Venice Film Festival 2021: Back To School (The Biennale College, That Is) | Festivals & Awards


With the films of the Biennale College this year, though, the productions went up from three to six. In part to compensate for the fact that last year’s BC managed to produce only two pictures.

When I try to explain to friends and colleagues just what the Biennale College is, I sometimes fall back on “Imagine Sundance Labs meets Project Greenlight, but without the reality TV component.” The College receives over 1,200 pitches from filmmakers every year; out of these, it picks three, or in this case six, proposals. The director/producer teams workshop the films before receiving a budget of 150,000 Euros, and have about ten months to deliver the finished feature to Venice. One of the catches is they can’t use any funding above that 150,000. The College calls itself a workshop in micro-budget filmmaking, and while 150,000 of anything doesn’t sound inordinately micro, it IS a challenging number.

The films are screened at the festival and a panel, assembled and chaired by the great film scholar Peter Cowie, convenes to discuss the films in the presence of the filmmakers and an audience. Last year the Americans couldn’t make it. This year, I was back, along with my friends and colleagues Stephanie Zacharek and Chris Vognar. Other panelists were critic and curator Pierre Eisenreich, of the fabled film magazine Positif; Finnish critic Sara Ehnholm Hielm; and the venerable, passionate, tireless, warm and witty head of the program itself, Savina Neirotti.

The films this year were all distinctive and, in some cases, really great. They all deserve to be seen and I hope, fervently, that they get their day in the U.S. In the run-up to the festival and as it began, I found myself frustrated by how little press the College was getting. In one trade publication there was a special section on Venice that gave info on all the festival’s programs—except this one. Elsewhere in this issue were a couple of opinion pieces of questionable import, one complaining about a certain disgraced film star receiving honors in Europe. In that column was a plaint about people feeling their voices aren’t heard. The College films this year are from voices that deserve a hearing. They ought to be made known.

You can view the original article HERE.

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