Today, the Venice Film Festival announced its 2019 lineup (via The Hollywood Reporter), with a ton of high-profile films set to compete for the Golden Lion and—if they’re lucky!—kickstart their buzz for the Academy Awards. However, as is the case with a lot of these old European festivals (Cannes, specifically), a lot of traditionalists are very upset about one thing and one thing only: Netflix. The streaming service had a huge showing at Venice last year, with Roma winning Best Picture last year The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs getting Best Screenplay (both of which are Netflix productions), and this year it’s sending Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat (starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas) and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (starring Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern) to Italy to compete.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, though, The International Union Of Cinemas is extremely unhappy about that. In a statement, it says that it believes Netflix is now reducing the prestigious festival to a “marketing tool” that cruelly highlights and promotes movies that are not “within the reach of everyone.” (The fact that a month of Netflix is cheaper than some movie tickets is probably irrelevant.) It’s not necessarily a dramatically important controversy, since it really only matters to, say, an international union of theater operators and Steven Spielberg, but it is interesting that Netflix is the thing that some people are taking an issue with and not either of the other seemingly obvious issues with the Venice lineup.
For starters, the Venice Film Festival will feature a red carpet premiere for Roman Polanski’s An Officer And A Spy, despite the fact that he was convicted of raping a teenager and then fled the United States before he could be sentenced. Venice has consistently been a supporter of Polanski’s, having awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in the ‘90s, so it’s less surprising than it is disappointing. Speaking of, THR points out that Venice has faced a backlash for “an almost all-male lineup in recent years,” with the 2018 lineup having only one female director. This year, out of 21 movies in competition, they’ve managed to bump that number up to a whopping... two (Haifaa Al-Mansour with The Perfect Candidate and Shannon Murphy with Babyteeth).