2017 Venice Film Fest opens with world premiere of Payne's 'Downsizing'

Updated 2017-08-31 11:00:56 Xinhua
Director Alexander Payne (R) poses with actors Matt Damon (1st L), Kristen Wiig (2nd L) and Hong Chau during a photocall for the movie Downsizing at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy August 30, 2017. (Xinhua/Jin Yu)

Director Alexander Payne (R) poses with actors Matt Damon (1st L), Kristen Wiig (2nd L) and Hong Chau during a photocall for the movie "Downsizing" at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy August 30, 2017. (Xinhua/Jin Yu)

The world premiere of "Downsizing" by American director Alexander Payne opened the 2017 Venice Film Festival on Wednesday.

Starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as major characters, the satirical film tells of a surprising "near future" in which Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink people to five inches tall in order to make life on planet more sustainable, and the human community less resource-consuming.

Damon and Wiig -- playing the roles of a middle-class couple -- decide to go through this irreversible path, and to begin a new life with the first community for small people in New Mexico. Such choice would change their lives forever.

As expected, a large crowd of fans waited around the red carpet to watch Matt Damon, American actress Annette Bening -- head of the festival's main jury -- and the other stars parade in the light of Venice Lido's late afternoon.

Besides Payne's new feature, the opening day was marked by a premiere screening of "Nico, 1988" by Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli, competing in the Horizons section devoted to new cinema trends.

The biographical movie focuses on the last years of German musician and actress Christa Paffgen -- best known by her artistic nickname "Nico" -- singer of Velvet Underground band and one of Andy Warhol's muses.

Overall, this 74th edition of the Venice Film Festival would feature 21 world premieres contending for the Golden Lion, 22 works out of the competition -- including eight documentaries and two medium-length films -- and another 19 in the Horizons section.

While Annette Bening leads the international panel that will confer the Golden Lion, other four juries will preside over the other sections, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera explained at the opening press conference.

A large space was devoted to the very novelty of this year: a competitive section dedicated to Virtual Reality works.

With some 22 titles in competition, the VR section will allow visitors to choose among seated viewing with visor, stand-up viewing (possibly interactively), and three-dimensional installations.

This section was being held at the Lazzaretto Vecchio, a small island very close to Venice Lido that operated as a leper colony in the 15th century, and has now been opened to the audience of the festival for the first time ever.

"We have given to VR (works) a wonderful space this year, and we meant it, with the very purpose of declaring our interest in this new reality," Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale organizing the festival, told reporters.

He added the Biennale would always keep an eye open on the different arts, and on the evolution of technical and technological progresses offering new tools to the artistic expression.

"Virtual Reality is not an extension of cinema. It is a new medium being made possible by new technologies, and great filmmakers are currently making experiments with it," artistic director Barbera as well stressed at the press conference.

As such, VR works would exist beside traditional movies in the future -- maybe posing challenges, but no "threat" to cinema -- according to Barbera. "VR would not kill cinema, as much as cinema did not kill any other form of art," he said.

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