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Venice Film Festival opens with controversy

Aug 27,2018
Global superstars Lady Gaga, Ryan Gosling and Vanessa Redgrave descend on Venice this week as the annual film festival kicks off Wednesday to controversy over the inclusion of Netflix productions and there being just one female director in competition.

Some 21 features will be locking horns for the prized Golden Lion, which will be awarded on September 8 at the Palazzo del Cinema on the Venice Lido, the iconic setting for Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece “Death in Venice.”

The festival jury is chaired by Guillermo Del Toro, last year’s winner with “The Shape of Water”.

Australian Jennifer Kent is the only woman gunning for the Golden Lion this year, with “The Nightingale.”

The lack of female directors was blasted by feminist associations in an open letter sent on August 11 to the festival’s artistic director Alberto Barbera. The letter was a reaction not just to the festival’s male-centric selection but also to statements by Barbera, who in a recent press conference explained that he made his choices based on “the quality of the film and not the sex of the director”.

“If we impose quotas, I resign,” he said, defending a selection criticized as “politically incorrect,” especially compared to the latest edition of Cannes, which saw a call for gender equality in cinema.

A number of films being shown in Venice have been picked up by streaming service Netflix, including the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

Starring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco and Liam Neeson, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” features six tales about the Wild West narrated by Joel and Ethan Coen.

The inclusion of Netflix films and their contemporaneous release in theatres and online has drawn the wrath of Italy’s two major cinema associations Anec and Anem, who feel people will stay at home rather than go out to watch the movies.

“I can’t see any reason why a film by [director of Golden Lion contender “Roma,” Alfonso] Cuaron or the Coens should be excluded just because they’re produced by Netflix,” Berbera said at a press conference last month.

AFP