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.
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.”