Posted August 30, 2020 1:29 pm by

Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy

Rome, Italy, Aug 30 – What if you threw a film festival and nobody came?

That, in essence, is the challenge facing organisers of this year’s Venice Film Festival, the glamorous annual competition where stars, critics, photographers and industry executives mingle on the bustling Lido, overlooking sandy beaches and the blue Adriatic.

Provided, of course, it’s a normal year.

But in 2020, the world’s oldest film festival is forced to walk a tightrope between preserving its lustre as the premier launch pad for Academy Award-winning films, while safely navigating the coronavirus crisis and averting the controversy over gender inequality that has dogged it in the past.

Opening Wednesday and continuing until September 12, the prestigious event now in its 77th year will be the first international film festival since the pandemic shuttered competitions around the world.

It has put in place a host of safety measures — from limited seating to thermal scanners, to a fan-free red carpet — to protect attendees as Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Italy and around the world.

Mick Jagger signing autographs in 2019 but the fans will be kept clear of the red carpet this year © AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI

In July, festival director Alberto Barbera declared the event “saved” as he announced the 18 films among the approximately 60 presented that would vie for the top award, the Golden Lion.

He promised that the festival would preserve the “liveliness of contemporary cinema”.

Despite its scaled-down size with theatre capacity reduced by about half, La Biennale di Venezia takes on greater importance this year due to the cancellation of rival film festivals across the globe, among them the glitzy Cannes Film Festival on the Cote d’Azur in France.

– Unprecedented territory –

But just days ahead of the opening, organisers are scrambling to navigate unprecedented territory amid uncertain attendance and last-minute cancellations.

Whereas Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Scarlett Johansson provided the star firepower at last year’s festival, ongoing travel restrictions — especially a travel ban from the United States into Europe — mean that most Hollywood elites will be no-shows, along with actors and directors from China, India and South America.

Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy

America director Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix collect the Golden Lion award for ‘Joker’ which was voted Best Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival © AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI

Those arriving from outside Europe’s Schengen zone will have to Read More…Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy  Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy  Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy  Venice Film Festival seeks to dodge coronavirus and controversy