Venice Jury President Damien Chazelle Kicks Off Festival With Strike Solidarity: “Art Over Content”

venice film festival 2023
At the opening press conference, the jury faced questions about the strike—and which stars will show up for the high-profile festivities.

Damien Chazelle
Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Getty Images

The 2023 Venice Film Festival, Hollywood’s first major event since much of the industry went on strike, kicked off with acknowledgment of the actors and writers engaged in the fight. “Today is the 121st day that the writers in Hollywood have been on strike; the 48th day that the actors have been on strike,” began the festival’s jury president, Damien Chazelle.

Sporting a “Writers Guild on Strike” shirt and button, Chazelle said at Wednesday’s opening press conference that “a lot of people who otherwise would have loved to be here during this festival are not able to be here. It’s a difficult time in Hollywood, especially for working writers, actors, but also crew,” so he wanted to “find some way to acknowledge that.”

The Whiplash and La La Land filmmaker went on to rail against the idea that art is “just a piece of content, which is Hollywood’s favorite word right now, to be put into a pipeline.” He said that the issue of “art over content” and proper compensation were top of mind, adding, “People need to be remunerated for each piece of art that is made.”

Fellow jury members Martin McDonagh and Laura Poitras, who were both seated in the audience, wore matching shirts in support of the strike, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Alongside them, this year’s jury is led by French director Alice Diop for the fest’s Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best debut film, and Italy’s Jonas Carpignano for the Horizons section.

The ongoing strikes led to Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers pulling out as the fest’s opening film and the absence of some stars, including Maestro director/star Bradley Cooper. However, some stars are permitted to show up for promotion thanks to interim agreements for publicity issued by SAG-AFTRA. These waivers are only being extended to certain companies that are not part of the ongoing strike negotiations, including independent productions such as Michael Mann’s Ferrari and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla.

During the opening press conference, Venice chief Alberto Barbera was asked to confirm which actors would be in attendance for publicity, and he noted Léa Seydoux of The Beast, Jessica Chastain of Memory, and Adam Driver of Ferrari as possible arrivals on the Gondola. However, Driver’s costar Penélope Cruz, once an expected attendee, will no longer be at Venice, said Barbera, citing a “personal matter.”

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