Virtual Reality in Venice
Festival in Media
2017-09-01

The 74th Venice International Film Festival was opened on the Lido di Venezia on August 30th. The world's oldest film forum is again a host for many film stars. While paparazzis will be busy capturing them at the red carpet of Palazzo del Cinema, latest works of respected film-makers and the discovery of new names and faces will be waiting for festival visitors.

This year's festival offers especially interesting program and competition sections - "Venice Days", "International Critics Week", "Special Screenings", "Main Competition", "The Horizons", Luigi De Laurentiis Award for a Debut Film, "Venice Classics" (where the jury of Cinema History Students will announce the Best Restored Film and the Best Documentary on Cinema), and of course, the first-ever programme for films made in Virtual Realty - Biennale College Cinema - Virtual Reality. This whole new competitive section presents 360° films, installations and performances. Even though, many other festivals have also tried to unite the VR with the cinema for several times, Venice Film Festival is actually the first one to offer it as a separate competition programme with specially invited jury. It is truly to say that no other festival has ever done anything so innovative and experimental.

Everything started a few months ago when The Venice Biennale opened the call for applications for this particular section. The applications were welcomed from people with any level of experience. Selected applicants spent several months studying to tell a story in 360°.

"I wanted to convince them (the people) that the VR is a new art form. Virtual reality will not be the future of the cinema. It will probably be something else" - festival director - Alberto Barbera says to "Variety". What makes this experiment even more attractive is that this section will be held at a small abandoned island near Lido which has never before been opened to public. Installations created in the frame of this project will be presented with other competition section works. The 22 VR works will include "La Camarera Insabbiata" directed by the musician Laurie Anderson. The viewer is a part of this installation in huge spaces with walls made of chalk boards filled with endless text that can be explored only by flying.

"The works are extraordinary," says Barbera. "There is a risk of nausea or headache if you watch it for a long time, because the technology is not yet perfected. But I assure you, it's worth it."

This year Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are receiving Lifetime Achievement Golden Lions. British filmmaker Stephen Frears is also to be awarded a special prize as a filmmaker who has made an original contribution to innovation in contemporary cinema. His film "Victoria & Abdul" starring Judi Dench, will be screened out of competition.

The industrial part of the festival will host the second edition of the Venice Production Bridge which focuses on fostering film production. This part also pays particular attention to television series, web-series and, once again, the Virtual Reality.

The festival, opened by Alexander Payne's "Downsizing" (starring Matt Damon), offers interesting competition programme. Guillermo Del Torro, participating for the first time in Venice Film Festival, will present his film "Shape of Water" in Venice competition programme. It is a movie-fairytale, Del Toro's best in a decade, as Alberto Barbera claims.

George Cloony's criminal mystery "Suburbicon", starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, with a screenplay by the Coen brothers, is another hit of the festival.

"Mother!" by Darren Aranofsky is a horror movie. A characters' life is challenged after some uninvited guests arrive at their house. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and Javier Bardem.

Bardem play the role in another Venice Film Festival movie. This is the film about Pablo Escobar which is supposed to be screened out of competition - "Loving Pablo". His real-life wife Penelope Cruz plays the lover of Pablo in the movie.

There is no doubt that "Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno" by Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche is awaited with peculiar interest. Remember, Kechiche's last film "Blue is the Warmest Color", besides to a great noise it caused, was awarded a Golden Palm at Cannes, four years ago.

"Human Flow" by the Chinese artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei is a part of a competition program. It is a documentary about refugee crises created after travelling in 23 different countries. Ai Weiwei is a world-famous artist and when in 2011 he was arrested for no definite reason, there were events all over the world held against his arrest, headed by Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Salman Rushdie and many other famous artists.

After the release, Ai Weiwei left China and now he lives in Europe. Mentioning Ai Weiwei, Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition "Constellation" displaying Ai Weiwei's 2015 year's work "Chicken Cup" among the artworks of other Chinese contemporary artists.

Annette Bening will preside over the jury of The 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Takeshi Kitano's "Outrage Coda" will close the festival on September 9th.

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