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in Filmmaking
on Sep 2, 2009

Reporting from the fest, Belle Burke sends this dispatch on what’s in store this year. VFF begins today and wraps Sept. 12. Stay tuned to the blog for more reports from Venice.

Do all film festivals begin with disclaimers, denials, and disappointments? In Venice, where discussions can be as heated as the weather, they often do, but maybe it clears the way for the bragging rights of the world’s oldest film festival. Marco Muller, back again as the festival director, still somewhat apprehensive as last-minute plans evolve, emphasizes that it will not be a “provincial festival” even though it has already been accused of an excess of Italian films (16: 4 in competition, 3 in the Horizon section, 2 not in competition, and 7 in Controcampo, an overview of the latest trends in Italian cinema), has no regrets about not being able to offer films by Spike Jonze, Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson which are not ready to be shown, but he doesn’t miss the opportunity to fan the flames of festival competitiveness by saying that Venice refuses to schedule films in progress, contrary to Cannes.

When John Lesseter receives the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, together with the directors of Disney*Pixar, the world premiere of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3-D and other Pixar offerings will celebrate the “child in all of us,” says Muller, before the festival returns to its customary offerings of war films, stories of homosexual love, and an entire category called These Fantasms, featuring titles from the 40s to the 80s.

Much anticipation for Giuseppe Tornatore’s Baaria, the first Italian film to open the festival in twenty years and the most expensive Italian production in a long time. Other big names expected include directors Werner Herzog, Ang Lee (heading the jury) Michael Moore, and actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Isabelle Huppert, Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes (the last two are in Werner Herzog’s reimagining of Bad Lieutenant), Tilda Swinton and “the grand old man” Omar Sharif. The festival will close with Chengdu, I Love You by Fruit Chan and the rockstar Jian Cui in homage to the city after last year’s catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan. — Belle Burke

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