Venice Pageant Director Alberto Barbera on Netflix, Controversial Picks and Coming Again Huge Publish-COVID

Not like Cannes, in contrast to Toronto, in contrast to Sundance or Berlin, Venice by no means shut down due to COVID.

The world’s oldest movie competition, which kicks off its 79th version Wednesday, in some way managed to work inside Italy’s strict coronavirus restrictions to make sure the present —albeit masked and socially distanced —would go on.

And what a present it’s been.

Underneath the steering of long-term creative director Alberto Barbera, Venice has balanced the blockbusters —Dune final yr, Joker in 2019 — with the Oscar contenders: greatest image winner Nomadland in 2020, greatest director honoree Jane Campion for The Energy of the Canine in 2021, whereas nonetheless offering sufficient out-of-left-field surprises, from Audrey Diwan’s 2021 Golden Lion winner Taking place, a prescient story of abortion and ladies’s rights, to arthouse sleepers Quo Vadis, Aida? from Jasmila Žbanić and Christos Nikou’s mild Greek satire Apples, two highlights from the 2020 Biennale.

There aren’t any tentpoles within the 2022 Venice line-up — Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiography The Fabelmans is skipping the Lido to premiere in Toronto — however in any other case, Barbara’s picks make the 79th version seem like one other banner yr. Noah Baumbach’s opener White Noise with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig; Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Mexican epic Bardo; Andrew Dominik’s Marylin Monroe biopic Blonde; Bones and All, which re-teams Name Me By Your Identify director Luca Guadagnino with star Timothée Chalamet and Todd Subject’s Cate Blanchett-starrer TÁR are only a sampling of the highlights.

Barbera spoke to The Hollywood Reporter forward of this yr’s fest about bringing followers again to the Lido pink carpet, controversial decisions (Kim Ki-duk!), and why he’s optimistic Venice may mark the post-COVID return of art-house cinema.

That is the primary Venice Movie Pageant since COVID restrictions have been lifted in Italy. How will this yr be completely different?

We’re going again to the common competition. There received’t be any limitations or restrictions. We’re following the rules from the [Italian] ministry of well being and for the time being the state of affairs is underneath management, infections are in decline throughout Italy. So we aren’t anxious. We’ll be utilizing the theaters to their fullest capability. Masks received’t be required, although we’re nonetheless suggesting folks ought to put on them if they want.

In any other case, will probably be an everyday competition once more. The pink carpet shall be open to the viewers once more, not simply restricted to photographers because it was previously two years.

And with movies starring Timothée Chalamet (Bones and All) and Harry Types (out-of-competition entry Don’t Fear Darling) ought to we count on a return of the screaming crowds of superfans?

Sure completely. We predict that we’re going to have a minimum of the identical quantity of individuals attending this yr as in 2018 and perhaps extra. We’re nonetheless receiving requests for accreditation. On the primary day we opened the field workplace we bought 18,000 tickets in a number of hours. Inns on the Lido and in Venice are absolutely packed. We’d have some issues discovering room for folks as a result of it’s virtually unimaginable to discover a place to remain on the town.

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet in ‘Bones and All’

Courtesy of MGM

You’re opening the competition with Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, the primary Netflix movie to open Venice. And you’ve got 3 extra Netflix movies [Bardo, Blonde, Romain Gavras’ Athena] in competitors, plus a particular screening of the Nicholas Winding Refn’s Netflix collection Copenhagen Cowboy. Is that this an indication that the massive debate over whether or not Netflix is “killing cinema” is over?

Nicely, we have been the primary competition to open our competitors to Netflix motion pictures [with Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation in 2015] and yearly we have now 1-2 Netflix movies in competitors. This yr it is a little more than normal. But it surely isn’t as if we have now a choice for Netflix. We have now movies from Warner Bros. [Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling] from Common and Focus [TÁR], A24 has three movies [Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, Johanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter, Ti West’s out-of-competition Pearl].

But it surely’s only a incontrovertible fact that Netflix has develop into one of many largest manufacturing firms for high quality movies. They make investments so much in producing motion pictures from essentially the most respected filmmakers of the second.

This doesn’t imply that Netflix has “received the battle” towards the standard system or the standard means of distributing movies in theaters. Clearly, we’re in the course of a transition. We nonetheless don’t know the place this transition will lead us. The movie trade is reassessing the whole system of manufacturing and distribution.

It doesn’t imply the standard means of distributing motion pictures in theaters, or the standard means of financing motion pictures will go away. The issue now could be that every one the gamers should discover a new stability between the outdated and the brand new. It’s onerous to foresee what the state of affairs shall be in a number of months or a number of years’ time.

However after we choose a movie for the competition, the one standards we use is the standard of the movie itself. Netflix submitted plenty of wonderful movies. We invited a few of them, not all of them.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s ‘Bardo’ is one among 4 Netflix movies in Venice competitors

Courtesy of Venice Movie Pageant/Netflix

Can I ask you concerning the conventional system? Since theaters re-opened, we’ve seen the massive Hollywood blockbusters bounce again: movies like Prime Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and the Marvel motion pictures. That hasn’t actually been the case for the arthouse or high quality motion pictures, which make up most of Venice’s line-up. Why do you suppose that’s?

That’s not a straightforward query to reply. In fact, theaters re-opened just some months in the past. And the providing of latest movies, except for the massive Hollywood motion pictures, which performed very, very properly, weren’t adequate to persuade the viewers to return again to the theaters. However I’m fairly optimistic with this new season, with this new batch of flicks, that the viewers will come again. They aren’t going to desert the behavior of watching movies at dwelling on platforms, however all people is aware of that watching a movie in a theater is a extra rewarding expertise from each perspective.

And right here the function of the movie festivals is kind of essential as a result of the type of promotion and publicity a competition may give an arthouse movie is essential to create the want of this viewers to return to theaters.

We noticed through the pandemic lockdowns that plenty of nice arthouse movies simply disappeared with no huge competition push to assist them.

That’s completely true. However as we come out of this, we are able to’t suppose we are able to return to the outdated methods, to the identical methods of selling and distributing movies as we did earlier than the pandemic, earlier than the platforms. All the things has modified, and we have to change how we distribute and promote movies, to get audiences enthusiastic about seeing them once more.

Along with the big-name movies this yr you may have, like yearly, plenty of very political motion pictures in competitors. You will have 4 Iranian movies within the line-up this yr, which seems like a powerful political assertion, particularly given the current crackdown on dissident filmmakers in Iran.

Nicely, the choice course of is a protracted one. This time longer than normal, we began in November, when often we begin in March or April. From January on we had an infinite flood of movies, we obtained greater than we have been capable of watch. In relation to the Iranian movies, we noticed them, and accepted them, months earlier than this new, harder state of affairs arose for Iranian filmmakers.

The final movie we picked was Jafar Panahi’s No Bears, however that was virtually a month earlier than Jafar’s arrest [in July, the director was sentenced to six years in prison]. Once we noticed his film, we instantly fell in love with it, we despatched out the invitation and that was accepted instantly.

I’d prefer to underline the truth that we aren’t politically pushed in our decisions. There are plenty of political movies in our choice this yr, like Argentina, 1985 from Santiago Mitre for instance, or the Indonesian movie Autobiography, movies which might be robust statements towards political regimes or governments.

However that is one thing that comes after we choose the film. In fact, I do know that cinema might be one of many strongest instruments we have now to replicate up to date society. It is without doubt one of the nice strengths of cinema, and might be very, very efficient in doing so.

Does that politically-neutral stance apply to Russia and Russian filmmakers? You will have 3 Ukrainian movies in official choice this yr, however no Russian ones.

We had very, only a few Russian movies submitted this yr. A pair have been fascinating, however not adequate to be chosen. So we didn’t should face the troublesome state of affairs of getting to determine if we should always invite them or not. However once more, I’d repeat what was stated on the opening of the Biennale artwork exhibition: we received’t ban an artist solely due to their nationality. We is not going to invite any particular person or movie which is straight concerned with the Russian Ministry of Tradition of the Russian authorities.

However for an artist or a movie coming from an artist, that’s positioned towards the battle, talking the reality to politics, I believe it we should always assist them. As a result of they’re going through a really troublesome private state of affairs of their nation. They threat their very own lives, they could possibly be put in jail due to their statements and their positions. It will be worse to boycott them once they have to be supported. However, as I stated, we didn’t see a Russian movie this yr that was adequate to be invited to Venice.

Why did you determine to indicate the late Kim Ki-duk’s final film, Name of God, in competitors, although a number of girls accused the Korean director of rape?

Once we noticed the movie, it was clear we have been coping with the final movie by Kim Ki-duk. And he was in a means found by Venice, again in 2000 with The Isle, which made him, instantly, a really well-known arthouse filmmaker worldwide. He got here again to Venice many, many occasions and received two essential awards: together with greatest director [for 3-Iron in 2004] and the most effective movie in Venice Days in 2012 [for One on One].

All through the years, we’d at all times have a look at his new motion pictures —I’d say it was a type of constancy to the director, a type of mutual respect and belief between the filmmaker and the competition —however they have been a lot much less fascinating than this one. When Kim Ki-duk’s Estonian mates contacted me a yr in the past saying that there have been engaged on finishing the movie that Ki-duk couldn’t end, as a result of he died throughout manufacturing, I assumed we couldn’t let this chance move.

We knew that he had been accused of sexual misbehavior. I don’t know the main points and I’m not ready to guage whether it is true or not. I don’t need to make any judgment a few private downside. I believe that there are lots of people who shall be to observe the final movie that Kim Ki-duk was not capable of full. And I believe it’s truthful sufficient to indicate it on the competition that has most likely the longest and extra profound relationship with the director.

Not simply in relation to Kim Ki-duk however basically, what do you consider those that don’t need to separate the movie from the filmmaker? As a result of festivals like yours promote and have a good time the director in addition to their work.

I perceive this sort of criticism towards the competition. We needed to face the identical state of affairs, for instance, two years in the past on after we introduced An Officer and a Spy from Roman Polanski in competitors. I believe that what I stated then nonetheless stands. We aren’t a tribunal. I’m not a decide who can decide concerning the character of a person or a girl. I’m a movie critic. I’m right here to guage the standard of the factor that’s submitted to the competition.

I believe this separation between the person and the artist is inevitable. It’s a part of the historical past of artwork. I’ve stated earlier than, we all know that [Italian painter] Caravaggio was a assassin. However he made a number of the most essential masterpieces of Seventeenth-century Italian portray. What ought to we do? Take away the work from the museums as a result of Caravaggio was a assassin? I don’t suppose so.

My place proper now could be very controversial. However perhaps, in a century, folks will bear in mind the movies of Roman Polanski and they’ll neglect or forgive the truth that he was accused of sexual misbehavior 40 years in the past. Once more, we aren’t right here to guage the particular person or the person. We’re right here to guage the standard of the factor that he makes. Typically folks that make good issues do unhealthy issues.

If we are able to finish with the movies themselves. What do you suppose will most shock folks on this yr’s line-up?

There are a selection of highly-anticipated motion pictures this yr, however there are additionally plenty of stunning movies. Yearly we take the chance to place a debut director in competitors. We do this this yr with Saint Omer from a younger French filmmaker [Alice Diop] who comes from documentaries. It’s a really robust movie. I believe will probably be one of many surprises of the competition. However there shall be others. Yearly I say: don’t simply go to the massive motion pictures that shall be in theaters in a few months’ time. Attempt to observe your instincts, be curious and attempt to uncover new abilities. As a result of there shall be a couple of this yr in Venice.

This interview was edited for size and readability.

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