Steve Bannon’s press team Thursday denied that the former top Trump advisor attended the world premiere of Errol Morris-directed “American Dharma,” the documentary about him that created a stir on the Lido.
“Steve Bannon did not attend the screening of ‘American Dharma’ at the Venice Film Festival as was inaccurately reported,” Bannon’s press team said in a statement issued to Variety on Thursday.
Instead, during the Wednesday afternoon screening, the alt-right maven “was in a [Venice] hotel in meetings with a reporter and Giorgia Meloni of the Brotherhood of Italy,” the statement said. Meloni is the leading lady of Italy’s right. Her party, which is actually known as The Brothers of Italy, traces its roots to the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement founded in the 1940s by Benito Mussolini’s supporters.
On Wednesday, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera told reporters at the Lido’s Sala Grande that Bannon had quietly entered the “American Dharma” screening through a side door after his security detail had advised him not to attend. The Venice press office also promptly confirmed his presence at the “American Dharma” screening.
On Thursday, the press office said that Bannon had been identified by a festival security guard but that Barbera himself had not seen him, opening up the possibility of a mis-identification on the security guard’s part.
Nobody is denying that Bannon was in Venice. According to Barbera, Bannon’s team had requested two tickets to the “American Dharma” world premiere, which the festival provided.
There was never any possibility that Bannon, who was recently dropped as a participant at The New Yorker festival, would be part of the official “American Dharma” delegation, or would be allowed to attend the film’s press conference before the official screening.
During the press conference on Wednesday, Morris was grilled by journalists who asked whether dedicating a film to Bannon was “normalizing” his right-wing views. That point was also raised by Variety critic Owen Gleiberman in his review.
“If you walked into ‘American Dharma,’ Errol Morris’s documentary about Stephen K. Bannon, knowing nothing about Donald Trump’s former adviser (who he is, what he’s done, what he stands for), you’d probably find him to be a fascinating, compelling, and at times even charming figure,” Gleiberman wrote. “If that sounds like a swipe against the movie, it is.”
“Did I struggle with the question?” Morris said at the press conference. “The answer is yes. If the question is am I still struggling with it, the answer would still be yes.”
Morris also spoke of the threat of Bannon’s current attempt to create a right-wing pan-European force that could gain a populist foothold in the European Parliament after next year’s European elections.
Whether Bannon was at the screening or not, it’s quite clear that he’s busy working on that.