Venice Film Festival to Screen 10 Rare Films From Archive in Special Retrospective

Martin Luther King 1965
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April 1965:  Dr Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama.

To honor the 80th anniversary of the first Venice festival, organizers will restore, screen and make available for distribution 10 rare prints from the festival's giant archives.

ROME – The Venice Film Festival said Tuesday it would select 10 rare films from its archives to form the year’s retrospective in a special nod to the 80th anniversary of the festival’s inaugural edition.

Normally, the festival’s retrospective focuses on a specific director or genre. But the festival said it had selected the ten films in this year’s retrospective based purely on rarity: many of them are the only existing copies of films, or copies of earlier versions of films that differ from the versions later released on cinemas.

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Highlights include Free at Last, a PBS documentary from 1968 covering Martin Luther King’s historic march on Washington, which was interrupted by his assassination. Venice’s print is the only existing copy of the film, which was directed by Gregory Shuker, James Desmond, and Nicholas Proferes. Poslednjaja noc (The Last Night), made in the Soviet Union in 1936 by Yuli Yakovlevich Raisman, examines the October revolution through the eyes of two families, and famed Chilean director Raul Ruiz’s short Ahora te vamos a llamar hermano (Now We’re Going to Call You Brother), the only surviving copy of the film that tells the story of Salvador Allende’s decree that made Mapuches Indians full Chilean citizens.

The festival will restore the copies from its Historic Archives of the Contemporary Arts of the Biennale for the screenings on the Lido. Afterwards, the copies will be made available for cultural events and commercial re-release.

The ten films selected include seven full-length feature films and three shorter productions. In addition to Free at Last, Proferes, Poslednjaja noc, and Ahora te vamos a llamar hermano, the list includes French director Jean Delannoy’s 1950 Dieu a besoin des hommes (God Needs Men), which tells the story of the inhabitants of  the wild island of Seil; Genghis Khan, a 1950 adventure film from Philippines directors Manuel Conde and Salvador Lou; Italian director Renato Castellani’s 1961 murder mystery Il brigante (The Brigand), the only surviving copy of the full version of the film, which was shortened for commercial release; Pagine chiuse (Page Closed) from Italy’s Gianni Da Campo, which tells the story of the 1969 student protests that swept Europe; Spanish director Carlos Saura’s -Stress-es tres-tres (Stress is Three), a 1968 road film starring Geraldine Chaplin; Pytel blech (A Bag Full of Fleas), a the only existing copy of the 1963 Czech documentary about how pompous Communist rhetoric plays inside a youth hostel from Vera Chytolova; and Zablacene mesto (Mud-Covered City), a 1963 short from Czech director Vaclav Taborsky about urban development in Prague.  

This year is the 80th anniversary of the first edition of the Venice festival, which started at the Excelsior Hotel on the Lido in 1932, but it is only the 69th edition of the event, which was paused during periods of war and other periods of turmoil. The event will take place August 29-Sept. 8.