A bold move that should be applauded or a disastrous mistake that should be condemned?
The decision to hold the Venice Film Festival despite the deadly coronavirus pandemic is being hailed as a “sign of hope” for the movie world after months of closed cinemas, shuttered film sets and canceled galas, The Global Times reported.
The rapid global spread of the virus forced major production companies to halt filming, and top silver-screen festivals to postpone or cancel their 2020 editions — including Venice’s storied rival Cannes, usually held in May.
Despite Italy being among the worst-hit countries, with over 33,000 deaths, the director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, is defiant in the face of the disease, insisting the 77th edition of the “Mostra” will go ahead from September 2 to 12, The Global Times reported.
Italy has been slowly exiting its lockdown and organizers in the canal city are betting on a return to normality in the hard-hit north of the country by the end of the summer.
The first post-coronavirus festival will nonetheless have to adopt new sanitary and social distancing rules, The Global Times reported.
“It will be a unique edition. We still don’t know exactly what we’ll be able to do, but in the meantime are selecting the films and drawing up a plan to allow everyone to participate safely,” Barbera said on Instagram.
Giorgio Gosetti, head of the renowned parallel Venice Days competition for innovative or original filmmaking, told AFP it was “as if we were starting over again from 1932, when the festival was founded.”
“Everyone in the world of cinema … feels that right now the best place to celebrate, to show vitality, is the oldest festival in the world,” he said.
Barbera has repeatedly ruled out the suggestion that the prestigious event could be held online, leaving film experts to suggest the number of films shown — generally over 200 — will be noticeably reduced, The Global Times reported.
Familiar scenes of throngs of paparazzi snapping photographs of A-listers on the red carpet and signing autographs for screaming crowds of fans are also unlikely.
Festival expert Angela Prudenzi told AFP that this year, “all eyes will be on the films, which is a very good thing.”
Traditionally held on the Lido, Venice’s festival could include new spaces for film viewing this year.
Some have suggested that the Arsenal shipyards, where the city’s famed art and architecture bienniales are held, could be turned into cinemas, with a limited, pre-booked number of viewers allowed inside, The Global Times reported.
Whether the film world’s great and good will be seen nipping across the lagoon in speedboats or sipping prosecco at the festival’s parties remains to be seen.
But Giona Nazzaro, a programmer who has helped revitalize Film Critics’ Week, a Venice sidebar show, told the Manifesto newspaper that the festival going ahead provided a much-needed glimmer of light in dark times.
“That an industry suffering like the film industry is starting up again is a sign of hope,” he said.
— Agence France Presse