First Day At The 73rd Venice Film Festival

I landed in Bologna on the 31st of August, 2016, after a three-hour flight which started at 8:05am in Moscow and went pretty well. The weather in the city was nice and I had a few hours to kill before my train to Venice from Bologna Centrale. This story is more about Venice so I won’t be telling you about my two-hour walking tour of the university city.

At 13:25 I was on a Frecciarossa train number 9420 and was just remembering how several of my friends said to me that one day is more than enough in Venice, I knew they were wrong, because once, about ten years ago, I was here with my family, and I knew I needed more of that stuff. Listening to what other people say doesn’t always help, and I mean the negative things. I like to have my own opinion about everything, and not having to worry about the words of non-believers, I am yet to develop the thick skin everyone should have.

I arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia. Even pronouncing the name Santa Lucia in my head tasted of some amazing dessert, potentially tiramisu followed by an espresso. And I may be rephrasing Liz Gilbert here, when she said that every word in Italian is like a truffle, which I believe is a chocolate dessert, and not the mushroom.

At 15:21 I walked out of the dessert station and onto the sight of Canal Grande, the feelings of beauty and some unbelievable romance overwhelmed me. Like I said to my friend not long ago, I usually experience these emotions in London or any other UK town, for reasons we are not sure of, but anyway, here I was, with a heavy duffel bag in one hand, and a small purse that I bought in Florence a year before, in the other. The afternoon sun was hitting the building opposite, San Simeone Piccolo, a church in the sestiere Santa Croce.

I took a deep breath, put on my unbranded sunglasses purchased in a sleeping town in the middle of Japan, and stepped onto the smooth surface of a Venetian pavement. The walk was easier than ever, after fifteen minutes of GoogleMaps and admiring the architecture around me, whilst stopping to take an ocassional photo, I walked into my humble abode, the Santa Fosca university grounds. After having a shower and changing I went to San Zaccharia water bus station, which was not far from San Marco Piazza, I purchased my first and the only ticket for 7.50 euros to the island of Lido in Venice. While waiting for the number 20 boat/bus I bought a bottle of still mineral water San Benedetto, from a vending machine, the water, which is drunk by, as it seems, everyone in Italy. I was wearing my blue polka dot dress from last year and carrying all my confirmation letters from the foreign press office at labiennale.org in my second bag.

On the boat I was standing outside the cabin, holding steadily onto the railing and looking around as we took off the San Zaccharia B pier and sailed towards an adventure called Mostra del Cinema. The wind was blowing in my face, ruffling my hair and the waves were splashing against the boat, with a few drops of the emerald water on the skirt of my dress. I now looked straight on. Before me there were two stops before the Lido Island, where I would first receive my press accreditation for the Venice Film Festival. People were getting off and on the boat, all carrying festival badges with their blue lanyards. I knew, five more minutes and I would get my own blue lanyard and a badge, with the ticket for the bus 20 for the duration of the whole festival.

I get off the boat and follow other people to a mysterious place called Palazzo del Casino which looks like this.

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I show the security guard my printouts and rush inside as I know the opening ceremony is about to start. It is just before 6 pm and I walk into the breezy hall of the Casino palace.

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I show my emails again to a helpful girl working at the Foreign Press Desk and I get my lanyard with a badge, a few papers with some useful information and a tote bag consisting of two programs or booklets: press screenings and the “together screenings” of films (general public and the press), as well as the building and grounds plan of where to find all the cinemas where the films are being shown. Right now, I know where they all are, but that day and the day after I had absolutely no clue, and no, Italians did not make it easy for a newbie to understand everything on the first day. Then I spend around 30 minutes explaining to this girl how I really want to see the opening film and of course be on the red carpet among the photographers to get the best pictures of the arriving stars. There is a special (secret) name for the red carpet pass, and the girl  tells me I am late to pick it up (of course, I understand that I arrived late and not knowing a thing). I get upset for a while, but then, later I will understand that even if I had this photo pass, I would need a black dress, or a black outfit to actually be at the red carpet. Dress code is in order in Mostra del Cinema, and I highly admire that, wishing to come back the next year, having done everything many months in advance. I will spare you a story of how I spent another twenty minutes jogging between the three floors of Palazzo del Casino, realising I won’t see the opening film which was La La Land on that day, together with the general public or the press, because the press screening took place at 9 am that morning. But then again, for a moment I forgot that two weeks before that I didn’t even have an accreditation to the film festival, but here I was, walking towards Palazzo del Cinema, the main venue for Venezia 73, about to see Jeremy Irons and Emma Stone and a few Italian celebrities I didn’t know about. Here I was.

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I was standing with the other accreditation badge holders on the right from the main entrance and it wasn’t long til I finally saw Emma Stone. I was really excited to see her walk on the red  carpet, and she went to see the fans and sign autographs quite a few times, everybody loved her and her kindness. I remember watching her for the first time in the “Easy A” movie (her first starring role) and thinking what a cool, interesting and funny girl and actress she was, and if she’d ever make it big on the silver screen. I could never have even imagined that six years later and many films down her road, I would see her in Venice, at one of the biggest film festivals in the world. I think my favourite one with her is still “Easy A” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” with Ryan Gosling again.

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So I was absolutely chuffed to see her, imagining how we could be best chums one day. Maybe. Maybe? Please?

Before her Jeremy Irons appeared who I have admired for a long long time, and he was charming with the fans too.

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Then everyone suddenly disappeared and I, still stunned from all the excitement, decided to walk around Palazzo del Casino for a bit longer. dsc_8915 dsc_8918 dsc_8919 dsc_8920 dsc_8914These are the photos from different days, but here are the queues of press people and general public, waiting to enter different “salas”, the cinemas where the festival films were being screened.

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And of course, there is a selfie of me from the first day, because for about two hours I didn’t have anyone to take my picture, so I had to “myselfie” it!

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About twenty seconds after this photo was taken I met a really lovely photographer with the red carpet photo pass and we started chatting. He and his female friend then took me for aperitivo at a nearby beach bar, because here, in Lido Island, there are also very beautiful beaches, and the cocktails are about three times cheaper than on Canal Grande. I ordered a non-alcoholic lemonade and my new friends ordered something else. We were talking about photography, the festival and Venice. Then it was time to go back to the mainland, that is how I call the main island in Venice. I walked to the water by myself, validated my free water bus ticket, and got onto the number 20 to San Zaccharia.

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I wasn’t sure what was personal information here – there are many numbers, but have decided to erase several of them, just in case 😉 The boat ticket lasts from August 31 until the end of the festival, September 10. The ride back was as smooth, as it was on the way here. I felt impressed and eternally excited, showing off my blue lanyard to anyone and everyone. I remember I was as proud as I was today, when I first got my job in London. I even went to my first lunch with my work lanyard to the nearby Plaza in Oxford Street, and my boss thought I was crazy.

Ten minutes on the boat and I was already walking towards my hostel (no five-star hotels this time) and it was a starry and a romantic night, even though I did not have a date. The next day I had to take the 10 am train going to Porto Recanati, in the Marche region, where my friend was getting married. But tonight I was still under the charm of Mostra del Cinema, the 73rd Venice Film Festival, and the first festival day was extraordinary and unforgettable, much just like Venezia herself.

Thank you for reading and tomorrow read two more posts about the VFF – the remaining days and the press conference with Suki Waterhouse for The Bad Batch movie.

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