The Way of the Mostra

in 72nd Venice International Film Festival

by Michel Ciment

Once again, the Venice Film Festival upholds its official title: Mostra Internazionale d’arte cinematografica. It has not changed much in the last half-century, and compared with similar events (Cannes, Berlin, Toronto) where glamour and money play an important role, it sticks to films which really are the talk of the town – or rather, the Lido. The Jury itself was testimony to the glory of the director, with its brilliant array of great artists: president Alfonso Cuaron, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pawel Pawlikowski, Lynne Ramsay and the writer-director Emmanuel Carrère, as well as two actresses, Diane Kruger and Elizabeth Banks. From Mexico to Poland, Turkey to Great Britain, Taiwan to France, Germany to the US, it was a much more diverse and cosmopolitan panel than is usually the case at film festivals.            

Artistic director Alberto Barbera clearly wanted to pay tribute to the cinema d’auteur by screening the films of two of its most famous elder statesmen Jerzy Skolimowski (11 Minutes) and Marco Bellocchio (Blood of My Blood, Sangue del mio sangue) who both started in the mid-60s, as well as Atom Egoyan (Remember), Aleksandr Sokurov (Francofonia) and Amos Gitai (Rabin, The Last Day). However, not one of these artists was honored by the members of the Jury, who obviously ignored their peers. Instead, they appear to have agreed with another statement from Barbera, who has insisted that he wants to look towards the future and singled out Latin America as the continent of hope.              

The Horizons parallel section programmed seven debut films (out of a total of 19), while the competition featured two debuts. One of them, the Venezuelan From Afar (Desde allá) by Lorenzo Vigas won the Golden Lion, while El Clan by the Argentinian Pablo Trapero received the Silver Lion for best director. The top prize came as a surprise, having been rated as 17th out of 21 by a panel of Italian and international critics. The free spirit of the Jury was emphasized by the double prize (best script, best actor for Fabrice Luchini) awarded to Christian Vincent’s L’Hermine: an excellent comedy, a genre hardly recognized in international competitions.  

More and more, we witness that the best films in Berlin, Cannes and Venice are not always in competition, which makes us wonder about the criteria of the selection. The Australian film Tanna, winner of the Critics’ Week, was far superior to Australia’s official competition entry Looking for Grace. Frederick Wiseman’s documentary masterpiece Jackson Heights was shown out of competition, even though the last two years have seen documentaries by Gianfranco Rosi and Joshua Oppenheimer win Golden and Silver Lions. This year, Samuel Collardey’s documentary Tempest received a ten-minute standing ovation in the Horizons section. However, by opening up the competition to alternative forms of cinema such as animation (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa), documentaries (Zhao Liang’s Behemoth, a press favorite) and personal diaries (Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog), the Mostra showed a decidedly modern spirit. 

Edited by Lesley Chow