#ISUPPORTBIFF_Alberto BARBERA (Festival Director/Venice International Film Festival)
Within the very wide geography of international film festivals, BIFF managed to achieve an admirable position. The most important film festivals in the world are no more than five or six: three are located in Europe – namely, Cannes, Venice and Berlin, the oldest and most prestigious festivals; one is located in the American continent – namely the Toronto FF; then, for the whole Asian territory, there is BIFF, which over the years has become a key point of reference. This has happened thanks to the skills of BIFF’s programmers, director, as well as of BIFF’s founders. BIFF has not only managed to promote Korean cinema and to shine a light on Asia’s most important auteurs, young filmmakers, and most talented directors, but also built a bridge between Asia and the West, i.e. it presented in Asia – and in Korea in particular – the most important films produced in the United States, in South America, in Europe, and in the Western world.
This role and this work entail some risks, because sometimes you have to screen films that take on controversial, often radical positions. Sometimes such positions might not be shared by everyone but this is within the game of democracy. Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental values of every democratic society and the reputation and credibility of a Festival is based upon this freedom – and upon the defence of this value. In this respect, similarly to all film festivals in the West, BIFF has always done an extraordinary job, it assumed its own responsibilities like we, Directors of film festivals in the West, do. Also at the Venice FF, more than once in the past, we presented films that were critical of the government and of the authorities in general. For instance, last year we presented a film [Sabina GUZZANTI’s La Trattativa – The State-Mafia Pact] that attacked the Italian Government for accepting to negotiate secretly and illegally with the Sicilian Mafia… there is an ongoing trial on the issue and, undoubtedly, the film did not go down well with the politicians at the center of this trial.
Festivals are there, they exist, also to respect the authors’ freedom of expression, to offer them an independent space where films can be seen, discussed, sometimes even objected to, but without any form of political censorship. The authors’ freedom of expression is matched with the independence and the freedom of the festival programmers, who cannot be influenced by politics in their decision-making process. Programmers assume their own responsibilities, sometimes they have to make risky, painful choices which are destined to be controversial, but this is the only way to build a great festival and to secure its credibility, its international prestige, and its future. To date, this is the way it has been for BIFF and I wish this is going to remain the same in the future. For this reason, the Venice International Film Festival fully supports BIFF, its programmers, and its Director. We are on the side of Mr. LEE and his collaborators and we hope that Korean politicians will realise that it would be a wrong choice to shut off the voice of BIFF – a voice that, over all these years, gave an extraordinary contribution to the dissemination of Korean cinema culture throughout the world.
Alberto BARBERA (Festival Director/Venice International Film Festival)