65th Venice International Film Festival

Italy, August 27 - September 6 2008

The jury

Ronald Bergan (UK), Anne de Gasperi (France), Eva af Geijerstam (Sweden), Janusz Wróblewski (Poland), Michael Ranze (Germany), Rachael Turk (), Dita Rietuma (Latvia), Gautaman Bhaskaran (India), Furio Fossati (Italy)

Awarded films

A few years ago at the Venice Film Festival when Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers was shown, one of the stars, Michael Pitt, was asked what he thought of Venice. He replied, “It’s okay. Nice seaside resort.” “No, not the Lido. Have you not been to Venice itself?” “No, what’s there?” young Mr. Pitt asked.

Perhaps the Venice Film Festival should be called the Lido Film Festival because all the films are shown there, and most of the critics and jurors are stuck on the Lido which, toute proportion gardée, is like Alcatraz for nearly two weeks from which we have no time to escape. Every day I looked longingly over the water and saw the buildings around the Piazza San Marco in the distance. In a way, part of the attraction of coming to the Biennale is being able to spend some time in La Serenissima.

Although it is always both stimulating, frustrating and important in many ways, and it can be interesting to be on a FIPRESCI jury in Venice, there are too many films to see in ten days, especially for the members of our jury who had to watch both the “Orizzonti” (Horizons) and the “Critics Week”. With over 30 films to judge against the other jury’s 21, it is almost physically impossible to see more than one or two of the films in the official competition. It would be better to eliminate the “Critics Week” from their duties to make the work more equitable.

Apart from a number of inexplicable inclusions — to select one Japanese animation feature was acceptable but two seemed excessive, especially as neither merited inclusion — and at least four films that were stinkers by any objective standard, the competition was eclectic and eccentric enough to hold the interest. It would also be appreciated if the FIPRESCI prize was not treated as an irrelevancy.

Among the peripheral highlights was a retrospective of Ermanno Olmi, who was presented with a special award, and seeing Venice favourite 99-year-old Manoel de Oliveira, three of whose short films were showing there, standing up and waving his white hat and stick in acknowledgment of a standing ovation. However, an Australian writer on films, thankfully not a member of FIPRESCI, was overheard to say, “I wish he would die!”

The most disappointing aspect of Venice is the way the circus moves on to Toronto about half-way through, and some of the best films get ignored. This is something that Marco Mueller hopes to rectify from 2009 when Venice will take place at the same time as Toronto. (Ronald Bergan)