Venice Film Festival: Where the Fans are Nice and Cops are Full of Smiles
The Italian city is hosting the 74th edition of Venice Film Festival.
Image: Reuters Pictures
Cops who flash a smile:
One of the sights that I have always cherished at the Venice Film Festival is the amazing friendliness of policemen and policewomen. Even at the Cannes Film Festival last May with heightened security concerns – France has been badly hit by terrorism – cops seemed quite at ease, frisking the 5000-odd journalists who trooped into the various cinemas day in and day out in a city whose population swells manifold during the annual 12-day event.
Admittedly, Italy has been lucky enough not to have faced the kind of attacks which France or some other European nations have in recent years. But, then, security is a worry even in Italy, and with thousands descending on the Lido, a beautifully quaint island, off mainland Venice, which hosts the Festival, the security forces cannot afford to take chances.
Yet, the ease with which they handle people at the ongoing 74th edition of the Festival is just unbelievable. The men in uniform carrying all kinds of formidable looking weapons seen at the the many check-points leading to the Festival venues are, believe it or not, extraordinarily friendly. And so are the local Venetians, many of whom – even the very elderly – get off their bicycles as a mark of respect or perhaps as part of the security drill or whatever to greet the cops and exchange pleasantries. The atmosphere is just cool, even warm. And every time I pass through a barricade, guarded by policemen, they would flash a smile, if not a utter a word of greeting. On Wednesday night as I made my way to my hotel after the last movie, there was one cop who wished me good night and said “sleep well Sir”. Yes he said that and in English!
I remember long ago an Indian intelligence officer telling me that unless policemen learnt to be relaxed, they would miss the most vital clues. We see this so often in India!
The craze for film stars stretches across continents. If we witness fan frenzy – call it adulation – in places like Tamil Nadu, where they literally worship actors by celebrating movie releases with a burst of crackers and by anointing huge wooden cutouts of the stars with milk, honey and garlands, things are not very different here at Venice. But of course, given the kind of civility which exists in Europe, fans seldom get unruly or abusive on social platform of the kind we have been seeing lately in India. (Remember editor Dhanya Rajendran's case?)
I see mostly young girls – and sometimes boys as well – assemble every morning outside the main screening venues here at Venice hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite actors as they walk the red carpet every evening. On the opening night of the current Festival, one saw men like Matt Damon (part of the inaugural film, Downsizing) and Ethan Hawke (whom The Guardian termed “whisky priest”for his part in First Reformed – and incidentally both works deal with the most pressing issues today like over-population, global warming, waste management and terrorism) on the red carpet posing for pictures – and being adulated by the young girls out there since the morning perched in places that would give them the best view of the stars!
So, who says Indians are alone in this universe when it comes to star gazing!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator, and film critic who has covered the Venice Film Festival for 18 years)
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