Venice Launches Horizons Extra With Audience Voting on Best Pic

Though the Venice Film Festival will serve as a launching pad for several blockbusters, festival artistic director Alberto Barbera this year is introducing a section called Horizons Extra, dedicated to more offbeat works of all genres with no length constraints although they must be more than an hour long. These pics will be judged by festgoers.

The Horizons Extra section is an extension of Horizons, the Venice section focusing on new trends in world cinema that, under Barbera, became a competition instrumental in promoting emerging auteurs.

It’s a small but significant new component of the fest’s programming structure that, along with the competitive Venice VR Expanded section dedicated to virtual reality works of any length and format, gives the festival a spot to host innovative programming.

With Horizons Extra, Barbera is boosting his effort “to give value to a certain kind of cinema that is auteur-driven, ambitious and demanding, but that is aware of the problem of the audience to which it is directed,” he says. “I said: ‘Let’s have a section in which the audience becomes, in turn, the protagonist’” by becoming the jury.

Eligible voters are any spectators on the Lido who have seen one or all movies in the section and register online with the barcode on their tickets. The voting system is on a 0 to 10 scale. Votes must be cast between the end of the movie’s first screening and midnight on the day of the pic’s final scheduled screening.

The Horizons Extra opener is U.S.-based Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s “Land of Dreams,” about a young Iranian art student, played by Sheila Vand, who travels across New Mexico to take portraits of people she encounters and ask them about their dreams. Matt Dillon and Isabella Rossellini star. Other notable titles in the lineup include first-time director Mounia Akl’s “Costa Brava, Lebanon,” starring multihyphenate Nadine Labaki and Palestinian Saleh Bakri as a couple who leave the toxic pollution of their home city of Beirut hoping to build a utopian existence only to end up by a garbage landfill, and Russian helmer Vladimir Bitokov’s “Mama, I’m Home,” produced by Alexander Rodnyansky (“Leviathan,” “Loveless”).

Screenings of the Horizons Extra movies will be followed by onstage conversations with the directors, writers and actors, moderated by writer and arts journalist Chiara Tagliaferri.

Other standouts in the eight-title section include Italian director Wilma Labate’s “La ragazza ha volato,” about a restless teenage girl growing up in a working-class family in Trieste; Finnish filmmaker Teemu Nikki’s “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,” in which a disabled man has to go through hell to reach his loved one; and Netflix’s Brazilian original film “7 Prisoners,” directed by Alexandre Moratto (“Socrates”) and produced by “The White Tiger” helmer Ramin Bahrani in tandem with Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” “The Two Popes”). “Prisoners” turns on a young man named Mateus, who leaves the Brazilian countryside searching for a job opportunity in a São Paulo junkyard and ends up becoming a victim of an exploitative work system.

“I am very curious about seeing the outcome,” says Barbera, who points to that Venice is not just for film professionals. “The idea is to try to work on the continuous dialogue between cinema and the audience, a dialogue on which we need to insist.

“If cinema will have a future in movie theaters — as we all hope, and are working toward — we need to motivate the audience to leave the comfort of their homes. This can happen if we get spectators more involved by actually having them give out a prize.”

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