Venice Film Festival jury President Cate Blanchett is “very excited to be having a conversation with adults,” she told journalists on the Lido today, quipping, “I have been talking to pigs and chickens for the past six months.” That was one bit of levity during a press conference that touched on some more serious subjects including the implications of streaming’s growth during lockdown, certain countries’ “obtuse” response to the COVID pandemic, and the Berlin Film Festival’s decision to make its acting awards gender-neutral.
Blanchett, who was recently the President of the Cannes Film Fest’s jury, is chairing the main panel for the first major international event in the coronavirus era. And the fact isn’t lost on the Oscar winner. “It seems a miracle actually. I applaud the organizers of the festival for their inventiveness and resilience and collaboration… We have to reopen, safely and tentatively… I am here in support and solidarity with filmmakers who had to complete films under very challenging and difficult circumstances.”
But, Blanchett noted, “Challenge is in our DNA. If any industry will emerge more resiliently and creatively, it will be the creative arts and the film industry.”
For the second time in about an hour, though, there was discussion here about the growth of streaming during lockdown and its impact on the theatrical business. Of the many challenges ahead, Blanchett pointed to “moving from a monoculture of streaming over the last six months and how we open cinemas. I think it will be a very important conversation to have… It’s a global issue. As we reemerge, it really is a strong chance to robustly examine things that we haven’t been forced to examine which is streaming technology and its implications on the cinema – the way we view it and how we make it. There’s a lot of opportunity now to ask the deep questions.”
Queried what Blanchett thought of Italy’s response to coronavirus when it was badly hit early on, and imposed lockdown despite the economic impact, she mused, “Yes, Uncle Economy seems to be the most important member of the family. I find it bizarre that the World Health Organization is not being allowed to lead this global challenge. I think we’re a very strange species that we don’t learn by the painful examples, for example the terrible stress that Italy was under and when it reached other countries they didn’t learn a painful lesson – the way things were handled and the challenges those countries that were first hit and what they faced and what other countries could perhaps prepare for. It’s a very strange thing that I still don’t quite understand, that we behave in quite obtuse and fragmented and destructive ways.”
Responding to a question about the Berlin Film Festival’s decision to go gender-neutral with its Silver Bear acting awards, Blanchett said, “Not as a political statement, but I’ve always referred to myself as an actor. I don’t think in that very gender specific language and I’m of a generation where the word actress was always used in a pejorative sense. A good performance is a good performance no matter the sexual orientation of the performer who’s making them. I think the hardest part is having to sit in judgement of other people’s work. It’s often the hardest thing, demarcation or no.”