Venice Reclaims Spotlight as 1st COVID-Era Film Fest Opens

2020-09-02 | Since 5 Month

The 76th Venice Film Festival - Awards Ceremony - Venice, Italy, September 7, 2019

Venice is reclaiming its place as a top cultural destination with the opening of the Venice Film Festival — the first major in-person cinema showcase of the coronavirus era after Cannes canceled and other international festivals opted to go mostly online this year.

But don’t be fooled. The 77th edition of the world’s oldest film festival will look nothing like its predecessors, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The public will be barred from the red carpet, Hollywood stars and films will be largely absent and face masks will be required indoors and out as the festival opens Wednesday.

Those strict measures are evidence of the hard line Venice and the surrounding Veneto region took to contain the virus when it first emerged in the lagoon city in late February. Unlike neighboring Lombardy, which became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, Veneto largely kept the virus under control with early local lockdowns and broad testing once the virus was widespread.

La Biennale chief Robert Cicutto said the decision to hold the festival at all was an important sign of rebirth for Venice and the film industry, and said the experience on the Lido will serve as a “laboratory” for future cultural gatherings.

“It will be an experiment on the ground of how to confront an important event” in the COVID era, he said in presenting this year’s Venice lineup.

The Sept. 2-12 festival marks Italy’s return to the art world stage after it became the first country in the West to be slammed by COVID. Even Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible 7,” in Venice at the time for three weeks of filming, had to pull out.

According to AP, Italy’s strict 10-week lockdown largely tamed the virus, but infections are now rebounding after summer vacations. Health authorities are scrambling to test passengers at airports and seaports to try to identify imported cases before they can spread.

Guests to the glamorous film festival are not exempt. If they arrive from outside Europe’s open-border Schengen area, they will be tested upon arrival. Other measures to limit contagion include reserved seats, spaced apart, for all screenings and a requirement to wear masks even during screenings and outdoors.

“Clearly we have to abide by anti-COVID measures,” said Paola Mar, Venice’s culture chief.

“Each of us has a personal responsibility. And if all of us do our jobs, we can limit the harm.”

But she said the show must go on, given the importance of the film festival and the Biennale’s other longer-term cultural contributions to Venice’s economy, which depends almost entirely on tourism.



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