Venice Film Fest 2020: Solidarity for Restart of Global Cinema

In a strong sign of solidarity, the representatives of several other major international festivals, including Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, Locarno artistic director Lili Hinstin, Vanja Kaludjeric of the Rotterdam Film Festival, Karel Och of Karlovy Vary, and José Luis Rebordinos of San Sebastian, joined Barbera on stage to open the Venice festival.

The festival directors will meet this week in Venice with European politicians to make the argument that film festivals play a pivotal role in the European film industry and deserve increased support in these difficult times.

“Film festivals are not only a shop window for the movies that are ready at a certain time,” said Barbera, “but they are cultural centers, places where projects can be developed, where business can be done.” Barbera also called for greater support for cinemas. While streaming platforms such as Netflix have benefited during the lockdown, he said, the role of theaters, “many of which are still closed or will never reopen,” has been diminished. He called the current debate “a battle for cinema and culture” over the “fundamental experience of watching a movie in a theater.”

Fremaux said the fact that Venice was even taking place could give the film industry “a positive thrust if we use it to do what we have to do for cinemas.” He pointed to recent increases at the French box office as a sign of hope.

“In France, viewers are going back to theaters. We have a feeling in France that cinema is supported by the political world. But we need to continue to insist on this. Because culture has a price.”

Two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, who is the jury president this year, said she had “multifarious” fears regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but said she was hopeful the film industry would find a way to bounce back.

“I’m looking forward to having a conversation with adults. I’ve been in conversation with pigs and chickens for the last six months,” Blanchett said, referring to her time in lockdown.

“We have to be courageous every time we start a new project, in a pandemic or not, because it always feels like the first day of school,” she said. “With all great projects, you have to throw everything you know away and risk failure. As an industry, we understand that challenge, it’s in our DNA. If there is an industry that can show resilience, can be more creative and more inventive, it will be the creative arts and the film industry.”