Minister wants to pick next Venice jury prez

7:23 AM PST 09/17/2010 by Eric J. Lyman, AP

Argues Quentin Tarantino was 'elitist,' showed favoritism

ROME -- Italy's Minister of Culture said he wants to pick the president of the jury at the next Venice Film Festival, arguing that the state's support gave him that right and charging that festival artistic director Marco Mueller's choice of auteur Quentin Tarantino as president of the last jury was "elitist."

In an interview published in Friday's edition of the Italian news weekly Panorama, Minister Sandro Bondi blasted the decision of the jury to award the festival's top prize to Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere." In the wake of the festival, which concluded Sept. 11, the Italian media charged the choice showed favoritism toward Coppola, Tarantino's former girlfriend.

Tarantino was also criticized for the jury's decision to present Tarantino's mentor, iconic independent filmmaker Monte Hellman, with a career award, and for giving two major awards to Alex de la Iglesia, a long-time friend of the 47-year-old Tarantino.

After the festival, Tarantino aggressively denied "steering" the jury, which also included fellow directors Arnaud Desplechin of France, Guillermo Arriaga of Mexico, and Italians Gabriele Salvatores and Luca Guadagnino, plus Lithuanian actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite and composer Danny Elfman.

"Tarantino is the expression of an elitist, relativistic and snobbish culture," Bondi said in the interview. "It's clear that his vision influences his critical judgment. The results of this year's festival should oblige everyone to open their eyes and do a little bit of soul searching."

Bondi also criticized Mueller, who has been Venice's artistic director since 2004.

"Mueller is like a soccer coach, in love with his own schemes up to the point that he is unable to focus on the talent that is visible to everyone else," the magazine quoted Bondi as saying.

Bondi has actively reshaped the relationship between the Italian state and the cinema sector since he took office in 2006. In the past, he has refused to provide state funding for projects deemed critical of the government or those seen to have limited artistic value, and he has refused to attend major festivals including Cannes, Locarno, and Venice in protest of the decision of those events to screen films he said were inappropriate.

In the Panorama interview, Bondi said that because the Italian government directly or indirectly provides more than half of the Venice Film Festival's €12.1 million ($15.7 million) budget, that it should have the right to decide who oversees the festival's main competition jury.

Most of the reaction to Bondi's claim that the Italian government should pick the jury president has been negative.

"Bondi was motivated by the fact that he wanted an Italian film to win, the goal of a lot of people," said producer Domenico Procacci, whose film "Barney's Vision" was in competition in Venice this year. "But there is no country in the world where politics plays the role of protecting and defending the national film industry."

Jury member Guadagnino agreed: "The first thing that comes to mind is a profound confusion about the state's financing an event like the Venice Film Festival," he said. "Does that support mean that the event should only exist to entertain the leaders of the government?"

If Bondi was indeed given a voice in selecting the main competition jury, it would make Venice the first major film festival in which the state plays such an active role in selecting a jury. Several leading industry figures said such a move would severely damage Venice's credibility as an important event.

"These ideas are not in line with the practice in countries that host large festivals, in which the autonomy of event is guaranteed," said Ricardo Tozzi, president of the Italian audiovisual association ANICA. "The composition of the jury is a technical job ... it could never be carried out by someone who lacks that specific expertise."

A spokesman for the Venice festival, the world's oldest film festival, said officials had no comment regarding Bondi's remarks.
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