01 September 2020
Venice, Italy is reclaiming its place as a top cultural center this week with the opening of the Venice Film Festival. It is the first major in-person film event since the start of the coronavirus health crisis. The Cannes Film Festival in France was canceled, and other international festivals chose to go mostly online this year.
The Venice Film Festival is the world's oldest film festival. It has been held 76 other times. The festival will have a new look when it opens Wednesday. The public will be banned from the red-carpet area near the main entrance. Hollywood movie stars and films are largely missing from the festival. And attendees are required to wear face masks while inside buildings.
Those rules are like those Venice and the Veneto area took to contain the coronavirus when it first arrived in late February. Veneto largely kept the virus under control with early stay-at-home orders and a lot of testing once the virus was widespread.
La Biennale chief Robert Cicutto said the decision to hold the film festival in-person was an important sign of rebirth for Venice and the film industry. He said the experience on the Lido will serve as a "laboratory" for future cultural gatherings.
"It will be an experiment on the ground," he said, when announcing the films to be shown.
The September 2nd through 12thfestival marks Italy's return to the center of the art world after it became the first country in the West to be hit by COVID. At that time, "Mission: Impossible 7," starring Tom Cruise, was filming in Venice. The production company had to suspend work on the project.
Italy's 10-week lockdown largely limited the spread of the virus, but infections are now rising after many people took summer vacations. Health officials are attempting to test passengers at airports and seaports to try to identify imported cases before they spread.
People attending the Venice Film Festival must obey the same rules. If they arrive from outside Europe's open-border Schengen area, they will be tested upon arrival. The Schengen area is made up of 26 European countries that have agreed to remove border controls for all citizens.
The festival will provide special seating, spaced far apart, for all movie showings. Masks will be required during all films.
"Clearly we have to abide by anti-COVID measures," said Paola Mar, Venice's culture chief. "Each of us has a personal responsibility...if all of us do our jobs, we can limit the harm."
Venice depends heavily on tourism for its economy. Since COVID-19 hit Italy in March, there have been few visitors. Even famous stars are staying away. Restrictions on travel from the United States to Europe have meant that Hollywood films and movie stars will not attend. However, American Matt Dillon agreed to be on the festival jury just recently when Romanian director Cristi Puiu pulled out. Actress Cate Blanchett heads the jury.
Most of the films this year are European. There are many Italian films, including the first Italian opening-night film in years, the family drama "Lacci," by Daniele Luchetti. Spanish director Pedro Almodovar will show his first English-language film, "The Human Voice." It is a short film that stars Tilda Swinton. She is expected to attend the festival to receive a life achievement award.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
festival – n. a place of celebration for a special reason
lockdown – n. shutting down everything and forbidding people to leave their homes
abide – v. to accept or to tolerate something
tourism – n. the business of people visiting places for pleasure
drama – n. intense social occurrences in life or film
achievement – n. something good that one has accomplished