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European Films in the United States panel at Venice

Tuesday 5 September, from 3.30 to 5.30 p.m.

The European Films in the United States conference is scheduled for Tuesday 5 September, in the Conference Room (2nd floor, Palazzo del Casinò), from 3.30 to 5.30 p.m. Chaired by the initiative’s guardian, Peter Cowie, journalists Molly Haskell (New York Observer), Jonathan Rosenbaum (The Chicago Reader), Richard Corliss (Time Magazine), Nick Vivarelli (Variety), having first sketched out a brief history of European films in the United States, will discuss, together with Riccardo Tozzi (Chairman, CATTLEYA and UNPF, National Union of Film Producers) and Dan Glickman (Chairman, MPAA), strategies for promoting European films in the United States, the role of critics and festivals together with the distribution of European works on the “New Continent”, the surprise stateside success of films like Jean-Jacques Annaud’s L’Ours (The Bear), Michael Radford’s Il postino (The Postman), or La Marche de l'Empereur (March of the Penguins) by Luc Jacquet, the pros and cons of subtitling, and what changes the advent of digital screening could bring about.

The first wave of European cinema, which reached the United States in the 1960s and 70s, gave American cinema a considerable thrust, a dose of creative juice not seen for quite some time. Films by Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut and Godard enjoyed huge popularity, especially among college students. Today, however, America is noting, in terms of culture, a somewhat radical change: of a Friday evening, students will go out and rent an American film from the 1930s, which they consider akin to an initiation procedure. Furthermore, in every country, with the exception of India, the vast majority of box office takings comes from American films. In Greece and in Germany, for example, 80% of distributed films are USA-made. One might say that, at the box office, Europeans forget their own cultural affiliation.

Faced with this predicament, the introduction to the meeting will include a brief outline of the history of European films in the United States, followed by contributions by the individual participants, who will be attempting to provide answers to the following questions:

· Are subtitles still a drawback in the distribution of European films on America’s urban cinema circuit?

· Do European filmmakers and sales organisations carry out sufficient strategies for promoting European films in the United States?

· European films held a particular charm for the American public until only a few generations ago. Today, the spread of Asian cinema appears to have displaced that of the “Old Continent”. Any thoughts on the matter?

· How does one explain inexplicable phenomena like the success of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s L’Ours (The Bear, which has raked in more than 20 million dollars at American box offices), Michael Radford’s Il postino (The Postman), or La Marche de l'Empereur (March of the Penguins) by Luc Jacquet?

· Do festivals have a positive or negative effect (or both)? Do they get films shown which would not otherwise be seen, or do they cause, in the case of urban festivals, a further reduction in big-city cinema audiences?

· Can criticism make a real contribution in this sense? How can the increase in Internet criticism contribute positively to this situation?

· Will the growing use of digital screenings help or hinder foreign films in the United States?

· Is there one particularly significant foreign film that could be cited as a representative example of success or lack of success?

Peter Cowie (England). Cinema critic and historian, former International Publishing Director of the American cinema magazine, Variety, and the founder and editor of the International Film Guide in 1963, which is still today among the most authoritative and popular catalogues of the year’s cinema productions. He has published more than twenty cinema books, including The Godfather Book, The Apocalypse Now Book, The Cinema of Orson Welles, Revolution! The Explosion of the World Cinema in the 60s, John Ford and the American West, and critical biographies of Ingmar Bergman and Francis Ford Coppola. From 1989 to 2000 he was Variety’s international editor. A lecturer at universities on four continents and at the University of Santa Barbara in California, he is a member of the European Film College. During cinema’s centenary year, he published World Cinema: Diary of the Day for the British Film Institute. His studies of Swedish cinema earned him the Royal Order of the Polar Star in 1989. He has written commentaries for the celebrated Criterion Collection DVD series, among others Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957), by Ingmar Bergman, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963), by Visconti, and Salvatore Giuliano (1962) by Francesco Rosi. In November 2006, Rizzoli is publishing his study of Louise Brooks. In 2005 he was a jury member for the Luigi De Laurentiis award for the best debut film at the 62nd Venice Festival.

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