The programming innovations revealed for the 58th Venice Film Festival - which this year heralds the advent of an additional competition line-up known as The Cinema Of The Present - have been greeted with generally favourable industry reactions.
Many have praised the inclusion of more innovative and 'fringe' titles into the competitive section, the kind of films that in previous years tended to become marginalised by both the press and the industry. Others have expressed optimism about the range and quality of what is seen as a very diverse selection of films from numerous 'undervalued' territories.
Indeed, the new system has seen the inclusion of the first German film in competition for three years (Herzog's Invincible, a Germany/UK co-production), albeit in the Cinema Of The Present strand. And although Barbera has been quick to dismiss the notion of an A list/B list competition, the German press has been just as quick to pick up on the implication that Herzog is not being recognised as an 'established' director. However, to put the German media's attitude into perspective, only last week one of the newspapers there felt it more important to report that no German film had won at the Jerusalem film festival, than to say what had actually won.
Defenders of the new competitive section argue that it elevates the visibility of what would otherwise be a side-bar, equalising its status by the prestige of its own Lion award.
In terms of geography, the 58th edition of the Venice Film Festival has unveiled an unusually wide-reaching line-up of films - countries of origin range from the Philippines to Albania, the US and Hong Kong. And as Venice chief Alberto Barbera zoomed in on particular regions, he described the presence of four South American titles in competition as a confirmation of "the return of South American cinema."
"It is a sign of the return of South American cinema after almost twenty years of absence from international festivals," Barbera said, also underlining the presence of Latin American titles at this year's Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals. "It does show that the Latin American continent is re-investing in cinema and demonstrates a return of quality of South American film," Barbera said as he unveiled the line-up of the festival's two official competitions at a press conference.
Barbera announced screenings of Walter Salles (Central Station)'s widely-anticipated new film, Behind the Sun - a Brazilian-French-Swiss co-production; and Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien, which stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, in the established Venice 58 competition.
The competitive Cinema of the Present section will screen Juan Villegas's Argentinian title, Sabado, and Andres Wood's La Fiebre Del Loco, a co-production between Chile, Spain and Mexico. In addition, Veronica Chen's Argentinian picture Vagon Fumador will screen in the festival's Critics Week sidebar, and Argentinian director Mariano Torres Manzur's Los Porfiados will be shown in the non-competitive New Territories section.
The festival will also host a day's tribute, organized by Italian promotional body Italia Cinema, to contemporary Argentinian cinema, in collaboration with the Independent Film Festival of Buenos Aires.
As he unveiled his line-up, Barbera also satisfied the Italian film community's eagerness for festival recognition, capping a strong season for local titles both in terms of critical and commercial success. Six Italian films will screen in both competitions: as anticipated, Giuseppe Piccioni's (Out Of This World) Luce Dei Miei Occhi will screen in the Venice 58 section, along with Antonio Capuano's Luna Rossa. Marco Bechis (Garage Olimpo)'s Hijos; Paolo Sorrentino's feature debut L'Uomo In Piu, Giuseppe Bertolucci's L'Amore Probabilmente, and Giovanni Davide Maderna's L'amore Imperfetto will all screen in the Cinema of the Present section, while another six Italian films will screen in various sidebars.