Venice may be the oldest film festival in the world but it is still breaking new ground.
This week film-lovers across the globe will sit down in the comfort of their own homes to watch films that are being streamed live from the Lido. It is the second year of Venice’s Web Theatre; this offers members of the public the chance to buy tickets to stream films — picked largely from the festival’s Horizons section — at the same time as festival attendees see them on the big screen (www.labiennale.org for details).
Horizons, though not the main category in the festival, still has some worthwhile films to watch. Wadjda, the hit Saudi Arabian film, was one of last year’s gems. This year Ruin (see picture), an Australian piece set in Cambodia, looks to be an interesting contender.
This technological innovation is no small feat in a climate fearful of piracy, although the fact that only smaller films can be streamed suggests that we are still at the experimental stage; it seems unlikely that cinephiles will be able to access the most hotly anticipated films anytime soon without travelling to the Veneto in person.
But what this Web Theatre does show is how much advancements in distribution can widen cinematic reach. Just as the digital world has transformed book publishing, online film distribution can help to find greater audiences for new, often struggling talent. And when the glitz and glamour of the red carpet is over, an audience is what film is all about.