Venice kicks off 'Hundred Films' program


More news from the Venice Film Festival

VENICE, Italy -- Italy's year-old plan to protect 100 of its greatest films and turn them into a kind of cinema-based cultural archive officially got under way Thursday with the launching of the selection process that will choose the films highlighted.

The start of the initiative was announced at the Lido headquarters of the Venice Days sidebar, which also opened Thursday.

Venice Days focuses on up-and-coming directors, but the "Hundred Films and One Country" project will be selecting films that already are part of the public consciousness. All of the pictures under consideration will hail from the so-called Golden Age of Italian Cinema, the 30-year period that began with the end of World War II.

Officials announcing the project stressed that the final list, selected by a specially appointed committee of 10 made up of critics, historians, writers and film archivists, should not be interpreted as a list of the 100 best films from the 1945-75 period but rather as a cinematographic examination of Italy during those decades.

"The greatest Italian films will be on the list, but the films will also illustrate the way people spoke at that time, changes in geography, slang, values, the family ... the way things once were" explained Ofelia Patti, the project's coordinator. "Classic films like (Roberto Rossellini's) 'Rome, Open City' will be on the list, but so will some popular but less intellectual films that were typical of their period."

Venice Days director Fabio Ferzetti explained it a different way. "We have to determine which are the essential films in the history of Italian cinema," he said.

Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of culture, and Venice Biennale president Davide Croff both stopped by the Venice Days headquarters to throw their support behind the initiative.

"This is important because the youngest generation is very familiar with cinema but not necessarily with the history of their cinema," Rutelli said.

The process began Thursday, and the list of the 100 films should be completed by the end of the year. Once the first 100 films are selected -- organizers say the list will be expanded after the initial films are selected -- they will be restored and refurbished if required and then made available for educational and cultural uses free of charge.