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Cannes Film Festival Won’t Go Virtual

14 April

Another Film Festival affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Cannes Film Festival, has announced they will not take the virtual route if the festival can’t be hosted as a physical event.

This announcement comes from Thierry Fremeaux, the festival’s director, in which he stated,“(For) Cannes, its soul, its history, its efficiency, it’s a model that wouldn’t work. What is a digital festival? A digital competition? We should start by asking rights holders if they agree”.

He added further (which also teases a few of the 2020 programmed titles) “Films by Wes Anderson or Paul Verhoeven on a computer? Discovering ‘Top Gun 2’ or (Pixar’s) ‘Soul’ elsewhere than in (a) theatre? These films have been postponed to be shown on a big screen; why would we want to show them before, on a digital device?”

There has been speculation regarding the 2020 edition of the Festival following the organizer’s statement on March 19 that the event would be postponed until possibly late June or early July.

With dates uncertain and intention for the festival to commence if only physically possible, unlike other festivals who have opted for a virtual alternative, Fremeaux appears to be standing strong on showcasing the films in a theatre, “directors of ‘films’ are driven by the idea of showing their movies on a big screen and sharing them with others at events like festivals, not for their works to end up on an iPhone”.

“If all the festivals are cancelled, we will have to think of a way to showcase films, to avoid wasting a year, but I don’t think a precarious and improvised alternative of Cannes or Venice — no sooner done than forgotten — would be the solution.”

Though other festivals are opting for the virtual alternative, there are privacy, rights and windowing concerns emerging for planned digital festival initiatives commencing later this year.

The same sentiment on a physical rather than digital festival has been shared by Venice International Film Festival director Alberto Barbera, stating that Venice is distinguishing itself against other festivals that are digital savvy, claiming Venice to be “a different type of festival” and not in favour of the digital alternative.

Even during France’s three-week lockdown, Fremaux maintains that the festival is carrying on with the selection of films for 2020 whilst monitoring and reacting to the evolution of the pandemic. Key sales agents have also continued to submit their major titles to Cannes’ selection committee with the registration dates even being extended by a month and a half.

Cannes’ decision also has the backing of the city’s mayor, as well as the French culture ministry which announced the launch of a support cell for festivals scheduled for 2020.

Whatever the outcome, Cannes has been a home for prestigious films for decades and yearly showcases and launches some of the years most exciting films, including last years zeitgeist capturing hit Parasite which started its illustrious run after winning the Palme d’Or. We can’t wait to see this year’s selections, even if we have to wait a little longer.

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