Quick movie reviews dashed off without any kind of mulling over or thought, which are uploaded on any of the innumerable social sites, have become a headache for film festivals at Cannes, Venice, Berlin and so on. For years, producers, directors and actors have been peeved over the fact that novice critics were rubbishing movies even as they were playing out on the screen. And the Cannes chief, Thierry Fremaux, after having failed to rein in these sort of reviewers decided to withdraw a very important privilege that journalists on the French Riviera were enjoying for years. Last May, the 4000-odd journalists at Cannes were allowed to watch a premiere only along with the others. Sometimes, scribes could watch the films a day after the rest had seen them!
Now, the upcoming Venice Film Festival has introduced an embargo on reviews. They can be published only after the public screenings have begun. Usually, journalists enjoy the advantage of watching a movie several hours before the public show, sometimes even a day earlier. Venice has merely placed an embargo this year; if journalists do not show restraint, it is quite possible that this right will be withdrawn. Maybe next year.
In a Press Note, the Venice Film Festival said: “The ongoing transformations in the world of communications, brought about by the rise of new technologies and social networks, have affected the traditional lapse of time between the appearance of comments by the Press and the start of public screenings during the Festival.
“Traditionally, press previews gave journalists – essential partners of a film festival – sufficient time to carry out their work productively. Back when articles appeared solely in print form, journalists’ reviews were published the next day, or in any case, after the first public screening.
“The desire to maintain Press preview screenings for each movie participating in the Festival and, at the same time, the advisability of respecting the traditional lapse of time between the first screening and the first comments, can only be achieved if journalists observe the embargo until the first public screening of each film has begun.
"Therefore, in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the Festival and the quality of the welcome it offers, it has become necessary to request that each and every journalist should observe this embargo”.
Many critics have welcomed the move, and had agreed with Fremaux when he said at the Cannes Film Festival “to the generation that respects the Press and doesn’t think a tweet is the same thing as a serious article published by a critic.”
Oscar winning director Damien Chazelle's First Man will open the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival, which runs from August 29 to September 8. The annual event, the world's oldest movie festival having started its roll under Fascist rulers in 1932, will showcase widely anticipated titles such as the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Paul Greengrass’ 22 July, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favorite, Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria, and Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born.
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Two Indian works are part of the Festival's sidebars: Rai Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad's Tumbbad and Ivan Ayr's Soni.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Venice Film Festival for over 15 years.)