Venice 2020: The Optimistic Festival

by Elisabeth Sereda July 28, 2020
atmosphere at the Venice Film Festival

getty images

“A shop window for the best cinema production in the world”, festival director Alberto Barbera said today as he announced the line-up for the upcoming 77th Mostra Internazionale del Cinema in Venice, the very first major film festival taking place what for many is still the midst of a pandemic. And maybe the analogy is not that far off: in the new age of virtual screenings, Zoom, and other technologies now widely used, at least the Americans will have to go window-shopping for festival films unless they are willing to quarantine themselves for 14 days prior to their attendance. Barbera therefore is not relying on Hollywood as much as in previous years, and one could almost point out that this restores some balance.

This year’s films truly come from around the world. Balance can also be found – for the very first time for Venice – in the gender statistics. 8 of 18 films in the main competition are directed by women, in other words, 44%. Not wanting to admit to past oversights, Barbera insisted at the announcement that the selection of all the competition titles was based exclusively on their quality. He also promised that because of COVID-fears, proper protocols like social distancing events and screenings, amped-up hygienic, and security measures are already in place to ensure a risk-free fest. That includes two new venues on the Lido for outdoor screenings.

The main section includes festival regulars such as Amos Gitai (Laila in Haifa) and Andrei Konchalovsky (Dear Comrades), as well as films from Poland, Germany, Spain, Japan and three titles from Italy: Notturno by Gianfranco Rosi, Padre Nostro by Claudio Noce, and Le Sorelle Macaluso by Emma Dante. Hollywood is only represented by two studio films, the road movie Nomadland, directed by Sundance darling (and past Un Certain Regard winner) Chloe Zhao with Frances McDormand, and The World to Come by Mona Fastvold.

The usual Venice star power and glamour, therefore, falls on the Brits: Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent are the leads in the crime drama The Duke. Vanessa Kirby, known the world over for The Crown has two films in Venice: Fastvold's The World to Come and Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman, also starring Shia LaBeouf. Kirby may be the only one attending, her co-stars Katherine Waterston, Christopher Abbott, and Casey Affleck, as well as LaBeouf all, hold US passports.

Celebrity presence however is guaranteed by big names in this year’s jury, presided over by Cate Blanchett. French actress Ludivine Sagnier, Austrian filmmaker Veronika Franz, German director Christian Petzold, Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu, British director Joanna Hogg and Italian writer Nicola Lagioia will decide the winner of the Golden Lion and the Coppa Volpi.

The opening night film – out-of-competition as usual – is The Ties by Daniele Lucchetti with Alba Rohrwacher starring alongside Laura Morante and Luigi Lo Cascio. The festival’s lifetime achievement award will be presented to Ann Hui, a Hong Kong director, and Tilda Swinton, the Scottish actress.

An interesting side note: the Cannes 2020 selection will not be part of Venice as was previously discussed but will instead be part of the Deauville festival taking place shortly after Venice. How patriotic of the French.