Climate Protest Closes Red Carpet in Venice

by Luca Celada September 7, 2019
Protests at the closing of the 2019 Venice Film Festival

alberto pizzoli/getty images

Just before the official closing with the awaited announcement of winners, the Venice festival was finally drenched by the rain that rarely sits out the festival on the lagoon. Also contributing to stirring up the climate were the hundreds of protesters who showed up and set up camp on the red carpet, vowing not to move and shut down the evening premiere of Burnt Orange Heresy, the art world thriller by Giuseppe Capotondi set to close the festival.

The protesters demanded a stop to cruise ship navigation in the fragile Venice lagoon. The giant ships and their access to the old city have been a longstanding controversy here by those who consider them a direct threat of the erosion of historic buildings due to the waves that cruise ships generate.  This winter giant ships which tower over even the historic San Marco bell tower, twice risked tragedy by losing control and careening towards city banks. In one occasion tragedy was barely averted as passengers of a docked ferry had to jump to safety with bare seconds to spare before the giant ship hit. Activists and many Venetians have asked that the ships dock at a remote location rather than negotiate the historic canals.

The festival protest was organized by a group called Venice Climate Camp as part of world climate action by young activists. In Italy, a group called Fridays for Future has coordinated weekly actions around the country with the international movement promoted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. In August young climate activist converged on the Youth Climate Summit in Lausanne. The movement, including the one opposing cruise ships in the old city of Venice, has emerged as a major transnational movement for environmental consciousness in the face of widespread anti-environmental policies of many current governments – especially the trump administration. Venice, already threatened by high tides and erosion is perhaps the world’s most endangered city in the wake of global warming and the rising sea levels which promises to be a major consequence of melting Arctic ice.

Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland, who headline Burnt Orange Heresy, lent support to the protest during the official press conference during which they were the frontman for the Rolling Stones was quoted as stating: “I’m glad they are doing that. Because they are the ones that are going to inherit the planet. We’re in a very difficult situation at the moment,” he added. “Especially in the U.S. where all the environmental controls that were put in place… are being rolled back by the current administration. So much so that they are all being wiped out,”

Sutherland echoed him declaring that environmental protection measures put in place during the Obama administration “were barely adequate, and now they are being torn apart. And now they are being torn apart in Brazil, and they will be torn apart in England.” Environmentalists, he added  “have to fight harder and they have to get as much support as they can.”