Outdoor screenings and a reduced line-up: how Venice Film Festival 2020 will look

The festival will be the first physical industry event since the pandemic began

American director Todd Phillips holds the Golden Lion award for his movie ‘Joker’, posing with its star, Joaquin Phoenix, during the awarding ceremony of the 76th annual Venice International Film Festival. EPA   
American director Todd Phillips holds the Golden Lion award for his movie ‘Joker’, posing with its star, Joaquin Phoenix, during the awarding ceremony of the 76th annual Venice International Film Festival. EPA   

Venice International Film Festival will go ahead from September 2, but with modifications due to the pandemic.

Organisers of the event, running for the 77th time, confirmed on Tuesday that the main competition would feature fewer films and that some screenings would take place outdoors or online.

If the plans remain as scheduled, it will be the first major film festival to be held since Covid-19 effectively shut down the industry in mid-March.

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2019 photo, Festival director Alberto Barbera appears at the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award presentation at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy. Organizers said Tuesday, July 7, that they are forging ahead with plans for its 77th installment, which will include a slightly reduced number of films in the main competition as well as some outdoor and virtual screenings. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP, File)
Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera. AP

Festival director Alberto Barbera said in a statement he was “extremely pleased that the Biennale Cinema can be held with a minimum reduction of films and sections”. He said “a significant number of directors and actors will accompany films to the Lido”.

The official selection will include 50 to 55 films, the names of which are set to be announced on Tuesday, July 28.

Screenings will take place in traditional venues as well as at two outdoor arenas – the Giardini della Biennale and a skating rink on the Lido – with adopted safety measures established by authorities.

The festival will take its Virtual Reality section online and forgo its Sconfini section, which hosts smaller films and genre fare, to accommodate more socially distanced screenings of the major films in competition. Actress Cate Blanchett is presiding over the main jury.

Travel to Italy, an early hotspot of the pandemic, is currently allowed from European Union and Schengen Area countries. The EU last week said it would reopen its border to 14 nations, but most Americans have been refused entry because of the soaring number of infections in the US. Countries with travel restrictions will be able to view press conferences virtually, Barbera said.

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Venice Film Festival 2019:

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“Without forgetting the countless victims of these past few months to whom due tribute shall be paid, the first international festival following the forced interruption dictated by the pandemic becomes the meaningful celebration of the reopening we all looked forward to, and a message of concrete optimism for the entire world of cinema, which has suffered greatly from this crisis.”

Toronto International Film Festival, which is typically held on the heels of Venice in September, has already announced plans for a smaller 2020 version, with fewer films and virtual red carpets. Both festivals serve as important launching grounds for awards hopefuls, although with the Oscars’ entry time frame extended by two months, it is unclear how things will work this year.

Venice International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, September 2 to Saturday, September 12.

Updated: July 8, 2020 07:15 PM

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