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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.