CSDF 2022: Venice Elsewhere ★★★☆☆

4 mins read

The name ‘Venice’ conjures images of masked balls, canals, gondoliers, and effortlessly glamourous Italian style. But just as there are many places called ‘Edinburgh’, there are many towns, buildings, and even businesses also named ‘Venice’, either by coincidence, or as an homage to the floating former city state.

This documentary, directed by Elia Romanelli, presents several of these other namesakes, interviewing the people who live there, some of whom feel a connection to the more famous namesake. Some of these pen portraits are more compelling than others, but all of them offer an insight into life in parts of Europe that are often overlooked in film.

From a sheep farmer living in a caravan in Venetia de Jos in rural Romania, to a young married couple finding a facsimile of Venice’s canals and bridges in a giant Istanbul shopping centre, the stories are told with an honest simplicity.

The individual participants are interviewed, and speak of their own realities, all of which are mundanely routine. Even the young couple embarking on their honeymoon in the Istanbul mall have nothing remarkable about them.

A still from the documentary film 'Venice Elsewhere'
Image Credit: Macrobert Arts Centre

Perhaps the most interesting subject is the owner of the Venezia salon, established in a container in Zagreb. Lodged between nondescript communist-era low-rise blocks of flats, the owner offers a moment of glamour to her clients. We learn that she is a survivor of the Balkan conflicts who fled her home town with nothing. Now, almost thirty years later, she has carved this small piece of joy out of the uninspiring location and named her salon in tribute to the city across the Adriatic Sea.

The cinematography in this film is visually enthralling, with several of the other Venices being shot in a style reminiscent of a Scandinavian Noir drama. The Italian Venice is itself featured, but here no one specific person or family is interviewed, as has been the case in the other locations. We are instead shown a glimpse of the city unlike anything we have seen before. The industrial processes which allow the city to continue to function are juxtaposed with narrated love letters.

Images of the city under flood water alert us to the ever-encroaching climate crisis that threatens to destroy the city. Images filmed during COVID-19 lockdowns offer us a glimpse of the city as it could be if it was abandoned, by both the torrent of tourists and the resident population.

Despite the captivating images, and the humour of the individual interviewees, ultimately, this film feels somewhat disjointed. The mere coincidence of living in a place named the same as a very famous place does not have the strength of connection that seems to be being sought after. Too little unites the subjects and watching the film feels like observing, without necessarily engaging. There is an overall soporific effect, leading to a pleasant but inconclusive story.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Anastasiya Lobanovskaya

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