Spazio Festival

Word to the President of La Biennale, Roberto Cicutto
by Massimo Bran
  • wednesday, 30 august 2023

At its ninety-first year and eightieth edition, the Venice Film Festival is like one of those ladies who never cease to amaze us: young inside, living their best life on the outside. We talked we Biennale President Roberto Cicutto about this ever-living spirit and followed the newest tracks that will define its upcoming edition.

Venice – eighty times Venice. A memory
Before I was appointed President of the Biennale, I was a film producer. My memories are Roberto Cicutto’s – the person, not of my institutional persona. Well, before I was a film producer, I was a Venetian young man who loved cinema, and who just so happened to have the amazing Venice Film Festival just round the corner. As it happens, my fondest memory is of my first Festival, as audience and nothing more. It was the year 1964 and the Festival’s twenty-fifth edition. I went to see Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Gospel According to St. Matthew at the open-air arena under a starry sky. I was sixteen, it was my first time at a film festival, in my beloved city, and to see an absolutely mind-blowing movie. I was very young, I barely understood anything of the film, but it must have made in imprint on my mind, something deep. It clicked the switch that made me decide that cinema was going to be my life, and my life was going to be about cinema.

A film city in Venice. Your challenge
Compared to last year, and to the years before that, theatres are larger and technologically updated. Thanks to the latest renovation and updates, the Casino Palace is now fully accessible and safe in all its floors and rooms. All its theatres – Perla, Volpi, Casinò – are fully integrated in the screening calendar, unlike previous years when some could only be used for accredited screenings. Energy efficiency has also improved much, an investment Biennale decided to make in accordance with the EU-backed PNRR. The Casino belongs to the City of Venice, but it was us who took care of décor renovation and technological updates. Also, an alternative energy sources investment plan, to be carried out by 2026, have been laid out by us alone. These are important investments, similar to those we made at the Giardini and Arsenale. It is no small thing: at the Giardini, we are not merely renovating the Central Pavilion, but rebuilding it altogether. Even today, all energy consumed is responsibly-sourced, and the Biennale is 100% self-sufficient in that regard.
I shall also point out that by December 31, 2023, all works and projects will have been carried out according to the PNRR, and that’s no small feat either.

Movie theatres: ideas to fight off crisis
We are looking at good numbers, but I am wary of possibly misinterpreting them. The fact that a torrid 2023 summer saw packed movie theatres, especially thanks to world blockbusters like Barbie and Oppenheimer, doesn’t allow us to think that the crisis is over. Far from it. the solution to the problem will come at the time when we will find a balance between home viewing and theatregoing. Our festival cannot do much in this sense, except give ideas and offer useful, concrete experience. The Venice Film Festival launched a specific programme for younger audiences, which is something we’d never done before. We invited students to the movie theatres all during the school year to see classic movies or themed monographs. To this end, we picked titles that made it all the more apparent how different it is to watch a movie at the theatre or at home. One example: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg’s masterpiece: teenagers might have seen it three, maybe four times on TV, but the feeling you get, the experience of watching it on a large screen, is incomparably more powerful. In short, we maintain that a great international film festival like ours must be a workshop of sorts, it must launch new ideas, educational projects, give substance to slogans that cannot be lost in the wind. Our commitment for the future is to clearly state our goals, which is to excite our youths like only a festival can by knowing the right alphabet, the right grammar, to get in touch with them.
To think that streaming platforms are our enemy is useless. Technological progress always came after opposites: silent movies/talkies, black and white/colour, film/digital recording. The crux of the matter is the ability to find again, on part of the whole industry, a balance, the right key to produce a film in the present and built, in the mind of the youngest, some conscience, some awareness of the different ways we can enjoy motion pictures. We must redefine the way we go to the movies, understand which products, which ways will communicate the need for the experience of a large screen in a pitch-black theatre. I believe festivals must work hard to make this happen.

A future ‘virtual’ festival
Venice is the only major international festival to host a competitive VR cinema section. This initiative was met with extraordinary interest not only for the possibility to immerse in these new products, but also for the ability to offer professionals the chance to reflect on this new technology, which is building its own language.

The Hollywood strike and Artificial Intelligence
The Hollywood strike means two things: the first is that people, especially after the pandemic, understand more clearly than ever how show business is not only made of privileged, wealthy movie stars, but also of hundreds of thousands of workers, people who give their all for minor roles and enjoy the least of professional safety. The second is a reflection on artificial intelligence, which is something that touches every single profession there is. It is a good thing that we are addressing the issue of an unregulated, uncontrolled growth. To damage the dynamics of artistic creation is something that touches both great authors as it does a young pupil who is just learning to write. We must reflect on new technologies in the same way we embraced VR, in open, serious fashion, free from prejudice.


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