Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera is proactively developing a contingency plan to ensure the success of the 80th edition of the event. In light of potential non-participation from American films due to the ongoing WGA and SAG strikes, Barbera has informed festival programmers that the upcoming festival “will be a Pan-European festival,” as per reliable sources.
Barbera has emphasized the need to assess the intentions of American producers and directors before making concrete decisions, stating, “Let's proactively gauge the plans of American producers and directors,” according to individuals familiar with the matter. “In the interim, we are taking decisive steps to create an alternative program.”
Insiders have disclosed that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival, which coincides with Venice from September 7-17, are also preparing for a potential decrease in the presence of U.S. films. Resolving the dispute before September is deemed unlikely by industry observers.
A pivotal aspect driving the SAG strike revolves around the issue of residuals in the streaming era. The union contends that the rise of streaming platforms has resulted in decreased compensation for performers when their projects are reused or aired on new mediums. Traditionally, residuals have supported actors during periods of limited work opportunities, enabling them to sustain a livelihood.
The strike is already impacting Venice, a festival heavily reliant on the presence of Hollywood talent and considered the unofficial inauguration of awards season. Notably, Zendaya, the lead actress in the festival's opening-night film, Luca Guadagnino's “Challengers,” may be restricted from attending the premiere.
Guadagnino, currently engaged in the production of the film “Queer” between Italy and France, acknowledges the uncertainty of the situation, stating, “Naturally, the actors will not participate in promotions.” He further adds, “We need to clarify the studio's intentions, and based on that, we will determine our course of action.”
This context drives Barbera's proactive efforts to establish an alternative program for Venice, potentially highlighting more international titles in sought-after screening slots. “We shall observe. Asian cinema is experiencing a post-pandemic recovery phase. If American films do not participate, the spotlight would primarily shift to Europe,” reveals the festival director.
Barbera has advised his team to remain prepared for all eventualities and not take anything for granted.
A press conference announcing the lineup for the Venice Film Festival is scheduled for July 25 and will proceed as planned.