a multitude of aesthetic and visual experiences which can offer people the same wealth of forms which the others arts have always practiced and valorized. Therefore, this year, too, there will be auteur films, comedies, documentaries, horror flicks, gangster movies, and so on, without neglecting those films which in jargon could be called crossovers (if it weren't such a horrible term), which refuse to separate  languages in favor of a productive fusion of forms and aesthetics. A few spectacular movies will be missing, blocked by the lockdown which still affects the programming of the most-awaited Hollywood releases. A few cast members of the invited movies won't be able to attend because of the ongoing limitations on intercontinental travel, but they will be able to take advantage of the resources of communications technology to ensure the promotion of their movies. But the most important thing is that the Festival's program will be a confirmation of the vibrancy of contemporary film, entrusted to an extremely interesting generational turnover that will also includes the female component, which until now has been limited to embarrassing percentiles. Almost half of the films in the Venezia 77 competition were directed by women, and they were selected exclusively on the basis of their quality and not as a result of gender protocols. This is an unprecedented percentile which we hope augurs well for a future cinema that is free of any sort of prejudice and discrimination.

An extraordinary year

The “specter at the feast” this year is - ça va sans dire - Covid-19, a discomfiting presence which has conditioned many choices and imposed extraordinary security measures that have been scrupulously applied to ensure that all the participants – the teams, accreditation holders, and the public – can be an active part of the event, with peace of mind and risk-free. Fewer movies, distancing which will be respected in the Festival areas and inside the screening rooms, disinfection of the locations, an increased number of repeat screenings of each film, full use of the multiplex Astra at the Lido: all these adjustments have been rendered necessary by this extraordinary year. Thanks to the number of repeat screenings at the Cinema Rossini in Venice and at the Centro Candiani in Mestre, plus the creation of two open-air arenas (the first at the Lido, the second at the Giardini della Biennale), the Festival's traditional and devoted public will be able to see most of the movies. All that's left for me to do is wish everyone a good Festival and say long live cinema!

Biennale Cinema
Biennale Cinema