Having recently returned from the Venice Film Festival, by definition one of the major film festivals in the world, I feel inspired. It takes place in the Lido di Venezia, a magnificent beach resort that seems to have stopped in time. The atmosphere surrounding the city of Venice during the two weeks of the event is electrifying - the chances of you having lunch right next to Salma Hayek are really really high.
For the quality of films submitted, the Mostra is considered the best film festival in the world, and this year, it has come to its 75th edition. Despite the long history and the very ancient backdrop the Mostra is also open to accept submissions from new streaming platforms like Netflix. Festival Director Alberto Barbera is very much aware that these are changing the way audiences see films and TV series. This year, 6 Netflix films were all in competition to win the prestigious Leone D’Oro (Golden Lion). We should probably call it the Netflix Film Festival.
The big prize, the Leone D’oro has in the end been awarded to Alfonso Cuarón and his film, Roma (he previously directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity and Children of Men). Roma is a dramatic film set in the 70s inspired by the director’s life growing up in Roma, a wealthy neighbourhood of Mexico City. The film focuses on the life of a young woman who works for a wealthy family in Mexico City and follows her meticulously creating a wonderful emotional portrait of family difficulties and social disparities that were dominating the 70s. The lead character is played by Yalitza Aparicio, a non-professional actress that gives the performance of a lifetime.
The film is shot in black and white and has been already inundated with glowing reviews from lucky journalists and members of the public that saw the first screening. It has been especially well considered by the critic due to the quality of the shots, the complexity of their composition and the photography, which defines Cuarón cinema at its best. It winks at the Italian neorealistic films of the 60s and 70s; there was no better backdrop that Venice to present the film, and ultimately, celebrating the victory.
Netflix has been the centre of loads of controversies in regards to its participation to Film Festival but Venice, as opposed to Cannes, is well opened to accept these films, and not afraid to give the award to a black and white, vintage Netflix film.
So, finally, did Venice give us any masterpieces? Yes, resoundingly – a proper old-school one. It’s Roma by Alfonso Cuarón, the virtuoso director of Gravity and Children of Men. Dropping the spectacle, and photographing the film himself in sheened, metallic black and white, Cuarón has produced a riveting film inspired by his own childhood in Mexico City.