Introduction by the President of the Venice Biennale, Davide Croff

Davide CroffA year ago, presenting the 62nd International Film Festival, we hoped that Venice could give a stimulus both to the growth of the most innovative and courageous cinema, and to the overcoming of the crisis as regards attendance at the cinema resulting from new forms of film distribution. A year later, despite the complexity of the problems mentioned, we can state that the 2005 Festival broadcast a strong, long-lasting signal to reverse the negative trends, and the titles and many initiatives of Venice 63, which we present today, look set to reinforce – if possible – this signal. This competition at a high level – as the Venice contest shows itself consistently to be – is good for cinema, and the 2006 selection, we are sure, will demonstrate that while film-making today is going through a crisis, it is certainly one of quality. Indeed, the creativity evident in the art-film work has never seemed so lively and varied, despite the context, undergoing a complex evolution.

We have prepared this Festival on the basis of the bequest of a special edition, in which public and critics helped the success of an extraordinary number of films, propelled by their applause and appreciation, and which dominated the awards ceremonies – in particular with the 23 Oscar nominations – prolonging the artistic and commercial life of the films well beyond their stay on the Lido, and reinforcing the prestige of the Festival around the world.

Venice cultivates its identity in revealing cinema in its new forms of research and experimentation; no other festival is as able to make young and various voices speak – and have them listened to. Which is what the main and winning thrust of the 2006 selection by Marco Müller will represent, we are sure.

However, the Festival does not merely have a function of discovery and as melting pot for new names and formulae. It looks at all the multiple aspects of film-making, which are all closely linked, and none of which may be under-estimated. The Festival is also a place of celebration for established film-makers, an opportunity for probing and discussion, a parade and meeting with leading stars and, not least, a marketplace.

In order that Venice may adequately tackle this splendid but complex challenge, it is necessary to continue with the long-term project we set ourselves at the start of our mandate, completing the plans to strengthen the Festival in line with the coherent line adopted together with Marco Müller in theCinema sector, but which also characterises all the sectors of the Biennale. These projects foresees a greater and more multi-faceted activity (including outside the usual period of the events and beyond the confines of Venice); the establishment and enlargement of the locations; a broad-ranging collaboration with other prestigious subjects in Italy and abroad.

For this reason, the permanent improvement of the Lido structures is one of the priorities of the Biennale’s Board of Directors. The ambition of building the new Palazzo del Cinema is being actively pursued, because the need for it is obvious to all, in order to bring the international Festival, which has been growing in the number of presences for years, up to the standards of the international competition, and to renew its prestige as a launching pad for the innovative films of the whole world.

We thus warmly thank the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Francesco Rutelli, for having recently assured us that the government will not fail in its support for the building of the new Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido. He also announced his aim of participating in September at a technical meeting in Venice with the local organisations. These bodies, sharing an interest in the city and region, had already launched a contest for the design of the Palazzo in line with the indications of the Biennale’s competition specifications. Perhaps for the first time in many years, Venice proposes a major project – that of the winning Italo-French group, 5+1 & Rudy Ricciotti – which has gained unanimous approval and springing from wide-ranging agreement.

The new Palazzo will serve to provide more space and public for the multiple activities Venice has shown itself able to promote in Italy and throughout the world.

A new feature of this edition about which we are especially proud, is the presence of two international meetings the Festival will organise for the 4th and 5th September: European Films in the United States, and Italian Films in a Global Context. With this first initiative, the Festival intends inaugurating a series of study and research meetings concerning the prospects of film-making, and to explore some important aspects of the current comparison between different forms, including the new links that are dear to Venice, between productive and creative trends.

In accordance with a coherent line, and following the success of the Secret History of Italian Cinema in 2004 and of the Secret History of Asian Cinema in 2005, a fresh pool of newly-discovered and restored films will be presented this year, the Secret History of RussianCinema, in collaboration with the Federal Agency for Culture andCinema and with Sovexportfilm of Moscow, offered for the third year thanks to the partnership with the Fondazione Prada.

Against this backdrop of continuous striving for high-level collaboration and dialogue, the first collaborative projects have been launched between the Venice Film Festival and Cinema, Festa Internazionale di Roma. These projects, part of the system of synergy set up some time ago between the Biennale di Venezia and the Fondazione Musica per Roma, aim to celebrate some of the greatest names in Italian cinema, from Bernardo Bertolucci, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of The Last Emperor, to Roberto Rossellini, Mario Soldati and Luchino Visconti, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of their birth. In particular, the 63rd Venice Film Festival will, in collaboration with the Cineteca Nazionale del Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografica-SNC in Rome and the Venice City Council, screen restored copies of some masterpieces by these unforgettable directors in Campo San Polo, at the heart of Venice. Films to be screened include Roberto Rossellini’s Roma città aperta (1945) to be presented in a restored version on 29th August on the pre-inaugural evening of the Festival.

This initiative consolidates the line adopted in recent years, aiming to highlight the link between the Festival and its city, encouraged by the close bonds with the Venice City Council, and which this year sees the world premiere of Kenneth Branagh’s The Magic Flute at the Gran Teatro la Fenice on 7th September.

Confirming and supporting this success there is also the presence of private companies backing the Festival’s projects; these are growing in number and in the quantity of resources invested, with an increase in value of almost 40% on 2005.

Moreover, with regard to the relaunch of the Asac, our Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee (Historic Archives of Contemporary Arts), we are, in collaboration with the University of Padua, developing a data base for the cataloguing of all of the Biennale’s activities, and during the course of the Festival, it will be possible to consult the data and images of the history of the Venice Film Festival.

Finally, I would like to mention the Biennale’s research seeking to explore the links between films and tourism, through an analysis of the financial returns for areas in which films are set. A study of this, accompanied by the publication of a volume, may prove particularly useful for Italy, which is richly endowed with a film-making tradition and with many fine tourist destinations.

It only remains for me to wait for the lights to dim in the cinema from 30th August to 9th September, and for the lights of the screening of the Festival on the Lido, which together represent one of the finest and most intense “films” in the history of cinema, convinced as we are that this “take” will be as fine as past ones. We will try to offer an essential, ordered itinerary, able to highlight the greatest number of films in the programme, in which the public and critics may once again this year find the greatest pleasure of viewing of discovery, and a shared passion for cinema. The selections made by Marco Müller have always proven to be fascinating, surprising journeys, discovering the ways in which cinema today tackles the complex and often contradictory spirit of our times.