September 18, 2010

Venice with a view

After enduring a fourteen hour flight from Manila via Amsterdam, I arrive in Venice late evening. A representative from the Festival is waiting at the departure area holding a small placard bearing the logo of Venezia 67. I walk towards her, hesitates for a second, and  says "Ciao." I tell her my name, she looks at her notes, recognizes my name, and welcomes me. We wait for my luggage, and, after three minutes, we walk out of the airport where a black Lancia car is waiting. We drive off to the jetty where a water taxi is waiting. We board it and set off to an island about half an hour away. I try to make something of the shadows but could not make of anything. It is dark. I am tired.

I wake up the next day and tells myself to stick to plan, that is, watch a maximum of two films a day, enjoy Venice, and meet people. I stuff my backpack with a festival traveler's necessities - passport, wallet, IDs, pen, business cards, moisturizer, and DVD screeners.

Lido di Venezia, the island where the Festival takes place every year, is small. It stretches ten kilometers across and about a kilometer wide. My hotel is right in front of the lagoon overlooking Piazza San Marco and San Giorgio. I peruse my map, and walk along Riviera San Nicolo and take a left turn to San Maria Elisabetta. I stop by a small coffee shop, and with my rudimentary Italian, orders cafe Americano, per favore.

The smell of the coffee jolts my senses. I order a brioche to go with it.

I continue my walk admiring the great architecture of the buildings, some old, some renovated to look new. Upon reaching the other end of the street, at the beach front, I take a right turn and walk on Lungomare Marconi. The sky is clear, the weather fine. Ten minutes later, I arrive at the Palazzo del Casino.

Security is tight in the Festival venue. I am told that there are five groups guarding the Palazzo and its premises -the carabinieri, the state police, the municipal police, the finance police, and private security. To be recognized as part of the Festival, I head to the information to ask where the accreditation office is located. "It's on the ground floor of the Palazzo del Casino," a young man in the Information booth tells me. But before I could enter the building, I have to deposit my passport to get a pass.

I flash my pass to the three guards at the Palazzo entrance. One of the guards take it and scan the bar code. The computer monitor registers the information and the word OK appears onscreen. I walk to the accreditation booth at the end of the hall. I tell the lady my name, checks it on the computer and two minutes later I get my badge. "Please wear the badge always." The lady reminds me. "That way, you can enter and leave the Festival venue with ease. Capisci?" I nod.

I take a Festival program on my way out of the office. It is still early. 9 o'clock. I explore the Palazzo del Cinema while perusing the program. In a minute, I have identified the first film that I have to see that day. I climb the stairs to the second floor. The hall is empty. The souvenir booth is being set up for the day. I walk further into the balcony. The sun is high up in the sky.

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