Venice Film Fest 2020: Event Kicks Off Amid Pandemic with Hopes and Anxieties

Venice Film Fest 2020 Kicks Off amid Pandemic


Venice’s famed winged lion statue.
Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Jaeger-LeCoultre


The 77th Venice International Film Festival opened Wednesday with no stars and fewer fans, determined to prove that, coronavirus pandemic or not, the show must go on.

By kicking off the first major festival to start since the pandemic, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera has said he hopes to prove “a restart for cinema” and a sign that the global film industry could bounce back after months of enforced shutdown.

The festival, which runs through Sept. 12, comes at a pivotal moment. Cinemas around the world have begun to reopen and box office has, slowly regained pace, helped by Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the first studio tentpole to be released post-pandemic.

Venice hopes to be a further signal that the international movie business can get going again.

But with coronavirus cases rising again in Italy and elsewhere, there are fears the festival will not be able to pull it off safely.

Masks at All Times

There are strict safety protocols. All attendees must wear face masks at all times, whether inside cinemas or outside. Temperatures will be checked before entering screenings and every second seat in the theaters will be left empty.

Anyone attending from outside Europe’s Schengen area will have to test for COVID-19 before their departure and again after arriving in Venice.

Fans will not be allowed near the red carpet. The streets outside the Palazzo del Cinema, Venice’s main cinema, were empty on Wednesday, the first day of the fest.

No big stars in Venice this year, the result of both travel restrictions and a lineup lacking  Hollywood features or European productions.

This year’s competition jury includes Australian actor Cate Blanchett, as president, and American actor Matt Dillon.

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar will attend to present his latest, the short film The Human Voice, and Scottish actress Tilda Swinton will land on the Lido to receive a lifetime achievement award.

Among the highlights of Venice’s 18-film competition lineup this year are the U.S. road movie Nomadland from director Chloe Zhao, starring Frances McDormand, Mona Fastvold’s The World To Come, a period drama starring Vanessa Kirby and Casey Affleck, and Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary Notturno, about the Syrian conflict.

Out-of-competition titles include crime comedy The Duke, from Notting Hill director Roger Michell starring Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, and Greta, a documentary on Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.