Venice Film Festival 2020: Few films, fewer fans

Pandemic in, glamour out at the red carpet in Venice

Cinema

September 11, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Venice Film Festival 2020: Few films, fewer fans

77th Venice Film Festival is the first international film event to take place since the onset of pandemic

The 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival is the first international film event to take place since the pandemic closed down movie theatres, film sets and public gatherings across the globe. Usually overrun with international tourists but nearly empty in past few months, the festival that began on September 2 and will close tomorrow is an attempt by Venice to reclaim its place as a top cultural destination.

As the world grapples with the deadly coronavirus disease, the organisation of the 77th edition of Venice Film Festival was the first, tentative step towards normalcy and resumption of international gatherings. At the beginning of the year, Italy & Venice in particular had emereged as Covid-19 epicentre in Europe. But a stringent 10-week long lockdown allowed Italy to bring infections under control. Though the country is still dealing with a rebound in cases as a result of summer travel, it has not stopped cine-goers and film artistes from participating in the festival.

Film festival organisers usually compete for films, jury members and performers but this year witnessed a more collaborative approach from all participants of the event. “The show must go on, no matter what. Clearly we have to abide by all safety measures possible. We must realise that each of us has a personal responsibility and if all of us do our jobs, we can limit the harm,” says Paola Mar, Venice’s culture chief.

At Venice Film Festival, this year, visitors are required to wear masks throughout the enclosed festival site

Visitors this year are required to wear masks throughout the enclosed festival site, which included outdoor seating areas, cafes and restaurants. Nine gates have been set up at various points around the Venice Lido, the core of the festival, to take temperatures of movie-goers and media, while red carpet appearances by filmstars have been spaced out to prevent crowding even within official delegations. Apart from these arrangements, festival-goers attending indoor events have been asked for their details to guarantee contact tracing if necessary.

With public being barred from the red carpet, Hollywood stars and films largely absent and face masks required indoors, it is undeniable that the festival opening looked nothing like its predecessors. Participants also missed the Venice regulars George Clooney and Brad Pitt arriving by water taxi, red carpet photo with Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix’s much awaited speeches. “With travel to Italy from the United States still restricted and the event’s usual Hollywood star power dimmed, this year’s festival had an exceptionally European feel,” says Terence, a 54 years old resident of Venice and a regular at the festival.

Yet, despite absence and virtual presence of big Hollywood names, only over Zoom calls, the festival was a much awaited event for many. Swinton, a British actress who was presented with the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement, said in her acceptance speech that to be in a room with living creatures and a big screen after months was a long awaited joy. Indeed, there has been no dearth of good content for cinema lovers.

This year’s reduced line-up still contained in-competition films from more than 50 countries but remained a European affair mostly. For the first time in a decade, the opening film was from Italy, Daniele Luchetti’s Lacci, a marriage drama set in Naples. Pedro Almodóvar’s short film, The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton, Nomadland, from Chloé Zhao and One Night in Miami Regina King’s directorial debut, were among the few that premiered.

Indian film ‘The Disciple’ was screened on September 3 at the festival

Among the Indian films premiered at the festival, the most talked about was Chaitanya Tamhane directed 127-minutes long feature The Disciple. Screened on September 3, The Disciple deals with the journey of an Indian classical vocalist who despite his commitment to music, is forced to negotiate between his dreams and life’s reality in contemporary Mumbai. Another director to represent India in Venice this year was Ivan Ayr with Meel Patthar (Milestone), a 98-minute long film. Meel Patthar, screen on September 4, is about a Punjabi truck driver working in New Delhi, who after losing his wife, tries to come to terms with reality.

Anita, directed by Sushma Khadepaun, also became the first Gujarati movie ever to be screened in Venice. Khadepaun’s is a rare appearance of an Indian female director in Venice official selection after Mira Nair won the Golden Lion for Monsoon Wedding nearly two decades ago in 2001. In the thinned out competition this year, whether any of the three Indian filmmakers can hit the mark, if not repeat Nair’s feat, will be known on September 12 when the awards would be announced.

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