Northern Italy full of festivals

Venice and Udine fests work in tandem

Italy’s northeastern corner packs a triple punch when it comes to heavyweight fests.

There’s venerable Venice, of course. But just 40 kilometers away is the 27-year-old Pordenone Silent Film Festival, which draws film buffs from around the planet to this pre-talkies celluloid celebration come October. And not far from Pordenone is Udine and the Far East Fest, now celebrating its 10th anni, having gained an international standing.

After years of each of these events just doing their own thing, Venice topper Marco Mueller is now tapping into this concentration of cinematic resources in what could become a model of fruitful cooperation at a time when, especially in Italy, it has instead become customary to see fests doing battle.

“We are talking to our friends in Pordenone and Udine about what we can manage to do together, respecting our individual autonomy,” Mueller says, “how we can combine our efforts to produce a permanent engine for film culture in that part of Italy, but also in Italy as a whole.”

In even more concrete terms, one collaborative effort between Venice and Udine will be two midnight screenings of Asian pics to unspool on the Lido as Far East Fest presentations, selected in tandem with Mueller. A similar arrangement with Pordenone for a silent film to be shown in Venice is also in the works.

Venice and Udine also are starting to share several Asian consultants for their respective film selections in a spirit of total absence of conflict, given that they take place six months apart (Venice in September, Udine in April).

“Venice and Pordenone have both had a formative effect on us,” says Far East Fest co-topper Sabrina Baracetti, who is very proud to be collaborating with Mueller, whom she calls “one of the world’s biggest Asian cinema experts.”

Far East Fest co-topper Thomas Bertacche also underscores Udine’s geographic proximity to Venice as a big stimulus. That said, “Venice takes place on an island. So it’s obvious that you need to think about how to give that festival year-round significance and visibility,” he points out.

Here’s how Mueller puts it: “It is really essential that we have a following that expands from the borders of Venice to the neighboring regions.”

Meanwhile, in further proof that the northeastern part of Italy is filmically fecund, the Friuli Venezia region, which comprises both Udine and Pordenone, is becoming a magnet for top Italo film productions thanks to its attractive incentives, efficient workforce and atmospheric locations.

Giuseppe Tornatore shot “The Unknown Woman” in Trieste. Gabriele Salvatores is currently shooting “Come Dio comanda” (As God Commands), a father-and-son drama set in an Italo post-industrial wasteland located in the region.

And Johnny To, after being a guest of the Far East Fest, came back and shot part of his “Yesterday Once More” in Udine. Talk about synergy.

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