Hollywood film humanitarian (Citizen Penn), Sean Penn, is smack-dab in the middle of the most dangerous region on the planet, the battlefields of Ukraine. As the Russian military apparatus surrounded and consequently invaded its western-looking, democratic neighbor, Penn was working in Ukraine on a documentary exploring “the consequences of Russian agression” for Vice Studios when hostilities were happening.
In a publicly issued statement, Penn declared,
“Already a brutal mistake of lives taken and hearts broken, and If he doesn’t relent, I believe Mr. Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind…President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost.”
Often characterized and stereotyped by early-career exploits of consistently making news headlines for punching cameramen, his political viewpoints, and marrying the world’s most recognizable pop star of the time, Madonna, Penn has diligently changed his image through extensive efforts to aid assistance to his fellow ‘man’ in war-torn, disaster laden, disaffected countries beginning in 2002 with the war in Iraq, adding a herculean Haitian earthquake response effort, and more recently expanding the availability COVID-19 vaccines to 1.3 million disadvantaged and low-income Los Angeleans through his CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort). CORE emanated from Penn and international aid worker, Ann Lee’s experiences in their Haitian relief and recovery efforts.
In today’s LATimes article, “Actor Sean Penn wants U.S. to help rescue Ukraine from Russian invasion,” journalist Meg James expounds upon Penn’s efforts to reach out to Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lament the feelings of isolation as they fight for their freedom and the survival of their beloved Ukraine.
“America isn’t here. The European Union isn’t here,” a 24-year-old hotel employee in Kharkiv, Ukraine, named Alexander (he declined to give his last name)…So we’re fighting on our own.” Zelensky communicated that Ukraine needed more people like Penn and the true friends who support Ukraine’s struggle to maintain its freedom in the face of the Russian onslaught via a Facebook post, “Sean Penn demonstrates the courage that many others, including Western politicians, lack.
This afternoon, the German government announced a shipment of 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine “as quickly as possible.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “In this situation, it is our duty to help Ukraine, to the best of our ability, to defend itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army.”
As reported in The Wrap, a recent petition by the Ukrainian government has called for producers, exhibitors, and world film festivals from screening and distributing Russian Federation cultural cinema and its distorted propaganda messaging. Russia has a long and storied cinema tradition of using the apparatus to further the ambitions of the federation. In recent years, several Russian films made their appearance at top world festivals.
In 1999, the Sala Perla alongside the historic Palazzo del Cinema was restructured and expanded (seating for 580), seating in the PalaBNL was increased to 1700, and the Palazzo del Casinò cinemas reserved for journalists and professionals from the world of cinema were enlarged, to an overall surface area of 11,000 sq.m.
Alberto Barbera, director of the Festival from 1999 to 2001, created the section “Cinema del Presente” in parallel to the customary competition. He embarked on a double course of action. In addition to the Golden Lion we had the Lion of the Year aimed to highlight debut films and fringe feature films, as well as works comparable to genres and current productions, with innovative intentions and creative originality. All of the Golden Lions assigned during Barbera’s concluding period went to films from the East: Not One Less by Zhang Yimou, The Circle by Jafar Panahi, and Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair.
The 2002 and 2003 editions were directed by Moritz de Hadeln. In 2002, Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters won the Golden Lion; the collective film 11’09”01 – September 11 also raised much attention and debate. In 2003, Woody Allen landed on the Lido to open the fest with his Anything Else, and many other stars followed by, including George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Intolerable Cruelty), Sean Penn and Naomi Watts (21 Grams), Anthony Hopkins (The Human Stain), Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp (Once upon a time in Mexico), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Tim Robbins (Code 46), and Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men).
Andrej Zvjagintsev’s Vozvrašcenje (The Return) won the Golden Lion.
In 2004, Marco Müller was appointed as director of the Cinema section. The festival awarded Manoel de Oliveira and Stanley Donen with the Golden Lion for Career Achievement. Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake won the Golden Lion for best film. A retrospective section was dedicated to the Secret History of Italian Cinema, whose first segment Italian Kings of the B’s was also presented in Tokyo, Milan, and London.
In 2005, Müller brought to the Lido a number of celebrities including Tsui Hark, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Ang Lee, Jeremy Irons, Monica Bellucci, Susan Sarandon, Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Ron Howard, Isabelle Huppert, Anthony Hopkins, Abel Ferrara, Stefania Rocca, John Turturro, Charlotte Rampling, Tim Burton, Emmanuelle Seigner, Ralph Fiennes, and Valeria Golino among others. The retrospective section was dedicated to the Secret History of Asian Cinema, Hayao Miyazaki and Stefania Sandrelli were awarded with the Golden Lion for Career Achievement, and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain won the Golden Lion for best film.
Stars who walked down the red carpet in 2006 included: Ben Affleck, Sabine Azema, Juliette Binoche, Kenneth Branagh, Adrien Brody, Sandra Bullock, Jackie Chan, Laura Dern, Aaron Eckhart, Emilio Estevez, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Josh Hartnett, Anne Hathaway, Ethan Hawke, Bob Hoskins, Jeremy Irons, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Kirshner, Diane Lane, Lindsay Lohan, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Christian Slater, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, James Wilby, Lambert Wilson, and Zhang Ziyi.
Retrospective sections were dedicated to the Secret History of Russian Cinema and to Joaquim Pedro de Andrade. David Lynch was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, and Jia Zhangke’s Still Life won the Golden Lion for Best Film.
In 2007, the Venice Film Festival celebrated its 75th anniversary. Director Alexander Kluge, who was also born in 1932 and the winner in Venice of two Golden Lions and one Silver Lion, prepared a special retrospective program on the last 75 years in the history of cinema. A special award was created, the Golden Lion of the 75th edition, and presented to Bernardo Bertolucci. The other main awards went to Tim Burton, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, and to Ang Lee, who won the Golden Lion for best film (Lust, Caution) for the second time in the three latest editions. The retrospective section was dedicated to Spaghetti Western and presented 40 famous film belonging to that genre. The red carpet of this edition was scattered with stars such as Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, Fanny Ardant, Nikita Mikhalkov, Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Takeshi Kitano, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, and Charlize Theron, just to name the main protagonists.
In 2008, the 65th edition, headed by Marco Müller, presented Ermanno Olmi the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. The These Phantoms: Italian Cinema Rediscovered (1946-1975) retrospective was curated by Tatti Sanguineti and Sergio Toffetti and comprised the screening of about 30 films made during the three finest decades of Italian cinema. Lots of stars, as usual, during the 11 days of the festival: among them, Mickey Rourke, Charlize Theron, Silvio Orlando, Francesca Neri, Isabella Ferrari, Anne Hathaway, Valerio Mastandrea, Stefania Sandrelli, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. The Venezia 65 international jury, chaired by Wim Wenders, awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film to The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky.
In 2009 the Festival awarded John Lasseter and the Disney•Pixar directors the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. The retrospective on Italian cinema continued with These Phantoms: Italian Cinema found again (1946-1975), curated by Sergio Toffetti. Director Marco Müller added the Controcampo Italiano section to the official selection, the new section being intended towards focusing on trends of Italian contemporary cinema. The Venezia 66 international jury, chaired by Ang Lee, awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film to Lebanon by Samuel Maoz. Among the stars who attended the Festival were Colin Firth, Tom Ford, Julianne Moore, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Giuseppe Tornatore, Sergio Castellitto, Eva Mendes, Nicolas Cage, Werner Herzog, Michael Moore, Riccardo Scamarcio, Diane Kruger, Isabelle Huppert, Viggo Mortensen, Jacques Rivette, and Jane Birkin.
In 2010, the Festival opened with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan; the opening screening was attended by President Giorgio Napolitano. Ten years after the death of Vittorio Gassman, the Festival honoured one of the most extraordinary personalities of Italian cinema with the screening of Vittorio racconta Gassman, una vita da Mattatore, a documentary based on footage of the actor speaking about his career. The jury of the 67th Venice Film Festival awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film in Competition to Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement went to legendary Hong Kong movie director John Woo. Among the stars appearing on the red carpet were Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Alba, Elle Fanning, Stephen Dorff, Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Vincent Gallo, Willem Dafoe, Catherine Deneuve, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, John Turturro, Monte Hellman, Takashi Miike, Marco Bellocchio, Alessandro Gassman, and Kim Rossi Stuart. The 2010 edition saw the Orizzonti section thrown open to a vast range of productions. Even more so than in previous years, Orizzonti became the reference section for the more innovative and experimental filmmakers. The retrospective section was dedicated to Italian comedies and was titled La situazione comica (1937-1988).
In 2011, through an agreement with the City of Venice a radical renovation restored the historic Sala Grande (1937) to its original style. The whole walkway leading from the Hotel Excelsior to the Casino Palace was refurbished. The Lion’s Bar was completely redeveloped focusing on quality design also for the adjacent areas. The festival opened with the American film The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney. Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, among the most influential directors in the Italian filmmaking industry and one of the undisputed masters of contemporary cinema, was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. American actor and film director Al Pacino was presented with the 2011 Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Film-maker Award. Out of Competition, Al Pacino also presented the world premiere of his film Wilde Salome. The Persol 3D award went to the Zapruder Filmmakers Group, which, for many years, had been exploring the possibilities of stereoscopic film for the production of films and installations that borrow the techniques of 3-D cinema. The L’Oréal Paris cinema award went to Nicole Grimaudo.
Jury members Eija-Liisa Ahtila, David Byrne, Todd Haynes, Mario Martone, Alba Rohrwacher, André Téchiné, and jury president Darren Aronofsky awarded the Golden Lion to Faust by Russian director Aleksander Sokurov. Among the stars appearing on the Lido red carpet in 2011, in addition to George Clooney and Al Pacino, were Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Madonna, Abbie Cornish, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Monica Bellucci, Louis Garrel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, James Franco, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Willem Dafoe, Emile Hirsch, David Cronenberg, Steven Soderbergh, Abel Ferrara, Johnnie To, and William Friedkin. The retrospective section was titled Orizzonti 1961-1978 and was dedicated to Italian avant-garde films of the 1960s-70s.
The Biennale Cinema 2016 will run Aug. 31 to Sept. 10