Gorgeous, Glamorous, Fascinating Venice

The view at breakfast from the Villa Laguna on the Lido di Venezia. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

The view at breakfast from the Villa Laguna on the Lido di Venezia. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Dear Blog Readers —

I stepped off the Vaporetto (water bus) yesterday onto the Lido of Venezia ready to spend two weeks covering the Venice Film Festival.  Here the streets are lined with oleander and azaleas,  boats pass by tranquilly in the canals, and tourists, journalists, and press flacks alike bike around cheerfully.  Little cabins and cottages for bathers line the long beach giving a sunny, peaceful aura to the place.

Tents for bathers line the beach on the Lido, Venice. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Tents for bathers line the beach on the Lido, Venice. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Well, it won’t be tranquil for very long since the festival starts tomorrow and George Clooney has already arrived.

The Associated Press has a big team of eleven people here from TV, photos, wires and a technician to organize all our wifi and transmission methods. The five of us on the TV staff all have apartments (it costs less) and bicycles, because they are the quickest and easiest way to get around.

AP Television Cameraman Florent Bajrami ready to roll at the Venice Film Festival. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

AP Television Cameraman Florent Bajrami ready to roll at the Venice Film Festival. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Once the Festival kicks off tomorrow we will be busy attending film screenings, door-stepping actors as they step off their water taxis,  interviewing stars and film producers and attending press conferences.  Every evening the stars will waltz down the red carpet and our cameraman and camerawoman will be there.

Workers preparing the decorations above the red carpet for the Venice Film Festival. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Workers preparing the decorations about the red carpet for the Venice Film Festival. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Today I had a chance to ease my way into the Festival, filming the workers frenetically trying to complete preparations for the event.  AP Television cameraman Florent Bajrami and I watched as workers on a crane carefully painted the words on the decoration above the red carpet.

Film Festival Host Eva Riccobono poses for photographers at the Excelsior Hotel Water Taxi stop on the Lido. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Film Festival Host Eva Riccobono poses for photographers at the Excelsior Hotel Water Taxi stop on the Lido. August 27, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

We then hustled down to the exclusive Excelsior Hotel’s water taxi stop to catch the arrival of the “Host” of the Festival, Italian model-actress Eva Riccobono.  I stood at the back as the photographers called out to her, “Eva, over here!”, “Eva look this way please.”  “Eva, look behind you just a second please.”

Florent and I traipsed up to the top of the Lido’s Casino for an interview with Alberto Barbera, the Director of the Venice Film Festival.  We chatted about some of the common themes and some of the novelties of this festival.  He told me that this year’s Festival has been tinted by  a global “crisis” and this is reflected in the films.

As he put it, “We live in a world that lost all its references, all the values that were the basis of our societies in the last century, and now we have to face a different situation. We don’t have any more reference points, inside the family, outside the family, in the society you have to face this difficult situation. The economy is, of course, one of the most important elements of this crisis, but it is also the crisis of the values… it seems that contemporary cinema is very much aware of this situation. All the most interesting film makers are referring to this situation and are working on it, telling stories that are dealing with it.”

A boat glides down a canal on the Lido in Venice. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

A boat glides down a canal on the Lido in Venice. August 26, 2013. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Perhaps the themes are grim, but the presence of so many glamorous stars has provides a cheerful counterbalance.   Tomorrow we will have George Clooney and Sandra Bullock presenting their latest film “Gravity”, Scarlatt Johansson, Judi Dench,  Mia Wasikowska, Jesse Eisenberg, Tilda Swinton,  Matt Damon, Lindsay Lohan, Nicholas Cage and Dakota Fanning are expected as well.  Those are just the names of the stars that I recognize. There are many more from other countries who I am less familiar with.

There are several interesting documentaries being presented at the festival, two of which are in the competition.  Given my interest in current/historic news events and figures, one that I will be curious to see is called “The Unknown Known: the Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld,” another one that sounds interesting to me is “The Armstrong Lie,” about bike racer Lance Armstrong.  As we approach this November’s 50th anniversary of the assassination for John F. Kennedy, there is a documentary called “Parkland” which narrates the end of the life of the President at the Parkland hospital in Dallas.  Another grim but surely interesting documentary being presented is called “The Sacrament” and is about the Jim Jones cult and the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana in the 1970s.

This year is the 70th edition of the Venice Film Festival and today I asked the Director what is was like back in 1943.  He told me,  “Well it was a very political festival of course, it was a different historical moment, we had Mussolini as the head of the government so the festival was a sort of window to show the power of the regime in Italy…. Goebbels (Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) was a usual attendee of the festival in those years and most of the awards went to films from Italy and Germany.”

German Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl won the best Foreign Film prize at the Venice Film Festival for her film “Olympia” on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin

It is amazing today to think that 70 years ago this glamorous multi-cultural festival was a propaganda tool for the fascist regime.  Times have changed.

Well, off I go for another rough day at work.

Trisha Thomas gets ready to start work at the Venice Film Festival. August 27, 2013. Photo by Florent Bajrami

Trisha Thomas gets ready to start work at the Venice Film Festival. August 27, 2013. Photo by Florent Bajrami

22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Carina
    2013/08/28

    We’re going to Venice in about 6 weeks! I haven’t been there in about a decade, so it will be fun. I think The Sacrament sounds the most interesting of those films.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/28

      Oh, it will be wonderful. Actually the films I mentioned were just the documentaries. Today we are covering the film “Gravity” with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. I saw the film this morning and Sandra Bullock was fantastic. She’s a great actress. Scarlatt Johanssen will be playing a seductive alien in “Under the Skin.” Judi Dench is a bad Mom in Stephen Frears’ Philomena. Oh gotta run, the jury is arriving.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Carina
        2013/08/28

        I’m with you, generally prefer documentaries!

        Reply
  2. Avatar
    Annette Piper
    2013/08/28

    Fantastic. Say hello to George for me ;)
    I was in Venice 2 years ago just after the festival when they were pulling everything down… we had been such tourists for the past month, we didn’t even know it had been on!!
    Enjoy!!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/28

      Thank you, I will enjoy. George is just so charming. I’m smitten.

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Ciao Chow Linda
    2013/08/28

    Venice. George Clooney. And maybe a bellini or two or three in there, I suspect, with some cicchetti too? Now that sounds like a dream of an assignment. If you see my friend, the producer Carlo Cresto-Dina, make a point of meeting him, and please tell him I said “ciao.” I’m not sure whether he’s got a film in the festival this year.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/29

      Ah yes, the other night I had two bellini. Wow was a delicious drink! I will look for your friend Carlo Cresto-Dina and say hello from you if I find him.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    PJ
    2013/08/28

    Wow. To use a cliche, this really sounds like drinking from a fire hose, but perhaps champagne is coming out of the hose, not water! You are amazing in how you managing to shift modes in the blink of an eye; from Tilburg to Venice. Some of the documentary films sound really interesting. It’s generally been of poor year for feature films. Hope you get some good ones in Venice.

    L/D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/29

      Indeed, it is drinking champagne from a fire hose– actually drinking Aperol Spritz, Pro Secco and Bellini. Yum. It definitely has been a big mode shift from leaving Nico at University to covering the festival.

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Gwen Thomas
    2013/08/28

    Don’t you need an extra camera person??? Sounds like a ball. Have fun!

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Nancy Rockwell
    2013/08/28

    Oh, joy, oh bliss! And a lot of hard work, too! The films will be fascinating. And the actors more so. If you can catch Peter Sarsgaard, he might have something profound to say, he’s been in a number of complex, dark roles of late and is a good actor. If you get to Clooney, ask him about the 50th anniv of the march on Washington, and what he thinks about race in America today. What a place to be . . . magical . . . and the shadow of Leni Riefenstahl hanging over it still . . . but there were also film folks like Charlie Chaplin, filming from the opposite political view of the world. Wonder if he ever made it to Venice?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/29

      It is definitely fun and fascinating. I actually did not get to Clooney. At the press conference someone asked him about his thoughts on Syria (he said he had nothing to say on that) and no one asked about the March on Washington.

      Reply
  7. Avatar
    Alan
    2013/08/28

    Films and film makers used for propaganda – ‘. . how times have changed’. I don’t think so! :-)

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/28

      Oh Alan, you curmudgeon. I knew you were going to say that. I was expecting you to write something along the lines of “from Nazi Propaganda to Hollywood Propaganda”. As usual you are a wise cynic.

      Reply
  8. Avatar
    Adri
    2013/08/28

    Venice! The Film Festival! OK, now i am certifiably envious. Although it must be quite a crush, I bet this is one great assignment. Indeed the world is a grim place today, and I think that is reflected in the films that the industry produces, if not always in the ones that get sold to the distributors. To a degree, they are the movers at these festivals.

    The documentaries you mentioned all sound intriguing. I’d read your opinions of them, and I have to make a point of seeing them. Of course, do I have to add that I would like you to do a lot of door stepping with Mr. Clooney? I don’t have to remind you, do I? Have fun.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/28

      Actually, it is not so much of a crush. Things seem rather contained here on the Lido. And yes, I will have fun.

      Reply
  9. Avatar
    Dana
    2013/08/28

    That’s it. I’ve finally decided: I want to be Mozzarella Mamma when I grow up.
    Welcome to Veneto!
    D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/28

      Thank you Dana! You don’t really want to be Mozzarella Mamma — I leave out all the bad stuff. But it’s true, I do get to do a lot of fun and interesting stories for my job.

      Reply
  10. Avatar
    Kathy
    2013/08/30

    Trisha you look so confident on that bike – last time I rode a bike it was down my driveway and straight into my mailbox (much to the mirth of the patrons of the general store across from my house).
    My gosh all those famous name and amazing films to see, like Parkland. My son is studying JFK in his senior history classes and they look at JFK at this hospital in detail. And to be in Venice – surely one of the most intriguing and romantic places on earth. I hope you get to doorstop George so we can all drool up close and get a glimpse of his gorgeousness.

    And I also hope that this fun place can maybe ease the transition of Nico leaving home.

    Have heaps of fun Trisha and can’t wait to read you next post!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/08/30

      Thanks Kathy, you are always so supportive. I love bike-riding. Being able to come out of my apartment every morning here and just hop on a bike and pedal down the road along the canal and over to the Lido where the Festival is, is so liberating. I feel happy and free. Gosh, I never feel like that driving my Fiat in blocked traffic in Rome!!

      Reply
  11. Avatar
    barbara
    2013/09/03

    Riding a bicycle in a dress!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2013/09/03

      I do just about everything in a dress. I love dresses!!

      Reply

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