If, like most Venice Film Festival attendees, you have a rented bike, you can get to the festival center from the Lido’s main drag in under 10 minutes. There has already been security to check passes and bags in past years, but I’ve rarely come across any significant bottlenecks. The entire process of going to a screening has traditionally been smooth, though sometimes with long lines outside the early showings of major titles.
In the pandemic era, however, things went a little haywire this morning. Over the past few days, we’ve written about the easy sailing into the area surrounding the main Sala Grande, despite temperature checks — which really are speedy — and the lack of big crowds in general (as well as at the orderly new press conference system).
That changed this morning as I headed off to the 8:30AM screening of Pedro Almodovar’s short film (and his first in English), The Human Voice. I gave myself about 15 minutes to be safe, and based on the low traffic on Day 1, but I was shocked to see a line that looked to be about 100 meters long as festgoers waited (somewhat impatiently) for access to the main staging area. That was the so-called back entrance near the Albergo Quattro Fontane.
So, I swung a quick left and tried the main entrance on the Lungomare which runs along the beach. Things were no better there, but a woman was walking through the line taking temperatures, so the hold-up appeared to be the bag searches. The line back at the Quattro Fontane had seemed shorter, so I sped back.
I attempted to move to the front of the line, thinking perhaps my badge status (red, which is supposed to signify priority) might give me some kind of edge, but no.
So back to the back of the line as the clock now read 8:34AM. Fortunately for myself and a handful of others, a dapper Italian gentleman who appeared to be festival-related tipped us off to yet another entrance where there was positively no waiting. Figuring I’d give it a go and sneak into The Human Voice a couple of minutes late, I rode to the indicated spot and raced right through, stopping briefly for another temperature check and bag search.
In my experience, Venice is solid about starting screenings on time, but to my good fortune, and that of other latecomers, when we got to the Sala Darsena, the lights were still on even though it was now 8:40AM. On the other hand, Andreas, who rode out a few minutes earlier than I this morning, says his screening of Nicole Garcia’s Lovers was only about five minutes late. There were at least 20-30 folks caught in the queue snafu, and some who were seated were annoyed as the latecomers stumbled around looking for their spots.
While Andreas’ auditorium was at best 1/5 full even after the stragglers arrived, the Sala Darsena had a fair amount of seats filled. Numbers are still down overall, and the only press screening we’ve found difficult to book, so far, is Gia Coppola’s Horizons title Mainstream.
Either way, a word to the wise, if you’re here, avoid the main points of ingress in the mornings, and look for another option.
And, as one person who got stuck in the security lines this morning, I apologize if that caused a delay for others. Still, it’s a learning curve for the first major film event — and its attendees — in the pandemic era, and a lesson for others who will follow. We’ll see if checkpoints remain as crowded through today and the coming days, but we’ll also be getting up just that bit earlier, in case.
Andreas Wiseman contributed to this story