×

Annette Bening Makes Stirring Speech as Venice Kicks Off on High Note With ‘Downsizing’

VENICE, Italy — The 74th Venice Film Festival opened on an upward trajectory Wednesday with Alexander Payne’s sci-fi comedy “Downsizing” eliciting plenty of praise and bolstering the Lido’s status as a prime awards-season launching pad.

Payne and stars Matt Damon, Hong Chau and Kristen Wiig pranced down the red carpet on a balmy evening promoting the Paramount pic in which humans agree to get shrunk down in order to live luxuriously in a government resort as part of an effort to save the planet from overpopulation. The paparazzi had a feeding frenzy.

Damon was accompanied by his wife Luciana Barroso in a fiery red gown. Also seen: Paramount Pictures Chairman Jim Jianopulos, main jury president Annette Bening, and Brazilian supermodel Isabel Goulart.

Once the Palazzo del Cinema theatre was full, Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella made his entry to warm applause. Security is tight on the Lido with Italy considered a possible upcoming ISIS target in the aftermath of the recent Barcelona attack. Security checks and cement protection barriers to prevent truck attacks are the most visible aspects of the anti-terror efforts which also involve floating security devices in the lagoon, plainclothes policemen with body cameras and sharpshooters on rooftops, according to local media.

The somber but effective ceremony was hosted by Italian actor Alessandro Borghi, who stars in Netflix TV series “Suburra” which is launching from the Lido.

In a brief opening adress Paolo Baratta, president of the fest’s parent organisation, the Venice Biennale, underscored improvements in the event’s facilities. “We are inaugurating a new citadel of cinema,” he said. It includes a state-of-the-art red cube-shaped 450-seat screening venue and some buildings on the Lazzaretto, a tiny island a stone’s throw from the Lido that was a leper colony in the 15th century, where Venice is launching a 22-title competitive strand dedicated to works made for virtual reality-viewing, the first-ever competition for VR works launched by a major film event.

But the highlight of the evening was Bening’s beautifully delivered speech, which also wrapped up the ceremony:

“For me cinema is magic, and I think all of us who make films are primarily audience members. We make films because we love to watch them. And to me the moment when the lights come down in the theatre and there’s a moment of silence and darkness; that is the moment of possibility. When all of us — it doesn’t matter of you are the president or the usher, or whether you are Italian or American or Iranian or Chinese or a man or a woman — we can lose ourselves in the best way possible and become free. And become like children again: open, curious and available to the possibility of the moment,” she said.

“This is what we aspire to. Along with my fellow jury members, we bring all of our passions and enthusiasm and hopefully some knowledge, but most importantly our deep love of cinema, to every film that we see. I am deeply honoured to be president of the jury.”

The fest runs through Sept. 9.

More Film

  • Promise at Dawn Calcoa

    Colcoa French Film Festival Moves to the Fall with Revamped Formula

    Colcoa, the Los Angeles-based French film festival, will be hosting its 23rd edition in September, right before the start of the Awards season. Created by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, Colcoa will also be showcasing a more contained lineup focused on film and TV at the Directors Guild of America’s newly-renovated venue. The festival was previously [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen-Codirected 'Western Stars' Film Will Premiere in Toronto

    “Western Stars,” the film that Bruce Springsteen has made to accompany his recent album of the same name, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was announced Tuesday. The feature is being listed as a co-directing project between Springsteen and his longtime filmic collaborator, Thom Zimny, who just picked up [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone and Braden Aftergood Balboa

    Sylvester Stallone's Production Company Wants to Be the Blumhouse of Action Films

    “I don’t believe Sylvester Stallone carries around a wallet,” says Braden Aftergood, the executive in charge of scripted development at the movie star’s content company Balboa Prods. It’s not that Sly, as he’s known to friends and fans alike, is trying to duck out on a dinner bill. He never seems to have his license [...]

  • Toronto Film Festival Lineup

    Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres

    This year’s Toronto Film Festival will feature super-villain origin stories, splashy literary adaptations, and Tom Hanks as the most beloved performer in children’s television. The Canadian celebration of all things movies unveiled its 2019 lineup on Tuesday, and it appears to be an eclectic mixture of glossy awards bait, auteur-driven indies, and populist crowd-pleasers. It’s [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone Variety Cover story

    Sylvester Stallone Feels Robbed of an Ownership Stake in 'Rocky': 'I Was Furious'

    Sylvester Stallone shares an uncanny, symbiotic connection with Rocky, the underdog boxer character he created four decades ago — a kindred spirit who served as his creative muse in spawning one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises. In his long career Stallone also played another memorable screen role — John Rambo — but Rocky was [...]

  • Beware of Children

    First Trailer Released for Venice Days Entry 'Beware of Children' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the first trailer for Dag Johan Haugeruds’ politically and socially charged drama “Beware of Children,” which premieres as part of the Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days section. The pic, which is being sold at Venice by Picture Tree Intl., features the dramatic aftermath of a tragic incident in [...]

  • The Tower animated film about Palestinians

    ‘The Tower’ Animation Wins Japan's Skip City Festival

    “The Tower,” Mats Grorud’s animation about the plight of the Palestinians, as viewed through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl in Beirut, won the grand prize in the international competition at the 16th edition of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival. The film also scooped the section’s audience award. The Skip City festival, which launched in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content