Venice Days Chief Discusses Female-Focused Lineup

Naomi Kawase - H

Naomi Kawase - H

Venice Film Festival's popular sidebar has a welcome feminine trend this year: "To be honest, we didn’t discover it until the final rush of our selection. I don’t really want to know a lot about the films and their directors before the first screening," says Giorgio Gosetti.

While most major festivals still struggle to represent adequate gender diversity in their lineups (the Venice Film Festival has only two female directors, out of 21 participants, in competition), Venice Days, the fest's independent sidebar, has an incredible seven films in its lineup directed by women.

As with the Locarno Film Festival just to the north, which this year also saw a healthy representation across both genders, the lineup focuses on many new voices — rather than relying on the old voices of cinema — with seven films represented by first-timers.

Both the opening- and closing-night films show two very different faces of contemporary war from female voices: Syrian Obaidah Zytoon’s The War Show follows the civil war in her home country, and Italian Paola Piacenza’s The War Within follows the hellscape of abducted Italian journalist Domenico Quirico.

In other highlights, Valerie Muller teamed up with famed choreographer Angelin Preljocaj for Polina, the story of a talented young ballerina who pursues her passions from the Bolshoi to France to Belgium. The dance sequences alone may give Black Swan a run for its money.

Amanda Kernell’s Sameblod explores racism against the Sami people, the only group indigenous to Scandinavia. Elle is a 14-year-old reindeer breeder who longs for a different life away from her culture. In Quit Staring at My Plate, Hana Jusic explores the sexual and social explorations of a young girl after she is is forced to take care of her family, who all live on top of each other inside a tiny apartment.  

In addition to the strong representation of female directors, there is a a strong theme of female-focused films, including the visually stunning third feature of Edoardo De Angelis, Indivisible, which follows the singing conjoined twins Daisy and Violet in the south of Italy. One longs to separate while the other can’t imagine a life apart from her sister.

Venice Days has again teamed up with Miu Miu, which has used the festival throughout the years as a platform to promote female filmmakers through short films (often with some product placement thrown in for good measure). This year, Naomi Kawase (Still the Water) and Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) will unveil new shorts for the festival audience.

Venice Days director Giorgio Gosetti doesn’t blame his colleagues for the seeming preference toward male directors in Cannes, Berlin or Venice, but simply blames it on the “sexist world” we live in. He reaffirms that he doesn’t choose his lineup based on diversity, but it’s a very happy coincidence when the lineup comes out so diverse. THR spoke with Gosetti on the eve of the festival about how the programming came together and what he’s particularly looking forward to.

How did it come to be that you have so many female directors in the lineup?

To be honest, we didn’t discover it until the final rush of our selection. I don’t really want to know a lot about the films and their directors before the first screening. And I’m not convinced that there is every time a distinguished female path in the way a story is told. For sure it is possible to find a different approach and style, but every artist is a single personality instead of a single gender. But at the end of the day now I’m very happy of the final choice and proud to encourage feminine creativity in Venice Days.

Venice Days has always had a focus on female directors with Miu Miu Women's Tales. Is this a mission of the programming, to highlight female directors?

When we started the Women’s Tales experience four years ago, it seemed to us crucial to underline how vital and creative is the feminine creativity in cinema; even on the artistic basis or on the professional one. So we decided together with Miu Miu to host every year a couple of short films specially conceived by great and promising women directors (this time it is a special honor to receive Naomi Kawase) and to dedicate a couple of days to discuss with different protagonists of the cinematic planet their own approach and story.

The major film festivals — Cannes, Berlin and even Venice — have been criticized for their lack of female directors. Why do you think this is?

I don’t think that my colleagues have a sort of prejudice against women. It is real that in the past it was more difficult to find good female directors and that we still live in a sexist world. It is also true that Venice Days show a special sensibility in this matter, but in the end it is also a stroke of luck: You can select if the artists come to you. We are happy enough because of the attention of women directors toward us.

Do you think the trend is reversing? That women will be more accepted into the lineups of major international film festivals?

Definitively, yes.

What do you think is most necessary to have more diversity in programming lineups?

I’m not so fond about the political correctness when you have to deal with an artistic selection: You have to see movies and make your choice because of your personal idea about a program and about art. Diversity is a very actual subject and so you have to face it in your choices but you can’t compose your selection because of diversity. Nevertheless we will have a special panel on this subject during the festival, which shows our attention to the theme.