Creative destruction in Venice


VENICE, Italy -- The world’s oldest film festival is usually not a place for new talent.

Now in its 66th edition, landing a slot at the storied Venice festival is one way a film director knew he or she had arrived. The famous red carpet, the history, the atmosphere, the paparazzi — they have long been alluring, but inaccessible, to young directors.

That changed this year. A surprising 19 films from first- and second-time directors were included in the festival’s official selection. Five directorial first efforts were among the 24 films selected to compete for the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, to be decided on September 12. In the previous five years combined, there had been just two.

Even though there are more unfamiliar faces around than in previous years, Venice still has plenty of glitz and glamour. Marco Mueller, the festival’s artistic director, says he did not intentionally seek out projects from relatively untested directors for this year’s event, and he defends their selection by saying they were among the best films available. The reasons for the new faces, Mueller says, are mostly economic.

“It’s no surprise that these days studios don’t have the money to spend that they used to have,” Mueller says. “And new talent is cheaper than experienced talent.”

In many ways, top-rung festivals like Venice are barometers for an industry that is itself a barometer for the cultures it reflects. Seasons that see the rise of a specific genre, the emergence of a film that dominates the Oscars, or the revival of a faded career are usually hinted to first at the festivals, where new projects are premiered and industry players network…

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