The Venetian Dilemma

  • 2005
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Dedicated to "all who fight for the life of their city," this brief documentary by New York City-based filmmakers Carole and Richard Rifkind neatly outlines the serious predicament Venice faces at the dawn of the 21st century. Must this 1500-year-old city modernize in order to survive, and if so, for whom? The estimated 14 million annual visitors who contribute...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Dedicated to "all who fight for the life of their city," this brief documentary by New York City-based filmmakers Carole and Richard Rifkind neatly outlines the serious predicament Venice faces at the dawn of the 21st century. Must this 1500-year-old city modernize in order to survive, and if so, for whom? The estimated 14 million annual visitors who contribute to the city's greatest industry, or those who actually live and work in Venice, a population whose numbers have dropped in the past 50 years from 175,000 to a mere 65,000? Whether Venice will become a floating museum where no one actually lives or shake off her centuries-old aura of romantic decay and reemerge as a vital urban center that offers jobs and affordable housing is a question that has informed this magnificent but moribund city's identity for centuries. Charismatic deputy mayor Robert D'Agostino, whom the Rifkinds interview at length, has a grand scheme. It involves not only transforming the city's derelict Arsenale — the once-great shipyard and the foundation of Venice's vast imperial power — into a bustling commercial and cultural district, by adding cruise-ship terminals, hotels, conference centers and, most important, an underwater metro that will carry some 20,000 daily commuters — and even more tourists — from the mainland to Venice proper. Opposing voices, like the Venetian writer Paolo Lanapoppi, see immediate problems that such "improvements" will only exacerbate. The sharp rise in tourism increased the number of fast-moving, propeller-generated boats whose wakes hasten the erosion of the buildings' soft, centuries-old foundations, and Lanapoppi accuses the city's mayor of catering to the tourist trade rather than enforcing speed limits. Graphic designer Michela Scibilia, about to have her second child, bemoans the fact that she has to go all the way to the mainland to receive proper prenatal and pediatric care. Her husband sees this as further evidence that Venice no longer cares about her children. And Danilo Palmieri, who's operated a fruit-and-vegetable kiosk in the Campo Santa Margherita for years, fights a regular battle with city bureaucrats who'd like to see his "unsightly" stand removed from the popular tourist spot. But where will Venetians shop once the last food store has been converted into a mask-and-postcard emporium? This unexpectedly engaging film offers no easy answers, but avoids the basic question no one who loves Venice dares ask: Has the marvelously improbable city finally become a marvelously improbable relic?

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Dedicated to "all who fight for the life of their city," this brief documentary by New York City-based filmmakers Carole and Richard Rifkind neatly outlines the serious predicament Venice faces at the dawn of the 21st century. Must this 1500-year-old city… (more)

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