Venice Film Festival to Add New Jury Prize

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ROME – The venerable Venice Film Festival will hand out three new awards starting with its 70th edition this year, including a Grand Jury honor, and it confirmed speculation that the Venice Classics sidebar that premiered last year will become a regular fixture in future editions of the world’s oldest film festival.

Monday’s announcement also established that the main competition would be limited to 20 films, which must be world premieres. It also said that the main competition jury would include nine members (it previously fluctuated between seven and nine members), with seven on the juries for the Horizons sidebar as well as the Luigi De Laurentiis award for a director’s first film (those juries featured between five and seven members in the past).

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The festival will limit the number of out-of-competition films to an even dozen, all “significant works,” with a preference given to those from established directors who are veterans of the festival’s main competition in the past. Like the main competition, the Horizons sidebar, which focuses on trends in filmmaking, will be limited to 20 films.

Horizons will also add two new prizes: one for Best Director and a special Horizons Prize for innovation.

The festival’s Golden Lion career honor, normally given to one outstanding figure per year, can now be awarded twice under “exceptional cases.”

The main innovation is the establishment of the Grand Jury honor, which might have helped avoid the biggest controversy from last year’s event, the first since the return of Alberto Barbera as artistic director.

In 2012, the Michael Mann-led jury voted to give Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master the festival’s Golden Lion award as the competition’s best film. But rules prohibited it from doing so because it already earned too many awards -- the Silver Lion for Best Director, plus the co-award of the acting prize to the film’s stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. The Golden Lion went to Kim Ki-dik’s Pieta instead.

Under the new rules, the jury could have elected to give The Master the new Grand Jury prize.

Officials said the Grand Jury prize will take the place of the honor for technical innovation, which will no longer be awarded.

Venice Classics, a special sidebar made of up films from Venice’s massive archives, was well received when it premiered at last year’s festival, sparking speculation that it could become a regular event. It is now official that that will be the case.

Barbera previously announced that the main competition would be limited to 20 films, compared to 23 under predecessor Marco Mueller, and an all-world-premiere competition lineup has been a regular occurrence in Venice for a half dozen years with the exception of the 2009 festival, when the 2008-09 Screen Actors Guild strike severely limited the number of new productions available.

The Venice Film Market, perhaps the biggest change to the festival under Barbera, will hold its second edition this year as planned.

The Venice festival will take place this year Aug. 26-Sept. 7.

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