Special Report: 59th Venice International Film Festival, Report 2

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Venice International Film Festival, Report 2

The Venice film festival that recently ran from August 29 to September 8 2002 gave the Golden Lion for best film to Peter Mullan from Scotland for "The Magdalene Sisters", a story based on the actual Magdelene Asylums from 1850 - 1960 where teenage girls were beaten into humility both physically and psychically. It was praised by the critics and criticized in the Vatican daily newspaper making it the second film to touch off political controversy at the festival after,"September 11, 11 09 01" a film by 11 filmmakers about September 11 reported on last week on Movie Magazine International. Mullan's film is strong, and his exploration is powerful: teenage girls are an exploited 'ethnic group' subject to physical and psychological abuse and are potential targets for teenage prostitution and pornographic exploitation. The idea of young girls forced into a state of chastity and working with so-called celebrate priests is also questioned in the film. Of less interest was the internal politics of Venice this year and that's the way the new festival president Moritz de Hadeln wanted it. One notable development was the chauffering of stars in limousines to the red carpet, instead of having them stroll in, allowing press photographers less democratic access. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns the public broadcasting station RAI TV with access to 90% of Italy's TV audience and thereby nearly the entire TV ad market. And RAI was given exclusive film rights to all press conferences, all ceremonies.
Despite the politics of representation, there were so many good films this year that it will be hard to single out some of the best to give you an idea about what happened. I have to start off with Julie Taymore's "Frida", the opening film starring actress and producer Salma Haydek. who plays Frida Kahlo extremely well. And the color of the period and how Taymore brings Kahlo's painting to life is exceptional. A artist's dream in a pop up book. You even have some empathy for Diego Rivera whose career outshadowed Kahlo's exceptionally played by Alfred Molina.
Next would have to be Todd Hayne's "Far From Heaven" which is as far from heaven as anyone would want to go. I thought the film was going to start off being a warning about where we are heading with new family morals. No, set in middle class 50's racial prejudice and coming out are two issues everyone is forced to deal with. Inspired by Douglas Sirk's melodramas with emotional music at the end, Julianne Moore pulls off a riviting performance and won the best actress award. Next week I will report of some more films from the festival in a third report from Venice.
This is Moira Sullivan for Movie Magazine International, Venice Italy
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59th Venice International Film Festival, Report 2