In a sign of unity, Artistic Directors of several major European Film Festivals gathered for a press conference here in Venice this afternoon. Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera and the others will appear on stage at this evening’s opening ceremony in solidarity with the global film industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, and to reassert the importance of cinema. Along with filmmakers, producers, distributors and more, Barbera spoke pointedly about exhibition.
“We must support cinemas,” Barbera said. “Venice has been accused in the past of opening up to Netflix, accepting one of their movies in competition years ago when it was still considered an enemy for cinema production and was fought against by cinema operators and the establishment somehow… Today, during the lockdown, streamers have acquired a fundamental importance.”
He continued, “There are many aspects to discuss (going forward), that are different from what we have been discussing these last years… We risk having a reduction of the role of cinemas, which would be detrimental. The theatrical experience is in the very nature of the film industry, so we have to fight and support the sector. This is a battle for civilization and for culture. We cannot lose this experience.”
Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux, also in attendance today, added, “Platforms have been around for about five years. We’ll see if in 100 years we are celebrating the 105th anniversary of the platforms… We have to stop announcing the death of cinemas when something new happens. When Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing movie in the world, no one claimed the death of the platforms.”
On the subject of how the fest bosses got together, Barbera said that one of the “few positive effects of the pandemic lockdown was that we started to talk a lot with one another. We tried to understand together how we could face this unprecedented situation with large uncertainties, risks and dangers. We went even beyond in some cases and shared information on movies and projects.”
Barbera added, “I really hope this collaborative spirit might continue in the future as well. If we share solutions, work to improve our job which is at the service of the filmmakers and film sector, we will do this even better if we continue to think together and share decisions.”
Frémaux was asked how he sees the future. Demurring that he is “not a prophet,” he nevertheless said Cannes is “trying to reflect on what this could signify for the future. But before thinking about the future of the festival, we have to think about what it means for our world.” Had Cannes taken place this year, Frémaux said the fest “planned to announce a lot of things that were reflections on society and not just cinema: the economy, ecology, society, parity, diversity. The cinema doesn’t live outside the world and neither do festivals.”
Also in attendance today were Lili Hinstin (Locarno Film Festival), Vanja Kaludjercic (International Film Festival Rotterdam), Karel Och (International Film Festival Karlovy Vary) and José Luis Rebordinos (San Sebastian International Film Festival). Some are still traveling to be here for the opening ceremony this evening, while London Film Festival’s Tricia Tuttle had to cancel her plans for family reasons.