Venice Festival’s Decision To Eliminate Italian Film Sidebar Sparks Controversy

CONGRATS: Alberto Barbera

Alberto Barbera, the head of the Italian film archives, will return to his former post as artistic director of the Venice Film Festival.

The 21-film competition had become a leading outlet for local productions.

ROME – The Italian media reacted negatively to the Venice Film Festival’s plans to remove the well-regarded Controcampo Italiano sidebar from the festival, though other changes to the festival’s new game plan were more accepted.

Controcampo Italiano was the festival’s sidebar produced exclusively for Italian productions. Along with most special events, the sidebar was eliminated on Thursday by new artistic director Alberto Barbera, who also scaled back the size of most festival sidebars in an effort to increase the quality and visibility of the films screening on the Lido.

The Controcampo Italiano was seen as one of the most high-profile stages in the country for the bulk of Italian films, shorts, and documentaries, though the large number of films in the sidebar -- last year’s edition had a total of 21 films across the three categories -- sometimes led to uneven quality.

In the press, the decision to eliminate Controcampo Italiano was mostly criticized, though producer Riccardo Tozzi, president of ANICA, the National Cinema and Audiovisual Industry Association, said the sidebar should have been scaled back rather than eliminated.

For its part, Italy’s Hundred Authors movement, an advocacy group for authors and screenwriters, vowed to fight the decision to eliminate the sidebar.

Barbera took over as the artistic director of the world’s oldest film festival in December, replacing Marco Mueller who held the post for two four-year mandates.