Now that it is certain the Cannes Film Festival will not take place this year, at least in the form that we have known for decades, the focus turns to Venice, which is slated to open on September 2 on the island of Lido.
Luca Zaia, Governor of Italy's Veneto region (which includes Lido), has said that the Venice Film Festival – the oldest in the world having begun in 1932 and which once served as a platform for Fascist propaganda -- “will happen in September as scheduled”.
“I have talked with Biennale president Roberto Cicutto … about the Film Festival and though there won’t be all of the productions we are used to seeing, because movie shoots have been halted, the Festival will happen as planned,” read the statement issued by Zaia.
Although there has been no official confirmation from the Festival itself that the event will take place as scheduled, Zaia's statement is seen as one important hurdle cleared. Zaia is part of the Board of Biennale, which organises the Festival among several other events.
Much like Cannes, where the city had an important say about the Festival taking place, Italy's regional governments play a role in the country's health.
If the Venice Film Festival does run, it will be the first A-list event after Berlin unfolded in February, barely escaping the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns and other restrictions.
Obviously, Venice, if it goes ahead, is bound to face many impediments. Certainly, there will be far fewer number of movies this year compared with the previous ones. Films may not just be ready or may want to wait out for Cannes in May 2021. Cannes scores over Venice as far as the market goes. Venice has a much, much smaller market, and much less buying and selling happen here than in Cannes, whose market is huge. The Cannes Market just wound up its virtual version.
Admittedly, a lot of talent may hesitate to fly into Venice. For, whether or not the Coronavirus goes away, and given the uncertainty over a definitive cure, the fear of infection is bound to last many months with people unwilling to rub shoulders with others in a theatre. Remember social distancing! And the camaraderie on the red carpet!
With rigid disinfection being compulsory after every screening, Venice can afford a much lesser number of movies. For, the turnover time between shows will have to be longer.
With far fewer films and with perhaps not much talent arriving on the Lido, the Festival may look a wee bit off-colour, even jaded. As it is, Venice attracts much less patronage than Cannes, and if this is further eroded, the Festival may well look dull.
A question that the Festival management must actively mull over is postponing the event to November, by which time the world may have begun to breathe easy. Another aspect, which I think is already being considered, is offering the Festival movies on a virtual platform in real time to accredited journalists and industry professionals. Those hesitant to get into Venice may really welcome this, and, what is more, the Festival will get written about as widely as ever before.
Beyond all this is a question. Will Italy which suffered a heavy casualty be in the mood to celebrate? After all, a festival is a celebration, a grand celebration.