The decision by Venice Film Festival organizers to enlist Quentin Tarantino as president of the 2010 jury and select (at least) three films made by friends of the Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds director was controversial from the get-go.
It has become more so following the Golden Lion given to Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, the choice of Álex de la Iglesia as best director and best screenwriter for A Sad Trumpet Ballad, and the Special Lion "for an Overall Work" for Monte Hellman, whose Road to Nowhere was screened in competition.
Coppola dated Tarantino a few years ago, de la Iglesia is referred to as a "long-time Tarantino friend" in The Hollywood Reporter, while the veteran Hellman was an executive producer on Reservoir Dogs, the feature that launched Tarantino’s film career.
Tarantino has insisted that Coppola’s Somewhere won the Golden Lion unanimously — in fact, that every choice was unanimous — adding that Monte Hellman had taught him a lesson about favoritism when Reservoir Dogs was in competition at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival:
"I actually had a friend on the jury and [Hellman] told me that a friend on the jury is your worst enemy as they would be too embarrassed to give you a prize. I wasn’t going to let anything like that affect me."
Even so, questions have understandably arisen.
"The presidency of Quentin Tarantino at the 67th Mostra runs the risk of becoming the most blatant conflict of interest possible," wrote Corriere della Sera chief film critic Paolo Mereghetti, "when you consider that Somewhere and Road to Nowhere, not in my view but according to the press in general, were seen as charming and interesting but nothing more." (Via cinemagay.it.)
In his piece, Mereghetti also remarked on the "predictable tendentiousness" of this year’s jury president — Tarantino had previously badmouthed Italian cinema; hence no Italian movies came out victorious — and on the danger of having a jury much too identified with their president, "a mistake Venice seems to make more often than other festivals."
Additionally, in a post-ceremony article Mereghetti wrote that at a follow-up press conference Tarantino responded to catcalls by way of a "vulgar gesture," adding that despite Somewhere’s Golden Lion victory the public remained unconvinced of the film’s qualities. Following a paid screening Saturday night, the family drama received catcalls and "some boos."