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Venice Film Festival is easily one of the best early testing grounds for a film, as 2,000 journalists from around the world gather and very vocally cheer or boo a film for its press and industry screenings.
Early reactions on Twitter can have a strong impact on a film, as last year’s critical pan of Mother! caused Darren Aronofsky to be overly defensive of his film at the ensuing press conference.
Venice was one of the few major film festivals left that didn’t have a major embargo on its journalists, but now the festival is changing that. As of Wednesday, Venice is asking all press to wait until the first major public screening of a film begins before releasing any comments or reviews.
As the world’s oldest film festival, Venice is typically very forward-thinking, being the first major festival to welcome a Netflix feature film and host a VR film competition. But it admits the festival is no match for social media and digital critiques.
“The ongoing transformations in the world of communications, brought about by the rise of new technologies and social networks, have affected the traditional lapse of time between the appearance of comments by the press and the start of public screenings during the Festival,” reads the festival statement.
“Traditionally, press previews gave journalists — essential partners of a film festival — sufficient time to carry out their work productively,” the statement continued. “Back when articles appeared solely in print form, journalists’ reviews were published the next day, or in any case, after the first public screening.”
Why Venice wishes to revert back to a time of print journalism seems to contradict the language of director Alberto Barbera, who always speaks of the festival as looking toward the future. It is likely that studios, stars and distributors have been pressuring him into changing the policy to protect films from early reviews that can cause great harm to films.
There is no information given as to any potential consequences for writers who break the embargo. It will be difficult to enforce journalists who Tweet their thoughts after a film, particularly for some of the more anticipated films coming from the festival, such as Suspiria and A Star Is Born.
This year, the Cannes Film Festival — which has double the amount of journalists of Venice with 4,000 members of the press who could also easily sink a film before its premiere — doubled down and made journalists watch screenings at the same time as the public or even a day after.
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