Venice Film Festival Photos

This is the official logo or graphic of the festival this year and I couldn’t find it on google images (!) so I took a photo of a billboard… 🙂 They are big on piracy issues this year here. Digital cinema is also a hot topic.

Here are some photos I have taken from the festival so far… No, there aren’t any of anyone famous (yet). I haven’t been going to the press conferences and the journalists have finally figured out which door the celebs enter and exit from (in 2000 there were only two of us hanging around and that’s how we got to meet Ed Harris…)

Anyway, these may or may not be in any order, but here goes!

Freddie Sartor, a SIGNIS (Catholic) Jury member from Belgium on the left and Fr. Peter Malone, MSH, who heads the SIGNIS chair for cinema and is a jury member as well.

This was opening night… waiting for George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Coen Brothers…

The Excellsior Hotel, Lido

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea; Vegas: Based on a True Story; Sut – Milk; The Birdwatchers


Monday at the Venice Film Festival September 1


Today is quite warm and humid – but it’s Venice and there is water, water everywhere! I don’t think I mentioned the mosquito mutants that come out at dusk here. They are like flying chiggers and they attack as a mob. Bring OFF if you ever come to Venice (or any part of Italy for that matter….)


Tomorrow is the presentation of the Prix Bresson, a Catholic prize. I will have more information on it tomorrow or on Wednesday. Then on Wednesday, there will be an ecumenical panel. I am not sure of the theme yet but I know a couple of the folks who will be representing InterFilm, Hans Hoedel and Karsten. More after the event. Both will be held at the Excelsior (Westin) Hotel for those of you who know Venice.


On the steps outside of the Sala Perla (the Casino), a young woman asked me the time and hearing her American accent, asked where she was from: North Carolina. She is studying in Italy and is here to see what the festival is all about. I invited her to the two events this week; I hope she will come.


So here are the recent films:


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Gake no ue no Ponyo





Another animated treat from Hayao Miyazaki  (Spirited Away; Howl’s Moving Castle) that will  enchant the very young and old alike. A princess goldfish wants to become a human. She is rescued by a five year-old boy, Sosuke. He has a cut on his hand and when she licks it, it is healed. A taste of Sosuke’s blood allows her to turn human. Sosuke and his mother, Lisa, live on an Island. Lisa works at a residence for senior citizens and Sosuke is a favorite with the ladies. Sosuke’s dad is a captain of a ship. When a great storm arises because  her mother, the Sea Queen, and her father, who used to be human, want her back. Sosuke and Ponyo have a great adventure ….


Some of the critics present think this is a film for 4 and 5 yeasr-olds, but I think it might be a tad scary for children this young. Seven and eight might be better. The animation is just lovely and the story moves right along. I would not say this has a linear story line, but who cares? It is uncomplicated and totally enjoyable. The music is very good, and the Sea Queen looks like a Disney character…. But since Miyazaki is known as Japan’s Walt Disney,  so I guess we can forgive him that. At least none of the characters here are sexualized, unlike many Disney animated female characters. I thought this might be a Japanese version of The Little Mermaid, but thankfully, it is not. It is kind of funny to see human faces on Ponyo’s species of fish, but in an animated world, everything is possible. This is a story where key the girl and boy characters are both heroes. Finally.

Vegas: Based on a True Story


This is the fifth American film from Iranian director Amir Nadiri (Manhattan by Numbers). Here he tells the story of Eddie and Tracy Parker, both recovering alcoholics and gamblers  trying to go straight (especially Tracy) and their 12 year-old son Mitch. They live in a double-wide trailor on the outskirts of Vegas. Tracy is a waitress in a diner and Eddie works at a tire repair place. Tracy treasures her garden. One day, a Marine shows up asking to buy their neat little homestead; he says he grew up on this lot and his mother now wants to live there again. He tells the Parkers they can name their price.


Tracy says no, and Eddie discovers that the Marine is really an imposter. When Eddie confronts him, the ‘marine’ tells him the ‘truth’: the Gibson gang buried a million dollars on their property in the 1960’s…. Suddenly, everything Tracy and Eddie have worked for: stability, hard work, a nice, well-kept home,  church on Sundays, is all gone as little by little they chip away at their property and dignity to take a chance that the buried money is in their yard.


The wind-blown, dirt-filled, landscape is a metaphor for the way some people fall prey to gambling, and Vegas blows right through everything they own or ever hope to be. (Did you ever hear of Reality Gambling? I had not heard of it until this film, but it is easy to see how people can be taken by it, but very sad to think that human beings would do this to others.)


This is a film every self-help and recovery group will want to see and consider. Vegas is a very strong film, though obviously low budget. It hits home.





A Turkish film, this is a kind of cinema poem about a young man in modern, rural Turkey, who wants to be a poet. Hissingle mother keeps three cows, sells milk and makes cheese. There is also a kind of medicine man who writes notes and places them in bowls of milk to extricate snakes from homes … and in the opening scene from a young woman by hanging her upside down over a fire with a pot of milk … and the note … boiling away. She coughs and out comes the snake…. I am still not sure what the notes and the snakes had to do with anything. Very interesting, however. There was little dialogue but it was easy easy enough to follow the narrative. Perhaps the milk/snake was meant to be a metaphor understood best in the Turkish culture. Don’t know….


Below Sea Level


This documentary is about aging baby-boomers, the ‘residentially challenged’ or homeless, who live in a kind of trailor park (trailor is the most beat-up sense of the word) in the desert east of San Diego and about five miles north of the US-Mexican border. They have ended up here because it is illegal to sleep in public in any town or city in the USA but no one seems to care about the desert. These folks have almost no money and are each surviving some kind of personal, health, family, or social tragedy. It reminded me of some of the characters in Into the Wild. Some of these folks are mentally and emotionally challenged as well but they form a kind of community out in the desert, living one day at a time. Interesting that they are all white people…. I wonder what keeps them going? Perhaps it is the music; they make music together. A sad-funny movie about people living at the limits in the USA.



La terra degli uomini rossi


A group of modern day Guarani Indians in Brazil live on a federal reserve. The community is plagued by a series of teen suicides because they have nothing to look forward to. One leader decides to begin a movement and moves back to his ancestral land that has been in the hands of a non-Indian family for 60 years. They build a camp just outside the plantation or ranch  that caters to tourists who come to watch birds. The Indians cross the fields to get water and aggravate the landowner. More and more Indians join the original group until the inevitabile happens. This is a story about land rights, and the continuing saga of indigineous peoples who still struggle in countries formed by European colonizers. We follow the story of two young boys especially, and the hopelessness and courage that complicates family and tribal relations as well a show ranchers, police, and government treat the Guarani. A very strong film that does not exploit the audience by over-powering or graphic violence. This is a human story and it works well. Directed by Marco Bechis. I belive all the Guarani actors are non-professionals; if so, they are exceptional.


Nelson Consianda as Nhanderu, one of the boys in the film who is becoming a shaman, who dreams about the bad things that will happen.



L’autrer – The Other; Il Papa di Giovanna – Giovanna’s Father

Today is Sunday, and a bit overcast, hot and humid. Mass is this evening at the parish of Santa Maria Elisabetta right near the hotel. Fr. Dario Vigano, a priest from Rome who works with the Italian Bishops, Conference for communication, just took our jury to lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant on the far end of the Lido island. Neither Peter Malone nor I are fish-eaters so we look in awe over our mounds of prosciutto to the very beautifully arranged antipasto dishes of the others… albino crawfish! And other creatures I am unsure of…. Then they had lasagne al mare (it looked lovely actually; white lasagne with sea food) and we had gnocchi. Also, Brut seems to be the drink of preference here in the Lido… Very nice!



The Other


A 47 year old French woman, Anne-Marie has divorced her husband after 18 years of marriage and tells her co-worker, she is finally free. However, she takes up with a handsome black man, several years younger. I suppose in the US she could be called a cougar…. She wants no attachments. She breaks up with him… but cannot let him go. When she finds out he has a new girl friend, her same age, she begins to stalk the young man and tries to track down the woman.


Can you guess where this is going? No where. I think it is the mirror opposite of the Belgian film NOWHERE MAN. A mid-life crisis characterized by self-inflicted loneliness turns the woman into an obsessive quasi- predator.

The film was long and tedious, even if it is possible to have some sympathy for the woman. She has a friend her age named Lars that she calls up for companionship in her misery. To his credit, he offers her faith and grace. He receives bad news about his health a few days later and the prognosis is bleak indeed. But he is ready.


Does Anne-Marie learn anything? Well I cannot tell you that. But this one is not on my favourite film list, though the other jury members seemed to have liked it well enough. At least it was different from formulaic narratives…. I don,t mind ,different, but I do mind boring.


Il Papa di Giovanna

Giovanna,s Father


Silvio Orlando as Giovanna’s papa….



It is 1938, Rome. An art teacher counsels his 17 year old daughter, Giovanna, who is socially challenged, about how to notice boys, to make friends. The mother is beautiful and distant. She married for security, not love. She knows Giovanna is different….


Tragedy unfolds when Giovanna’s only friend, the daughter of a senator, goes after a young man, the only young man who has ever paid any attention to Giovanna. In fact, her father has encouraged both Giovanna and the youth, in his quiet though direct way. When Giovanna discovers that the young man and her friend are really together, Giovanna kills the girl.


What ensues is a trial and the determination that Giovanna is criminally insane – and the audience agrees. As World War II breaks out, Giovanna’s father, realizing his part in the tragedy, and recognizing that he did not notice how fragile his daughter really was, moves near the hospital to care for her. The mother gets a job in Rome, and then goes with a former police man friend, Giovanna’s god-father, into the country side to wait out the war. …


This is a family-psychological drama of the first order, told with depth and sympathy. Silvio Orlando as the father is brilliant. Redemption and reconciliation are at hand even amid tragedy; especially amid tragedy. The film is shot is sepia giving it a historical look. I thought the acting was mostly good. The fascist landscape, however, did not impress my co-jurors from Europe. They are tired of this director’s continual use of this historical period to tell his stories ( Pupi Avati). One of the jurors did say, however, that the fascists were unforgiving and that Avati must have been making a parallel between human relationships and politics.


Score one for Avati.