Venice shoots for the Moon in Hollywood-heavy film festival

When Ryan Gosling gets off the boat at Venice Lido this week, it will be one small step for the Hollywood actor, but potentially another leap for the world’s oldest film festival.

Gosling’s “First Man”, in which he plays pioneering astronaut Neil Armstrong, opens a festival that has recovered from a period of decline and is increasingly seen as the first showcase of the season for potential Oscar winners.

That prestige – in addition to Netflix’s decision to boycott the Cannes festival in May over a dispute about streaming versus theatrical distribution – has lured an array of A-list actors and directors to Venice.

“The number of talents and stars is so huge that it’s impossible to remember all their names now,” said artistic director Alberto Barbera.

He has rebuilt the festival’s reputation in recent years by screening a raft of Hollywood arthouse pictures, such as “Gravity”, “The Shape of Water” and “La La Land”, that went from Venice to Oscars glory.

“Now the Mostra is back again as much as it was in the past,” Barbera told Reuters, using the Italian name for the festival.

The Mostra opens on Wednesday with “First Man”, which reunites Gosling with Damien Chazelle, who won Best Director for “La La Land”, the musical that was initially awarded Best Picture in the notorious mix-up during the 2017 Oscars ceremony where the actual winner was “Moonlight”.

Chazelle, 33, has said his new film is “about the Moon and the kitchen” – aiming to show the personal side of the epic space adventure that saw Armstrong, as a member of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, become the first person to walk on the Moon.

“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said as he alighted on the lunar surface.

It is one of 21 movies from Europe, Japan, Australia and the Americas competing for the Golden Lion, Venice’s top prize.

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