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Venice chief maps course

Venezia 59 to be flanked by cutting-edge Upstream

ROME — Newly appointed Venice Intl. Film Festival director Moritz de Hadeln has outlined his game plan for the 59th edition, sticking close to structural lines established by his predecessor, Alberto Barbera, while putting his own organizational stamp on the event.

While the dual competition format introduced by Barbera last year remains, the two sections are no longer intended to have equal standing. The fest runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

The major-league international feature competition (known this year as Venezia 59) will be flanked by a more cutting-edge competitive lineup called Upstream (Controcorrente).

“Having only been in the job for six weeks, I haven’t had time to make revolutionary changes,” de Hadeln told Daily Variety. “One has to first live with a festival and get used to its complicated machinery. As it evolves, the selection may take a different shape, but basically, I’m happy with the existing structure, which allows us plenty of freedom.”

While plans to launch a full-fledged market in Venice have met with little success in the past, the longtime Berlinale topper will introduce an industry service known as Venice Screenings, making seller stands available plus film and video screening venues for producers and distribs.

“The one thing this festival desperately needs is a market,” said de Hadeln. “Hopefully, the Venice Screenings represents the start of what will develop into a real market structure.”

A newly refurbished two-screen Lido theater, along with theaterettes in the principal Palazzo del Cinema venue, will be used for industry showings.

Top honor in the main section remains the Golden Lion, paired with a Silver Lion in the short film category, to be judged for the first time by the same international jury.

In order to restore principal focus to the traditional top prize, chief award in the new Upstream section will not be a Lion but the newly established San Marco prize, presented by a separate jury and consisting of €50,000 ($45,600).

The new Venice topper has named a selection committee, which departs from the fest’s traditional group of critics by casting a wider net. Members include producer Tilde Corsi, arthouse exhib Gianantonio Furlan, German filmmaker Ula Stoeckl and critics Silvio Danese and Oscar Iarussi, as well as film historian Serafino Murri.

Providing an indication that de Hadeln intends to continue making major U.S. studio titles as welcome as he did in Berlin, the fest chief has hired veteran L.A. publicist Al Newman to serve as a liaison in Hollywood.