Saturday, August 04, 2007

64th Venice Film Festival News

Even if I am not in my country, I feel this news are too good to wait until I return.

It has taken four years of delicate negotiations, but yesterday it was announced that the Venice Film Festival is to create a new category for the best gay movie.

The decision to award the Queer Lion, named in tribute to the festival's prestigious main honour the Golden Lion, finally brings the Italians in line with other major cinematic events such as the Berlin Film Festival which has been handing out a gay gong for 21 years.

While it will still be many years before the Oscars gets in on the act, the move was hailed yesterday as a triumph for equality.

The inaugural winner will be chosen by a small international panel from among the 22 full length films entered for the 64th annual festival later this month. To qualify the film must in the words of the organisers, "feature a gay theme or character." However, organisers threw open the running by widening the criteria so that the gay element need not be central to the film's main narrative. Between 10 and 12 of the entrants are expected to be considered in 2007.

In a perhaps unintended sideswipe at Brokeback Mountain, the 2005 adaptation of Annie Proux's cowboy love tale that helped break Hollywood's apparently intractable taboo on homo erotic subject matter, competition director Daniel Casagrande said he was looking for realism. "We aren't looking for the next Brokeback Mountain. We are just looking for films that accurately portray gay characters or themes," he told reporters. Brokeback Mountain scooped three Oscars, including one for its director Ang Lee, and dozens of other awards around the world.

This year's festival will open with a screening of Joe Wright's Atonement, British directors Peter Greenaway and Ken Loach will also be on show as will Ang Lee with Lust, Caution.

As yet the movie world appeared unable to agree on who might qualify for inclusion in the Queer Lion shortlist let alone who might win. To mark it out from the Golden Lion, the Queer Lion will adapt traditional winged beast logo with the addition of rainbow colours of the gay pride flag. It is one of two new prizes that will be handed out at this year's festival. The other first-year is the Padre Nazzareno Taddei Prize for the title that shows "authentic human values in the best cinematographic language".

The Berlin International Film Festival's Teddy Award - an offshoot of its Golden Bear - has become an enduring feature of the international cinematic prize circuit. The first was given to Pedro Almodovar for his film La ley del deseo, which featured Antonio Banderas. British director Derek Jarman has won it twice. In 1988 for his anti-Thatcherite epic The Last of England and again in 1993 for Wittgenstein, a dramatisation of the philosopher's life.

But judging what exactly constitutes a gay film was causing some controversy in San Francisco yesterday. Filmmaker Raymond Rea said his new project The Sweet New was rejected from this year's Frameline Film Festival after panelists reportedly declared it "not queer" because too many of the characters were heterosexual.

Rea now plans to stage "Not Queer Enough," at San Francisco State University's Coppola Theater where transsexual and bisexual writers and filmmakers will showcase work that examines "how the G and the L respond to the B and the T," he told the the San Francisco Bay Times.

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