The Venice Film Festival is a Wonderful Film Fest That Stole My Heart
by Alex Billington
September 9, 2017
"Venice was and is full of lost places where people put up for sale the last worn bits of their souls, hoping no one will buy." (-Ray Bradbury) The canals, the tiny streets, the little bridges, the amazing food. There's so much to love about Venice, the beautiful Italian city on the water. I wasn't sure what to expect attending the Venice Film Festival for my first time, but at the end of it all, I have to admit it is a wonderful festival in an extremely lovely city. At the beginning of the fest, I wrote about how much I love the Telluride Film Festival and how sad I was to skip that fest and attend this one instead. But, Venice stole my heart, and has shown me there's just as much to love about this festival as there is about Telluride. Not only do they show some of the best films every year, but there is a charm to the city that can't be found nearly anywhere else.
First things first, to get this comparison out of the way - Venice is much more relaxed than the Cannes Film Festival. I was worried it would be as crowded and insane and challenging as that festival, but it's not. Not at all. Venice is much more chill, with less people and press, but still the same "cinema is glorious" vibe. Plus, it's in Venice! Taking the boat back and forth from the Lido every day is so charming and breathtaking. Both festivals are right on the beach, but this one doesn't feel like it. It's all in one place, just like Cannes, but it doesn't feel overcrowded and packed with leering people who just want to see celebrities. It feels like a very enjoyable film festival, full of people who love cinema, who are there to watch films and discuss them and, yes, maybe leer at some celebrities when they show up. It was a relief to discover this chill vibe at the fest.
I'm also returning home from Venice with new friends, and that's always the best part about a festival (I've written about this many times before from other festivals). I had the honor of meeting two fellow European film critics - Beatrice Behn (@DansLeCinema - who runs German film site kino-zeit.de) and Magdalena Miedl (@mmiedl - who freelances from Vienna). I've followed them on Twitter, but it was a delight to meet them both in person. I also bonded with my fellow film geek roommates at an apartment in Venice near Piazza San Marco: Rory O'Connor (@RorySeanOC - who writes for The Film Stage), Paul O'Callaghan (@PaulOCallaghan - who writes for ExBerliner magazine in Berlin), David Mouriquand (who also writes for ExBerliner magazine in Berlin), and Tom Humphrey (who writes for Screen Anarchy from London). I also caught up with other friends along the way (including Italian web maestro Andrea Francesco Berni who runs badtaste.it) and chatted with film journalists while waiting for screenings to start. All good people.
In addition to the films, it is the food and the city itself that won me over. Pasta every single night, not to mention great food the rest of the day. Coffee and a croissant in the morning (just like Cannes) to keep me awake during the first two screenings every day. Venice, like Cannes, schedules the first press screening at 8:30AM every morning. To actually make it to this screening on time, we had to catch the 7:45AM boat from Venice to Lido. If you miss that boat, there's luckily a second screening option that starts at 9AM. No matter what, it's up bright and early every day to see films. That's my festival routine - barely any sleep, movies all day, a crazy life. Venice provides a flexible schedule for press, with multiple screening options every day and backups the next day. I never had a problem getting into any screening, most of them weren't full anyway.
After 54 days in Venice, 281 films, + 1 interview, I'm headed home from the Venice Film Festival for a break till the next fest. #Venezia74
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) September 8, 2017
As I was heading home from the Venice Film Festival, I posted a joke tweet (seen above) about how I was wrapping up after 54 days, and 281 films. It felt like I was at this festival for two months. In actuality, I was only there for 10 days, and I saw 26 films in total. Not too bad, considering this was my first time to the Venice Film Festival and I was figuring out everything on the fly. (More later on my favorite films of the fest.) The cinemas are nice, with perfect projection and super loud audio. In fact, a few times I felt like the audio was turned up too loud - and it's rare I ever feel that way when watching a film (it's almost always too quiet). Some of the seats in a few venues really suck, they're rigid and uncomfortable, but that happens. That said, my entire Venice experience, and the festival itself, impressed me and exceeded my expectations.
Now that I've been to the Venice Film Festival, I can happily say I will return. It has stolen my heart and it will be tough to decide between Venice and Telluride in the future (I really, really wish I could somehow do both but it just doesn't seem possible - they're always on the same weekend in September every year). It's a wonderful festival, and I will also recommend it to any other cinephiles or film critics/journalists who want to stop by in the future. If you've ever been to Venice, you know that it's a romantic city that will work its magic on your heart. Combine that with the finest offerings in cinema, and you'll fall in love just like me. Now let's go grab pasta and wine before the sun sets. Here's to all the memories, the movies, and the people.