One of the interesting aspects of the film industry is how small the world really is. Spend even a couple months involved with the day-to-day, and you run into the same people over and over again, all over the place. Some become friends. Some become enemies. One thing is certain, though: the longer your career in the film industry, the smaller the world seems.

In that way, I can sympathize with Tarantino over the favoritism criticism he received after the Venice Film Festival awards were announced. Sure, he was the Jury President and the top prize did go to an ex-girlfriend, Sofia Coppola, for her film “Somewhere,” but THINK about that. How many ex-girlfriends, or ex-boyfriends, would you go out of your way to award? I’m not saying you go the other route and shun the ex, but I do think you’re more prone to let the film speak for itself, and go from there. In that way, the simpler answer seems to line up with Tarantino’s own response of, “Being her friend didn’t affect me or make me sway the jury in any way. The other members of the jury don’t know her at all. They just loved the film. We kept coming back to it, as one of us said, because ‘It’s a great f*****g movie,’ all right?”

Of course, he also took shots for the directing award given to Alex de la Iglesia and a special jury award given to Monte Hellman, celebrating Hellman’s career, because the former is a friend and the latter is considered a mentor. Still, I don’t see a problem there.

This goes back to my first point; eventually, Tarantino was going to be on a jury where one or more of the people up for contention were friends based on the sheer fact he’s been around that long (and he appears to be fairly gregarious). I can’t fault him for being put in a position to judge over friends; I doubt he knew what he was judging before he accepted the role as Jury Master President. I’ve juried a few festivals myself, and in every case I’ve been asked if I’ll be on the jury long before I know what movies I’m watching, or who directed them.

In the case of the special award given to Hellman… why not? It’s a special award, at the jury’s discretion. Again, using my own experience as an example, special awards tend to be given because they can be, because you’d like to shine a spotlight on a person or film that doesn’t line up with all the other award categories and criteria established. In this case, claiming favoritism for Hellman’s spotlight is more insulting to Hellman than Tarantino, as the press is essentially saying that Hellman doesn’t deserve a special award for all his years as a cult filmmaker. And if Tarantino DID stick his neck out for some love for his mentor, that is to be applauded. Tarantino didn’t give Hellman someone else’s award, he and the jury created a special award specifically for Hellman, in celebration. When you can do something nice for someone who meant a lot to your career, why not do it? Especially if it’s within the guidelines of the system and it really doesn’t hurt anybody (again, no one lost out to Hellman for a special award made specifically for him).

The real problem here seems to be the fact that the high opinion of award winning films was just not shared by the Italian press and, therefore, something must be wrong, right? According to Correre della Sera film critic Paolo Mereghetti, “The presidency of Quentin Tarantino runs the risk of turning into the most obvious conflict of interest possible if you remember that ‘Somewhere’ and [Hellman’s] ‘Road to Nowhere’ were charming and interesting in their own ways, but nothing more than that.” The jury disagreed, obviously, and I’m inclined to leave it at that.

UPDATE: 09/17/10
Turns out the Italian press weren’t the only ones pissed at Tarantino. According to The Guardian, Sandro Bondi, the Italian Culture Minister, was critical of Tarantino and the jury, upset at the films that did win and the main lack of any of those winners being Italian films or filmmakers. Of Tarantino, Bondi said in an interview with Italian magazine Panorama, the filmmaker is “the expression of an elitist, relativist and snobbish culture” and “pays no attention to the sentiment and the tastes of the people and of traditions, which are now considered unsophisticated and outdated. And that vision influences his critical judgment of films, including foreign films.” Bondi plans on being a more proactive force in the selection of next year’s jury, under the logic that he can intervene as a government official “since [the festival] is financed by the state.” No word on whether Bondi will also re-name the Venice Film Festival to “Bondi’s Festival of Fun” after he forms a secret police and takes over the fest as “Cultural Dictator and Jury Wrangler.”

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  1. welTon says:

    Well since Somewhere received mixed reviews at Venice, maybe T was trying to cover his a*s. Plus he’s not exactly a shy guy, I’m sure he can be pushy and opinionated. The guy won’t shut up and I’m sure he laid down some rules for everyone.

  2. Ford says:

    Nepotism at a film festival? Noooooooo!

    Yeah, like Mark said, the vote was unanimous, so T is just a scapegoat.

    “charming and interesting in their own ways, but nothing more than that” describes pretty much every Italian film I’ve ever seen.

  3. Mark Bell says:

    Frzen: Apparently the jury was unanimous in selecting “Somewhere,” so I’m not so sure a lack of Tarantino on the jury would’ve changed the award winner. Just because a film is better-received (and by who; the audience, the press?), it does not mean it is the best film. Then again, as John pointed out, it is subjective, not definitive. I’ll admit to having disliked more jury award winning films than I’ve liked, so I guess it does not strike me as odd that a film that wasn’t universally loved wound up winning top prize.

  4. Frzen says:

    But had Tarantino not been the head of the 2010 Venice Film Festival, could the Golden Lion have gone to another (better-received) film, say, Abdellatif Kechiche‘s Venus Noire / Black Venus, François Ozon‘s Potiche, or Pablo Larraín‘s Post Mortem? or Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff?

  5. good pr says:

    Did you guys see the awards ceremony? Quentin almost started crying when giving his ex her award. What a p***y. It’s just celebrity a*s kissing, not a real film festival.

  6. good pr says:

    oh please why do you think she went to venice? she’s italian and that country is very patriotic and xenophobic. nepotism is the national tradition. la familia.

  7. John Wildman says:

    You also enter the “never win” category of declaring “the best” film win you debate and argue these situations. Countless times, have scratched my head over an occasional jury prize winner at film fests I’ve covered like Sundance and SXSW, and more than a few times at fests I was working for like DALLAS IFF and AFI FEST. But that’s why you have a jury – they choose a critical winner versus an audience award – where films get a popular vote.

    Anyone that genuinely thinks that they personally own the final word on the best film has some ego and reality issues. So – this is one of those flare ups that ultimately means little beyond giving the entertainment and film fest press something to chew on for a week or so.

  8. Mark Bell says:

    My argument is simply that the jury disagreed with the seemingly more popular opinion of which movies were good (or at least more popular as it pertains to the press or even you here, AntoBlueberry), and that it was hardly sinister. Believe me, I’ve seen some films in my time that I’ve thought were less than interesting but, as I watched, I’d think, “this is the type of film that wins a jury award.” I don’t know how to explain it, but some films just feel that way, whether I like them or not. Could that be the case here?

  9. AntoBlueberry says:

    The big problem is that there were at least a couple of movies in competition better than Somewhere and Ballada triste. I admit though that the movie by De La Iglesia is fun.

  10. Paula says:

    I agree with you. I was just having the exact conversation with a friend yesterday via Twitter.

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