Venice’s Alberto Barbera on ‘Dune’ & Kristen Stewart’s Oscar chances – deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The Venice Film Festival and its festival director Alberto Barbera have become price whisperers.

Over the past decade, Venice has hosted the launch of award magnets like Nomadland [co-launched with TIFF], Joker, A Star Is Born, Marriage Story, The Shape Of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Favorite, Roma, La La Land, Arrival, Spotlight, Birdman and Gravity.

We sat down with festival director Barbera halfway through the event to discuss the hits so far, the surprises to come, why there were so many rave reviews and Covid protocols and tests. The festival wasn’t all smooth. We also go into the ticketing issues that have given journalists and organizers so many headaches.

Venice Review: Tim Roth in Michel Franco’s “Sundown”

How do you feel about the festival so far?

I’m really excited about how happy people seem to be with the line up and coming back to Venice. That said, we still have limitations to deal with. The 50% cinema capacity due to Covid restrictions is a huge problem when we have twice as many delegates as in 2020. Last year we had around 6,000 accredited guests. This year we have 10,500. This has led to problems with access to tickets and the reservation system. We didn’t have any of these problems last year.

Could you have done more demonstrations?

It was impossible. We use all the theaters that we have on the Lido, Venice and Maestre. There is not a single additional screen available. That’s the problem…

But isn’t that a question of supply and demand rather than a technical question?


AP

I’m not sure. Why can’t a few hundred people try to reserve a seat at the same time? People are working like crazy to solve the problem. It’s a little better now and should get a little better as the week progresses.

Regarding the success of this edition, I wouldn’t say it was a complete surprise because we knew the line-up was strong and we knew there was a willingness to return to film festivals so people would be on the go again . But we didn’t expect so many people to attend the festival. However, this does not explain the unexpected failure of the reservation system.

I can’t remember such a positive reaction from critics to so many films at the start of a festival. It’s mostly here, but I noticed it from Telluride too. What do you attribute that to? Is it just a happy coincidence and great quality films? Or do other factors play a role, such as delays in big films or the enthusiasm of the critics to be back at big festivals and want to support independent cinema? Do you think the thirst for social media clicks or the desire to kickstart the awards show is a factor in so many raves?

No, I think this is an exceptional year in terms of quality. I don’t remember being in the same situation for the past ten years. We saw so many good films during the selection process that we didn’t know how to deal with them. We had to cancel some films that we would have liked to have invited in a normal year. It’s an extraordinary year. But why? I am not really sure. Of course there are some films that have been withheld, but that still doesn’t explain the high quality. There are directors here who have made their best film in many years.

Two of the films that went down very well with critics on their first two days were Netflix films: Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God. Have you seen any change in the quality of Netflix movies over the years?

I think in general everyone relies on quality. We know the platforms play a bigger role in production. When we get out of the pandemic, we will be faced with a completely new and different landscape. The relationship between platforms and industry will be the opposite of what it was in the past. There are so many platforms led by big players in the market. Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Comcast, Warner Bros, they all rely on streaming …

You haven’t had an Apple movie yet, have you?

Not this year. We almost had one last year [Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks] but they decided not to come in the end …

And of course you still benefit from the Cannes-Netflix split …

Of course we definitely do …

Netflix is ​​a big proponent of filmmaking. But it’s still a bit ironic to see that a lot of the posters around the festival are for Netflix and Sky Cinema, which are home entertainment services …

Filippo Scotti and Paolo Sorrentino

Actor Filippo Scotti poses for a picture with director Paolo Sorrentio at the Excelsior Hotel in Venice.
Joe Utici / Deadline

Yes, but what’s the difference today between Netflix and other major studios? The difference is very small. In the future, the difference will disappear entirely. The films Sorrentino and Jane Campion will have exclusive cinema windows for a few weeks. We can’t accurately predict the landscape, but I think everyone wins. The competition is in terms of content. A lot of money is invested in many different types of content. Consumers win too.

Netflix, like all studios, wants to appear prominently in the awards season’s race. You and Venice have become the price whisperers in the last ten years. In your opinion, what are the best contenders for pictures this year?

Difficult to say, because this year there are many good ones, many have a chance …

Do you think Dune is an Oscar contender?

I would be very surprised if it wasn’t among the nominated films, sure …

And what about Spencer star Kristen Stewart as best actress?

In any case, of course …

Could we see Paolo Sorrentino in the Best Foreign Language category?

Certainly…

His new film may give birth to a new Italian star in the form of 21-year-old actor Filippo Scotti (perhaps an Italian Timothée Chalamet) …

[Laughs] Absolutely. There is a new generation of actors and a new generation of filmmakers in Italy. A restructuring process is in progress. We have five Italian films in competition and each one is very different and there are a lot of new actors in these films. They are films that can travel abroad.

Yes, in general there is something like a youth wave at this festival. Chalamet, Zendaya, Scotti, Milena Smit, Anya Taylor-Joy, Benjamin Voisin, Jeon Jong-Seo and others. It is exciting…

It is, yes …

Penelope Cruz spoke about how the festival takes the protocols seriously and that they have to be respected. I have noticed that you and the actors are quite scrupulous about wearing masks in the auditoriums. This is in contrast to Cannes, for example, where the festival was a little more relaxed with the talents and festival managers who wore masks in the cinemas at certain times. Was that a conscious decision?

Absolutely. We did the same thing last year and it was very much appreciated because people felt safe and secure. We don’t take any chances because we have a lot more people than last year. I haven’t been to Cannes so I can’t comment on that. I closed my selection so couldn’t leave. But I heard rumors that it was a little more relaxed in that sense.

Have there been positive Covid tests at the festival so far?

None that I know of. There is an update today [Monday]. I think there were two positive tests, but after a second test they were false positive. The situation is very well under control. According to our research, 90% of the accredited guests are double vaccinated, which is more than in the general population.

Can you give us a movie that might surprise us next week?

Flip out

Flip out
Venice Film Festival

There will be a number. Erik Mattie’s Filipino film On The Job: The Missing 8 is going to surprise people. It’s Friday, the same day as the Ridley Scott. Both films are quite long. You should also keep an eye out for Gabrielle Mainetti’s Freaks Out …

Yes, I’ve heard some good rumors for the film from Italian journalists and the industry I’ve spoken to …

Yes sir. It’s not a perfect film, shall we say, but the scope and ambition of the director is incredible. He’s a young filmmaker, but the ambition is comparable to Spielberg, Fellini, Leone … He did everything on his own. It was a long process of shooting, editing, and he raised the budget himself and it went well over budget. You may or may not like the film – it’s up to your personal taste – but you can’t be impressed by the filmmaker and his approach.

There are many films discussed. Do you feel that, given the quality and the growing excitement in recent years, Venice is a little different from other autumn festivals?

A few years ago there was strong competition between Venice, Toronto, Telluride. Ten years ago, Toronto was the most important date on the Fall Festival calendar. Now I feel like there is a balance between the festivals. Maybe Venice is even better positioned because we come first and the amount of media we have from all over the world means we can offer a truly global platform, which is a great opportunity for studios to reach internationally win, not just in the US North American market. I’m pretty confident that Venice will hold that position.

Last year, you were rewarded with another four-year term. What would you like to achieve in the next three issues?

It was a long project. We started working ten years ago when I returned to Venice. We wanted to change the profile and renovate the festival. We managed to do that in a way. Over the next three years we need to consolidate and make some improvements. Due to the increasing demand to be here, we would like to open two new theaters, one on the third floor of the casino and one like the red cube in the garden. These will come into force next year.

It would be nice to have the Classics strand at the festival again …

It will come back provided the pandemic is over …

And these great archive exhibitions on the history of the festival …

Yes, we would like to, but it’s a matter of space. We can no longer use Hotel Des Bains due to some security concerns about the structure. But we are thinking about new locations.

Comments are closed.