The Venice Film Festival, the oldest in the world having started in 1932, is all set to roll its latest edition on September 2. This will not be a digital edition, and be the first major such event after the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
But with the new spike in the cases of Coronavirus in France, Spain and some other parts of Europe, the Venice Festival management may be having sleepless nights – although they have in place a strict safety protocol.
The Festival – in order to maintain social distancing – will leave half of the seats in its screening venues unoccupied. So, this time badge holders will have to reserve their seats, and have to sit in the places allocated to them. They cannot walk into a theatre and sit where they please – which had always been the system.
Temperature checks at the entrance to the Festival venue and to the screening halls will be carried out. One may be carrying the virus and not exhibiting any symptoms, but yet passing it on to others.
Masks have to be worn at all times, for the full duration of a movie's run time as well.
Films from more than 50 countries will be screened at the Festival, and of the 18 titles competing for the Golden Lion, eight are directed by women. This year, actress Cate Blanchett is the president of the jury for the main competition, and director Claire Denis will lead the jury for the Festival’s Horizons. Competition.
The movies will be shown many more times than what is usual, and screenings will also take place in an open ice-skating ring and in the gardens. “We are prepared to face this incredible situation and to do it safely, protecting people,” the festival management has said.
But for one like me who has covered Venice for 20 years – and which I cannot do this year for obvious reasons – the fun of a festival will somehow be lost by all these regulations. One of the most joyous things about a film festival is meeting people, friends in particular. Sometimes, we meet them just once a year. All this may be gone this time with the pandemic playing spoilsport.
What one may also miss is the presence of the Red Carpet Galas. The Hollywood turn out on the Lido, the island off mainland Venice were the Festival taken place, will be minimal. With the exception of The World to Come and Nomadland, the American studios have held back their top titles. They may be screened in Berlin early next year or Cannes in May 2021.
Also notable by its absence this year is Netflix, which has previously debuted such award-friendly features as Roma and Marriage Story at Venice.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)