'Some things will only be discovered on the big screen': directors stress the importance of cinema from Venice Film Festival

Venice Film Festival is the first in-person industry event in the Covid-19 era

epa08644146 Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar arrives for the premiere of 'The Human Voice' during the 77th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, 03 September 2020.  The event is the first major in-person film fest to be held in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Attendees have to follow strict safety measures like mandatory face masks indoors, temperature scanners, and socially distanced screenings to reduce the risk of infection. The public is barred from the red carpet, and big stars are expected to be largely absent this year. The 77th edition of the festival runs from 02 to 12 September 2020.  EPA/ETTORE FERRARI
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Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has joined a chorus of voices at the Venice Film Festival urging the reopening of cinemas after coronavirus lockdowns, saying films are meant to be seen on the big screen, not at home.

Venice organisers have prided themselves on pushing ahead with the festival despite the many anti-virus restrictions that include protective masks during all screenings, theatres at a half or one-third capacity and rigorous temperature checks and sanitisation. The festival hopes to chart a path forward for a film industry hard-hit by global lockdowns.

Almodovar, who premiered his short film The Human Voice on Thursday, said streaming platforms had played an "essential role" in keeping people entertained during months of virus-required confinement at home.


See pictures from the opening ceremony of the 77th Venice Film Festival:


But he said they had also contributed to the “dangerous” phenomenon of people growing increasingly comfortable living, working and eating at home — a type of “imprisonment” that he said must be resisted.

“And the antidote is the cinema,” he said, describing going out, sitting next to strangers in a movie theatre where “you find yourself crying or rejoicing with other people.”

“If I put my film on a platform like Netflix, then I somehow lose that contact and that meeting point with the spectator,” he said. “So you have to tell people to go to the cinema, to go to the theatres, because some things will only be discovered on the big screen, in the dark with people that we do not know.”

Daniele Luchetti's family drama Ties received a sustained round of applause when it opened the festival on Wednesday night. But the Italian director said Thursday there was something off: Social distancing rules for the theatre made viewers feel like they were in a "vacuum bubble" and dispersed the sound of the clapping at the end.

“I know very well how an audience reacts to a movie, both when they like and when they don’t like it,” Luchetti told The Associated Press after his film premiered. “This time the atmosphere was very unusual. Just the fact of not having a person on your side: I couldn’t turn and see a crowd of people either laughing or watching carefully.”

He said he heard the applause at the end, but said it was sparse, given every other seat was left empty. “It was an applause in a space with a different balance,” he said. But he conceded, “I believe we need to get used to this.”

Tilda Swinton, who stars in Almodovar's short and received a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award, made the same point from the stage of the Lido's main theatre, saying she was overwhelmed seeing the eyes and ears of the audience (though not their mouths because they were all covered in masks.)

“When I ask myself how I might adequately express my gratitude for this honour, words fail me,” she said. “But I think I can tell you something of what it means to be here with you tonight: What it means to be in a room with living creatures at a big screen. What it means to be about to see a film, in Venice,” she said. “Pure joy.”