Festivals’ Varying Strategies

On Film / The Daily — Apr 7, 2020
Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor in Venice for the festival in 1950

Festivals’ varying responses to the ongoing coronavirus crisis say quite a bit about how each event views its own role in cinema’s ecosystem. Cannes is still hoping to postpone its 2020 edition to the end of June or the beginning of July rather than cancel altogether, while Munich, which was to have taken place around that same time, has called off this year’s edition. Melbourne, slated for August, has cancelled. Venice, in the meantime, is currently proceeding on the assumption that this whole mess will be cleared up by early September. Further, a spokesperson has told Variety’s Nick Vivarelli that the festival “cannot be replaced by an online event.”

Vivarelli was asking for clarification of comments Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera made this past weekend to the Italian news agency ANSA in response to Toronto’s plans to consider “both on-site and digital innovations” as TIFF prepares its September event. “Toronto is a different type of festival, not comparable to Cannes or Venice,” Barbera told ANSA.

The implication is that, while Toronto aims to return this year to its roots as a “festival of festivals,” that is, as a sort of showcase of the best films that will have premiered anywhere by the fall, the very identities of Cannes and Venice depend on their respective roles as cinema’s most prestigious platforms from which the presumably best films on offer are launched. If you’re Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux, for example, and you’re all set to premiere, say, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, you don’t want to relinquish the opportunity to have that film—a star-studded, surefire crowd-pleaser of undoubtable artistic merit—go out into the world without your stamp on it.

One of the most promising responses to the crisis so far comes from Thessaloniki. As Alexis Grivas reports for Screen, while organizers have had to postpone their documentary festival, plans are still tentatively on for the main event in November. Thessaloniki has in the meantime launched Spaces, a project inspired by Georges Perec’s 1974 book Species of Spaces and conceived as a direct response to the coronavirus crisis. Fourteen directors so far have agreed to take part by sending in films, each running around ten minutes, that tackle the theme of confinement. Among the fourteen filmmakers are Jia Zhangke, Radu Jude, Denis Côté, Ildikó Enyedi, Albert Serra, Annemarie Jacir, Nanouk Leopold, and John Carroll Lynch. All of these works will be freely viewable on the festival’s YouTube channel.

The Latest

Strand Releasing has been checking in with the more than thirty filmmakers who have contributed to its 30/30 Vision project, a collection of short films celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the distributor’s founding. Apichatpong Weerasethakul sends in a dispatch from Thailand, where he’s trying to keep up with a sudden bounty produced by one of his plum trees. “Normally when plants at home produce unusual amounts of fruits and flowers, they tell us that they are trying to spawn because they are dying,” he writes. “This thought makes each fruit taste even more exquisite. I honor the conversation by keeping the seeds for sow.” In San Francisco, Lynn Hershman Leeson has been sorting through “the potential discards in my studio” and finding new uses for them. “In fact,” she writes, “artworks that insist on gestation as the structural depth of its form may be the most crucial.”

For Variety, Patrick Frater reports that a good number of film and television productions in China, including Zhang Yimou’s spy movie Impasse, are up and running again.

And to return to Toronto for a moment, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey has begun conducting a series of Stay-at-Home Cinema talks. Mandy Patinkin looks back on playing Inigo Montoya in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride (1987) and Sarah Polley discusses making Away from Her in 2006.

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