Movies

Cate Blanchett presides over Venice film festival jury

Venice – Australian star Cate Blanchett hailed the “miracle” organisation of this year’s Venice Film Festival on Wednesday as the prestigious Italian cinema event prepared to open.

Organisers have said there will be less red carpet glamour, with most of Hollywood’s A-listers staying away because of the coronavirus, meaning the movies themselves are set to take centre stage.

An opening ceremony Wednesday night will officially launch the competition that takes on extra importance this year given the cancellation of rival film festivals, the shuttering of cinemas in many countries and stalled productions worldwide.

Eighteen films will compete for the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the festival held each year on the glitzy Lido and attended in the past by industry heavyweights from Sophia Loren to George Clooney.

“It seems a ‘miracolo’ actually and I’ve really been looking forward to this,” jury president Blanchett, 51, told a press conference in Venice on Tuesday, using the Italian word for miracle.

“The film industry, like all industries, has had supremely challenging months and will continue to as we re-emerge.

“We have to be courageous,” she said, adding that she applauded the “infinite creativity and resilience” of those filmmakers who managed to complete their works under trying circumstances during the lockdown.

Strict safety measures are in place this year at the festival, from mask-wearing to social distancing within theatres, to the decision to ban fans from the red carpet.

Blanchett is taking the helm at Venice – once slammed by feminists for the “toxic masculinity” of its selection – in a year when the number of women directors vying for the top prize has quadrupled to eight.

The mother of four was also asked whether she had asked her husband, Australian playwright Andrew Upton, if she could go to Venice, given the risk of a second wave of Covid-19.

“My husband said I had permission to leave,” she replied dryly. “My children not so much.” 

She also made a thinly-veiled attack on US President Donald Trump for cutting funding to the World Health Organization as the pandemic began to rage.

“I find it bizarre that the (WHO) is not being allowed to lead this global challenge. We are a very strange species that we didn’t learn from Italy... and other countries who were first hit.

“We behave in quite obtuse and destructive ways which is not particularly helpful.” 

Blanchett, who spent the lockdown on her farm in southern England with her family, said that “it was very exciting to be having conversations with adults” now she was free.

“I have been talking with chickens and pigs the last few months.” - AFP

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