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VENICE 2021 International Film Critics’ Week

Beatrice Fiorentino • General Delegate, Venice International Film Critics’ Week

“Europe is now participating in the production of films which boast a more fluid identity”

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- We chatted with the new general delegate about the 2021 edition of the parallel section, presided over by Venice’s film critics

Beatrice Fiorentino • General Delegate, Venice International Film Critics’ Week

Beatrice Fiorentino has sat on the selection committee of Venice’s International Film Critics’ Week since 2016, and last year saw her replace artistic director Giona A Nazzaro following his appointment as director of the Locarno Film Festival. She has also been a member of the EFA - European Film Academy since 2018. We chatted with her about the 2021 edition of the event.

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Cineuropa: What ideas do you have for this parallel section of such a big festival?
Beatrice Fiorentino:
Partly out of affinity, partly to finish the journey which he began, I’m working with the idea which Giona A Nazzaro developed for International Film Critics’ Week, and it requires no effort whatsoever. He’d already taken a different position with respect to the past and I didn’t feel the need to change my outlook: we all work together, alongside the Giornate degli Autori event and the wider festival organisers; each of us adds something extra to the event and to the range of options offered up by the festival, giving as wide an idea as possible of what world cinema can offer. The mission of International Film Critics’ Week is to discover new talent and to open ourselves up to new types of cinema, perhaps adopting a more radical and experimental outlook.

How have the selected films been influenced by the pandemic?
We asked ourselves whether we should look the other way and move on from it, but International Film Critics’ Week has always captured the zeitgeist; we couldn’t move on from it. I feel uneasy with films which don’t speak to me, because we’re living in a changed world, at a time of emergency. There wouldn’t be any point to our work if we didn’t capture this disorientation. It’s not just about choosing good films, we’ve really tried to work in line with a particular idea; that is, how our outlook has changed with this new reality and the new relationship that can unfold between viewers and films in the Covid era. So we definitely weren’t looking for films about the pandemic, moreover we didn’t receive very many of these. But crucial themes have emerged which have been greatly discussed, if not entirely distorted, over the past 18 months; films which spoke to us about the profound meaning of life and death, of human contact, of distance, and which redefined the coordinates of space and time. We have a different way of feeling now, in terms of the passing of time or experiencing other bodies. The perfect example of this is the Spanish film They Carry Death [+see also:
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interview: Samuel M Delgado and Helena…
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, a clearly thought-out film whose filming commenced before the pandemic, was interrupted and then eventually resumed. But that film acquires new meaning today: it’s set in 1492 [Ed: the year in which America was discovered], the Old World is coming to an end, the New World is yet to be conquered and History is yet to be written. With Columbus’s ships in the background, we bear witness to two journeys: that of a group of men who are escaping death and that of a woman who is transporting her dead sister’s body and feels an urgent need to return her to the ground. After the tragic experiences many of us have lived through, it’s impossible to remain indifferent to images like these.

Europe features heavily within the selection, in terms of co-productions, too. In your opinion, is the Old Continent participating in the creation of a global market for films about common feeling, which also help, in financial terms, to propel forward authors who are capable of crossing divides?
This is another sign which we wanted to capture and foreground. This year, we received so many unusual and original co-productions which represent a global form of cinema, but they also boast a more fluid identity. It’s interesting that we’re also seeing this in Italian films, which have an increasing tendency to cross boundaries – I’m talking about Mother Lode [+see also:
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interview: Matteo Tortone
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and The Last Chapter [+see also:
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interview: Gianluca Matarrese
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, which we didn’t choose for their nationalities but for their status as world films which convey a universal form of observation. Maybe it’s time to move beyond the convenient labels of “Spanish film” or “French film”. Europe has sent us this signal, which is brilliant, on condition that identities, journeys, stories and authors’ feelings are respected.

How have festivals repositioned themselves after the streaming race brought about by the pandemic?
The question of the role of festivals has been around since before the pandemic. Our answer is summed up by our official image, an artwork by Emiliano Mammuccari, Mauro Uzzeo and Fabrizio Verrocchi entitled Embracing Again. This image is the physical realisation of a little obsession of mine, because while I was asking myself what we’d lost over these past few months and what the film world was going to look like, I kept thinking of the moment captured in a photo taken on a telephone in 2016 at the premiere of a film at International Film Critics’ Week, when the members of the delegation associated with that particular film all came together in a group hug. Watching films online isn’t the same thing; what we lost in festivals which didn’t take place in person was the coming together of a community. Festivals are privileged spaces which still serve to encourage meetings, they facilitate lengthy discussions over films and help preserve experiential memories. Whereas on Zoom, we’re all the same.

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(Translated from Italian)

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