Venice Announces 'Light Market' and Slimmed Down Lineups for 2012

9:38 AM PST 02/02/2012 by Eric J. Lyman
Alberto Barbera

The changes are the first under new artistic director Alberto Barbera, who replaced Marco Mueller in December.

ROME – The Venice Film Festival on Thursday outlined plans for its upcoming edition, including the first official announcement of an upgraded “light market” event that will likely overlap significantly with Toronto’s international market, and a scaled down number of films in a program that will seek to increase visibility for each film.

In the first major moves since the appointment of Alberto Barbera as the festival’s new artistic director, Venice officials also announced the creation of  “Biennale College – Cinema,” a workshop aimed at helping young filmmakers produce their first films. Organizers also named its team of six expert consultants and seven regional correspondents who will help select the festival’s program, including some holdovers from the previous team, and detailed some logistical changes.

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The announcement about the market was highly anticipated, after the Italian media reported that Venice’s decision to oust long-time artistic director Marco Mueller in favor of Barbera, the head of the National Film Museum, was sparked at least in part because of the festival’s desire to develop a market. Under Mueller, a market was seen as difficulty because of the limited infrastructure on the Lido and the high cost of the city.

Perhaps as a nod to those limitations, the festival’s market for 2012 has been dubbed a “light market,” which aims to “give particular momentum to the Industry Office” with an eye toward evolving into a full market at some future point.

Whatever the name, Venice’s market is sure to ruffle feathers in Toronto, which in recent years has been scheduled so that its first week coincides with Venice’s second week. Toronto has not yet announced its dates for 2012, but the Venice festival will take place August 29-Sept. 8.

Officials hope that at least part of the logistical problems will be solved by the construction of a new building for festival use, while renovations on other structures started last year will continue. The festival was dealt a blow two years ago when plans for a new grand Palazzo del Cinema were scrapped because of environmental and health concerns when asbestos was found on the site.

The festival also announced that the overall program this year will be scaled back compared to Mueller’s eight-year tenure.

Though no overall number was given, the new rules will limit the number of in-competition films to 20 compared to 23 in recent years, and no more than 11 out-of-competition slots compared to 22 last year. The Venice Days sidebar will be limited to a dozen films, the same number it had last year when no cap was in place.

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The well-regarded Controcampo Italiano sidebar for Italian-made productions will be eliminated, as will most special events.

The festival said the changes will “ensure that each selected film will have a better slot in the schedule and increased visibility, greater possibilities for additional screenings with more comfortable viewing conditions for the public and professionals. “

The Biennale College – Cinema is a specialization workshop open to aspiring filmmakers worldwide. The goal of the “college” is to produce three feature length works within a year.

The selection of expert and correspondents includes some key holdovers from Mueller’s team, most notably Giulia d’Agnolo Vallan, in charge of selections from the U.S. and Canada. Paolo Bertolin for the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia also returns.

China, a Venice stronghold under Mueller, will be taken over by Elena Pollacchi, who was poached from the team at the International Rome Film Festival, which is where Mueller himself may resurface as artistic director. A decision on that topic is expected next week.

Among the six experts who will help Barbera cull down the list of potential films to fit within the festival’s new limits, the best known is probably Oscar Iarussi, the former president of the Apulia Film Commission, one of Italy’s most successful regional commissions.

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