As Venice approaches its climax, debate continues as to the value of a film market during the event. Both new Biennale head Franco Bernabe and current artistic director Moritz De Hadeln are in favour - while others remain dismissive.

The Italian name 'Mostra', which covers all the Biennale activities, suggests the notion of exhibition, rather than commerce. And while this year there have been significant efforts to improve facilities for buyers and sellers, the Venice Screenings have not become an overnight sensation that will give the Toronto programmers anything to worry about.

Top Italian sales agent Adriana Chiesa said: 'The idea of a market here is absurd. We do our deals on the terrace. That is how it should be in Venice. Of course improvements in facilities for buyers are good, but the only thing we need as sellers is an ability to get tickets to our clients. The current system of tickets does not work.'

Market head Laura Marcellino says the new event is 'not about apeing Cannes, Berlin or Mifed,' and describes the Screenings as 'an extra service' to the buyers and sellers that come here anyway. Her figures show that some 1,693 industry professionals have registered with Venice, of which 356 are buyers and 90 are sales agents.

The new market has had its share of teething problems; new screens elsewhere on the Lido did not come available as planned. And a lack of early publicity meant few sellers or buyers had planned them into their schedule.

Others have noted with annoyance that the national pavilions which are a new feature in Venice are in the wrong place. Located in the 'Cinema Garden' rather than the cavernous buyers' lounge, the stands are open to the public. 'People come by, pick up our brochures and when they realise that this is material for film professionals rather than the public, drop them in the bins ten metres away,' said Angela Watkins of the German Export Union. And all week her neighbour, Gunnar Almer of the Swedish Film Institute has worn a smile of bemused resignation as milling crowds don't stop at his stand - they just keep milling - and as the clutch of Nordic sellers whose posters adorn his walls instead choose to ply their trade on the terrace of the Excelsior or Des Bains hotels.

The interest to foreign distributors of the films being shown at the Venice Screenings is limited. Robert Beeson of the UK's Artificial Eye is typical of many when he says: 'Disappointing. They are mostly Italian films being shown for Italian distributors. Films which cannot be sold elsewhere.

'If they had been giving market previews of festival titles - that would have helped some buyers screen films that show late here and which they may miss as they are travelling to Toronto.'

And there's the rub. The shadow of Toronto which boasts a competition open to all-comers, not just the world premieres which Venice needs, hangs over the Lido.

Marcellino suggests that producers' federation FIAPF get involved to eliminate the two event's overlapping dates and to untangle their increasingly over-lapping functions. Until it does, sellers will continue to chant about not closing deals until the crucial US deal has been signed. And Venice may well remain the Mostra to Toronto's market.