Venice Fest gaining reputation as int'l film bazaar

ROME — Gripes about the lack of a bona fide film market are almost as integral to Venice as St. Marks Square or the Bridge of Sighs.

While Cannes and Berlin developed over time into major bazaars for picture peddling, the world’s oldest film fest has remained just that.

“It was known as the art festival, the auteur festival. Just don’t talk about money: It’s a dirty thing,” explains Venice topper Moritz de Hadeln.

By fits and starts, that definition is starting to change.

In 1999, the Venice Screenings were set up by then-fest director Alberto Barbera. Besides logistical assistance to dealmakers, the program offered a place for buyers to watch videos. About 500 industryites registered.

Last year de Hadeln — who is making a Venice market a high priority — introduced proper screenings of celluloid prints in cinemas ranging from 50 to 1,300 seats. About 1,400 industryites registered. More are expected this year.

“We are a support structure. We offer logistical help and enough infrastructure for buyers and sellers to carry out their work,” says Venice Screenings chief Laura Marcellino.

Booth space

This go-round, for the first time in the fest’s history, de Hadeln is offering companies booth space in the Excelsior Hotel. But only about 10 companies have registered, raising the question of what type of market Venice can aspire to become.

De Hadeln’s steps toward launching a market on the Lido may be colliding with the film industry’s increasing frustration with too many marts.

AFMA’s recent decision to shift the American Film Market to November — concurrent with Italy’s Mifed — suggests most American companies are willing to cross the Pond only to go to Cannes and (perhaps) Berlin.

AFMA’s move against Milan has prompted Mifed and Venice organizers to open talks that could result in a Cannes-type synergy, a pact similar to the one forged between AFM and the American Film Institute’s Los Angeles film festival.

But the prospect of Venice and Mifed becoming one doesn’t seem likely. “Maybe a smaller Mifed could be done in Venice, I don’t know,” de Hadeln says.

Resistance

In Italy, the prospect of Venice turning into a Cannes clone isn’t very popular.

“We don’t want a big official market in Venice. We want a market for the movies that are already unspooling on the Lido, plus those which have been shown in Locarno and Montreal — which come right before Venice. That’s it,” says Paola Corvino, VP of Italy’s film exporter association UNEFA, and head of Rome sales company Intra Movies.

“The enchantment of Venice is that you see movies, walk around, sit at the bar of the Excelsior or lie by the pool at Des Bains, and that is the market. Who wants to sit in a booth?”

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