Barring a resurgent second wave of COVID-19, the Venice and Telluride film festivals are still on for early September. Over the weekend, Ehsan Khoshbakht, codirector of Il Cinema Ritrovato, announced that Bologna’s festival of new restorations and discoveries will also be taking place, albeit a few weeks later than usual. A few of the strands announced back in February—programs focusing on Henry Fonda, Indian parallel cinema, and early Soviet women directors, for example—may have to be postponed until next year, and social distancing measures will have to be enforced, but for the time being, the 2020 edition is slated to run from August 25 through 31.
The challenges posed by this pandemic are leading to varying strategies from other festivals. Last week, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival tweeted word that plans to move this year’s edition to November have been scratched. Instead, the twenty-fifth-anniversary edition will take place in early May of next year. The centerpiece will surely be the festival’s latest collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, a new restoration of Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives (1922).
Both AFI Docs and the Sheffield Doc/Fest unveiled the full lineups for their 2020 editions yesterday. Of the fifty-nine films to be presented during this year’s virtual AFI Docs (June 17 through 21), sixty-one percent have been directed by women and twenty-five percent by people of color. The AFI’s Guggenheim Symposium will honor Lee Grant with a screening of her 1986 documentary Down and Out in America, and Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday will be talking with her about her nonfiction films. Grant may be best known for her work as an actress in such films as In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Shampoo (1975), but she is also the first woman to win a Directors Guild of America award.
Another AFI Docs highlight will be a 4K restoration of William Greaves’s original cut of Nationtime—Gary (1972), a rarely seen film shot during the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana, and narrated by Sidney Poitier. Speakers at the convention included Amiri Baraka, Coretta Scott King, Bobby Seale, Betty Shabazz, Jesse Jackson, and Dick Gregory. When Nationtime screened at MoMA in January, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody found that it “buzzes with the long-term historical power of the occasion, and notes the divisions that the organizers struggled to overcome.”
Sheffield’s program of 115 films from fifty countries will feature a special focus on Lynne Sachs and a tribute to the late Sarah Maldoror and will begin rolling out online tomorrow. The festival hopes to stage at least a few screenings and live, in-the-flesh events in the city later in the fall.
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