Artistic Director Alberto Barbera on the Future of the Venice Film Festival

8:12 AM PST 01/24/2012 by Eric J. Lyman
Alberto Barbera

"The idea is to strengthen the business aspect of the festival, because we know that today it can be difficult to find the money to back new productions," said Barbera, who replaced Marco Mueller in December.

ROME – The newly-installed artistic director of the storied Venice Film Festival said that developing a “light” version of an industry market would be his top priority and that the event would focus less on filling its programs with “films that can’t find a niche.”

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Speaking to the Italian publication Giornale dello Spettacolo Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera confirmed media speculation that he was chosen to replace Marco Mueller at Venice’s helm in order to switch focus, at least in part, from the selection of films in the various sections of the festival to the creation of a kind of market. The remarks were the first extensive public comments from Barbera since he was appointed to his new post Dec. 27.

“Creating a kind of light market in Venice will quickly create a meeting point for producers and distributors from around the world,” Barbera said. “The idea is to strengthen the business aspect of the festival, because we know that today it can be difficult to find the money to back new productions, and an event like this can help”

In the past, Mueller and other Venice officials said that a market in Venice would be difficult because of the high cost of the city and the lack of free space on the Venice Lido, where most of the festival’s events take place. But Barbera, who has had a previous stint a Venice artistic director and who most recently worked as the head of Italy’s National Film Museum, said he had been assured by Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta that the “logistical problems” of the festival would be addressed.

“A new plan will soon be announced and it will describe in detail the strategy for creating new spaces and screening rooms and modernizing existing structures,” Barbera said.

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The 61-year-old Barbera, who was director for the Turin Film Festival for 10 years, said he “does not love films that can’t find a niche.” He said he would like to have a Venice program full of “important films,” that even if it does not offer a complete panorama of what is available, would “certainly include the best films possible.”

The Dec. 27 appointment of Barbera ended weeks of speculation about the leadership of the 69-year-old festival. Baratta was re-appointed to a second four-year term earlier in the month, before a reported power play between Baratta and Mueller ended with the ouster of the well-regarded Mueller, who helped raise the festival’s visibility during his two four-year mandates as the festival’s artistic director.

Mueller’s name has since resurfaced as the possible artistic director at the International Rome Film Festival as well as to festivals in Asia and Russia.

This year’s edition of the Venice Film Festival will take place August 29 to Sept. 8.

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