The Locarno Film Festival, a significant stop on the summer European festival calendar, has canceled its 2020 edition due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was made following the Swiss government’s decision to extend its ban on events exceeding 1,000 people through August. The festival had been set to take place August 5-15.
In a statement, fest heads said they would not be replacing the physical event with an online festival, but would instead be running a series of initiatives aimed at supporting independent auteur filmmaking and cinemas.
This year, Locarno will hand out special Leopard awards, the event’s top prizes, to international and domestic productions that have been put on hold due to the pandemic, though did not specify how much these could be worth or what exactly they would go towards. The fest said backing for the awards would come from its existing partners.
Locarno is the latest domino to fall in the festival calendar. Karlovy Vary, another of the major summer fests, canceled yesterday. The Sarajevo Film Festival, however, continues to insist it will take place in August.
Locarno Film Festival president Marco Solari said, “Today’s decision from the Federal Council did not take us by surprise. Over the past few weeks the Artistic Director, Chief Operating Officer, and their staff have worked closely with the Executive Board to draw up a range of contingency plans, some of which have of necessity been abandoned in the meantime.
“At its latest session the Festival’s Board of Governors, having taken into account the persistent health risks, even for gatherings of fewer than 1,000 people, and noting the impossibility of preserving the spirit of Locarno with solutions that at first sight might seem attractive alternatives, decided unanimously to forgo in principle the physical event. The festival wants to confirm its presence alongside both the public and the film industry, with a project that aims to give a fresh shape, on other stages and platforms, to the values that have hallmarked its history over so many decades.”
Artistic Director Lili Hinstin added, “First and foremost, the festival is here to help the films, and organizing digital premieres online in August doesn’t strike us as being the best way to do that. Our role is to act as a link between films, industry, and audience, and so we looked at alternative ways of carrying out that mission, assessing where our intervention could be most useful at this time. We are working on developing a coherent project, in line with the history of the festival, with solidarity as the keynote, that will be good both for our public and for filmmakers in difficulty.”
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