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Venice preparing pan-European festival amid potential Hollywood strike impact on Fall festivals

The US strikes threaten the Fall festival season, as Venice boss prepares for an alternative line-up
The US strikes threaten the Fall festival season, as Venice boss prepares for an alternative line-up Copyright LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA
Copyright LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA
By David Mouriquand
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The red carpet at this year's Venice Film Festival may not get much US A-lister footfall, as the festival prepares to adapt to the unprecedented challenges posed by the writers-actors strike in the US.

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Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera is currently working on a Plan B if American films do not participate in this year’s upcoming 80th edition due to the ongoing WGA and SAG strikes.

According to THR Italia, Barbera has told his programmers that the 80th edition “will be a Pan-European festival,” and while it is still too early to determine the outcome of the strikes, it does not look likely that the dispute will be resolved before September.

This could mean that an alternative program would consist of mostly European and Asian cinema, considering the American talent would likely be prohibited from attending the premieres.

Stars could have to pull out from showing up and promoting their films, as SAG-AFTRA rules stipulate that studios cannot pay for actors to be sent to the festivals and that the performers cannot attend any screenings or promotional exercises.

“Let’s try to figure out what American producers and directors intend to do,” Barbera has said, according to people familiar with the situation. “In the meantime, we are taking action to create an alternative program.”

Barbera has also told his staff to “be ready for anything and take nothing for granted.”

This news could be both an opportunity and a blow for the festival, which is considered the unofficial start of awards season and widely acknowledged as an awards launchpad. The lack of promotion through talent would mean premieres would suffer, and in turn, early Oscar buzz would be dampened.

Venice relies on the presence of Hollywood talent and has been a bellwether when it comes to premiering future major award winners. 

One film in the line of fire is this year's previously announced opening film - Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers. It stars Zendaya, who would not be able to tread the red carpet or be available for interviews and promotional duties should the strikes continue. 

Guadagnino has confirmed that the situation is very uncertain: “Of course the actors will not do promotion,” he told THR Roma. “We have to understand from the studio what they want to do, then we will decide how to proceed.”

Sources have also told THR Roma that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival - which takes place from 7–17 September - are similarly preparing for the possibility that there will be a limited presence of US films at TIFF.

The 80th Venice Film Festival runs from 30 August – 9 September. Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers is still set to open the festival. A press conference to unveil this year’s full line-up is planned for 25 July and will still take place as scheduled.

Additional sources • THR Italia

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