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Venice Festival in Full Swing

The first prominent names to arrive at the 61st Venice International Film Festival were Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg to help kick off their out of competition opening film The Terminal. Fans and press bent over the Lido lagoon to catch a glimpse of Spielberg and Hanks boating in by water taxi to Hotel Exelsior's private dock.

The 61st Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica met with the press corps the same day at Hotel Excelsior. On hand were president of the jury - director John Boorman (UK, President), directors Wolfgang Becker (Germany), Mimmo Calopresti (Italy),Dušan Makavejev (Serbia-Montenegro)and Spike Lee (USA), actors Helen Mirren (US), Scarlet Johansson (USA), producer and actor Xu Feng (China)and film editor Pietro Scalia (Italy).

Day one brought several venues to screen: two films from the official selection: Francois Ozon's Five x 2, a tale of a couple on the rocks, and five incidents the director feels may be interpreted by the audience as possible roots to their breakup, and the less than powerful piece Delivery by Nikos Panyotopoulos about life on Athen's fringe. In the Horizon section, debut filmmaker Shainee Gabel (USA) brings together Scarlet Johannson, John Travolta and Gabriel Macht for A Love Song for Bobby Long - a film about a Southern self-destructive writer whose life is claimed to be allegorical of the city of New Orleans. The “out of competition” late night screening was Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate --a film about politics, memory, surveillance and the dissolution of civil liberties in the aftermath of Desert Storm in Kuwait 1991.

Day two featured press conferences with Nikos Panyotopoulos, Francois Ozon Shainee Gabel and Jonathan Demme. Actors Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington and Liev Shriebner were on hand to comment about The Manchurian Candidate film for a European audience. Shriebner said he read what was written about him in the international press, whereas Washington said he didn't. Meryl Streep in one of her finest performances as the powerful senator Eleanor Shaw said that in the UK audiences speculate that her role model for the part was Margaret Thatcher and in the USA, Hillary Clinton. A film that weaves science fiction with old tropes like incest and matricide from "Macbeth" and "Psycho" may be more archetypically influential in this epic that portrays the US election process as a whimsical media show orchestrated by powerful economic cartels.

After the press rooms cleared for the Hollywood extraveganza in entered festival director Marco Mueller with the digital film jury, precided over by Michael Figgis with producer Shozo Ichiyama (Japan) and director Claire Simon (Morocco-France). Mueller spoke about the future of digital cinema at Venice where more and more entries are sent--some of which are digital works which the directors want blown up to 35mm. Figgis passionately spoke about the medium which is a contrapoint to Hollywood production including marketing and distribution. For some countries in Africa ,Latin America and Asia this is the only way to make films where facilities for 35mm film are inadequate. Figgis stressed the need to adapt and enlarge this new democratic medium, but that aesthetically speaking, the locus of digital film is still a camera, where filmmakers need an education in how to create images and put them together.

Moira Sullivan

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