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Italy’s Minister of Cultural and Heritage Activities Alberto Bonisoli has responded to a call to action after various organizations of filmmakers and exhibitors slammed the Venice Biennale after Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma took home the Golden Lion for his semiautographical black-and-white Netflix film.
“Barbera is the artistic director and the artistic choices belong to the artistic director,” responded the minister.
The organizations, including ANAC (National Association of Film Authors), which represents directors and screenwriters, FICE (Italian Federation of Cinema of Essai) and ACEC (Catholic Cinema Exhibitors Association), described the festival as a “marketing vehicle” for Netflix and urged Bonisoli to launch an investigation into the Biennale’s promotion of the company, given that the Mostra del Cinema is paid for with public funds.
Bonisoli, speaking from Milan at a press conference for the discovery of an ancient vessel of gold coins, said that it will not benefit the country to ignore Netflix.
“I want Italy to remain a film production country,” he said. “This year the Venice Film Festival has been a success. It is the edition with the highest credibility worldwide. We must be happy about this.”
Bonisoli also took a shot at the stringent regulations in place on cinema distribution in France, saying that Italy was not beholden to these rules. But he did admit that directives may have to come out of further discussions on the issue, not ruling out a possible taxation on the streaming giant.
“We are faced with a new world, a world that can not be managed by imposing decrees, but we have the authority to confront and bring back to the system what is an evolution,” he continued. “We have already had a meeting with all the subjects of the cinema system and we will do another one in mid-October for our directives on TV and platforms.”
Film industry association ANICA president Francesco Rutelli added that “the matter is global and very important and by the 1st of January we will have to provide a regulation which could fix, amongst other things, investment obligations of the platforms.”
Netflix did no wide-scale promotional activities on the Lido this year. And while they were not questioning the decision of jury president Guillermo del Toro or the quality of Alfonso Cuaron and his film Roma, the organizations in question were upset that competition slots were being given to films that would not be shown worldwide in theaters. They argued that the Biennale was giving “huge resources” to Netflix, while making the position of Italian and European cinemas — already losing out on ticket sales in a country rife with online piracy — very difficult.
Roma is the first major European festival award for a narrative feature for Netflix. Its Coen Brothers film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was also honored with the best screenplay prize.
“The Golden Lion, a symbol of the International Film Festival, which has always been financed with public resources is a patrimony of Italian spectators; the film that bears its name should be within everyone’s reach, in cinemas, and not exclusively for the subscribers of the American platform,” read the statement from the protesting organizations.
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