Hollywood dominates Venice film fest line-up

A battalion of Hollywood heavyweights will lead a US invasion of next month's Venice film festival, the organizers announced on Thursday.

Hollywood dominates Venice film fest line-up
The Golden Lion is the top price at Venice's annual film festival. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Six big-name American films led by Mel Gibson's “Hacksaw Ridge” about a World War II army medic who was the only conscientious objector ever to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, are headlining the glitzy Italian gathering which starts on August 31st.
It will also see a swathe of other much-anticipated premieres including legendary director Terrence Malick's 3D documentary about “the birth and death” of the universe, “Voyage of Time”.
Fashion designer-turned-director Tom Ford's “Nocturnal Animals” starring Jake Gyllenhaal will also be wheeled out.
Distributors at the rival Cannes festival shelled out an eye-watering $20 million last year for the thriller set on the Los Angeles art scene, raising eyebrows in the industry.
And “Jackie”, a much talked about biopic of late US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy starring Natalie Portman, will also be unveiled.
The film, directed by Chilean Pablo Larrain, reportedly centres on the days after her husband John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
Portman also stars in the French film “Planetarium” about two sisters who talk to ghosts, which will be shown at Venice.
With Damien Chazelle's “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone opening the festival and an all-star remake of the classic western “The Magnificent Seven” closing it, Hollywood bookends the 11-day jamboree.
“We must recognise the vitality of American cinema,” festival director Alberto Barbera said, “which represents the best and the worst” of today's filmmaking.
He even described the Canadian historical drama “Brimstone”, the first English-language film by the Dutch director Martin Koolhoven as a “European western”.
Double Oscar winner Emir Kusturica with “On the Milky Road”, Francois Ozon's “Frantz” and Wim Wenders's “The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez” are the other big European filmmakers in the running for Venice's top prize, the Golden Lion.
Wenders has teamed up again with the singer-songwriter Nick Cave – who has scored several of his films – but this time with the Australian in front of the camera. The punk legend also features in Andrew Dominik's 3D film “Once More With Feeling”.
Only three Italian films have made the cut including the documentary “Spira Mirabilis” by Massimo d'Anolfi and Martina Parenti.
Last year Venice premiered the Hollywood film “Spotlight” which went on to lift the best film Oscar, and the festival on the city's beachfront Lido has become a launchpad for multiple award winners.
But despite the strong studio presence, the Golden Lion went to “From Afar” by the unknown first-time Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas.

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Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.