The Venice Film Festival is set to be one of the only large-scale entertainment events to go ahead this year following the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor of Italy’s Veneto region, Luca Zaia, this week announced plans for the festival to proceed on the scheduled dates of September 2-12, he also conceded that this year’s festival will likely have fewer films given the film production shutdown experienced worldwide.
The Festival is the longest-running film festival in history, it is known as one of the “Big Five”, alongside the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and Berlin film festivals. The Big Five are recognised as the most prestigious film festivals in the world and are credited with giving creators the artistic freedom to express themselves through film.
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival ran as per usual in January and February of this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Cannes Film Festival announced in April that it would be forced to abandon a physical festival in its traditional mid-May slot due to the effects of the pandemic, and the Toronto International Film Festival, the last of the Big Five on the calendar, does also appear to be going ahead, it is scheduled the week after Venice from September 10-20.
Under the direction of its current director, Alberto Barbera, the Venice Film Festival has in recent years increased the presence of American films and established itself as an Oscars launchpad. The festival has had an impressive run in the last decade, hosting the world premieres of Academy Award-winning films (not to mention Palace favourites!) Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014), Spotlight (2015), La La Land (2016), The Shape of Water (2017), The Favourite (2018), Roma (2018) and Joker (2019).
In early May, after declaring that they would not be pursuing the virtual route, the festival sent a letter and survey to a wide range of film industry executives to gauge the number personnel that would be willing to attend the event this year despite the current global pandemic, the survey also enquired about the possibility of ‘talent’ attending to promote the invited films. The festival’s director said in the letter “We know that it would be simply impossible to plan a festival without knowing if you all are willing to use the Festival to give a new start and a strong sign for keeping cinema alive, even in these difficult times”.
Evidently, the organisers of the Venice Film Festival now appear confident that the festival will be proceeding as planned as Italy, the initial European epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, begins to slowly re-open having had many restrictions eased over the past week. The country will reopen its borders to visitors of the European Union from June 3 and cinemas are set to re-launch with social distancing measures in place from June 15.
Cate Blanchett has been appointed as the president of the main competition jury, marking the third woman in four years to hold the role at the festival which had previously been criticised for its lack of representation of female filmmakers. The highly anticipated lineup of the 77th Venice Film Festival is set to be announced in July.