'We have saved the heart': Venice to host first film festival of COVID era

·2 min read

MILAN (Reuters) - Fewer A-list stars will stumble out of parties along the lagoon to be snapped by paparazzi in boats. But organisers of this year's Venice film festival are promising plenty of movies -- on actual screens in front of actual audiences -- for the first time since the worldwide pandemic shut showbiz.

More than 50 countries will participate in what aims to be the first major in-person film festival of the COVID era, from Sept. 2-12.

"We have saved the heart of the festival," said festival director Alberto Barbera, who presented the line-up at a livestreamed press conference.

Temperatures will be checked, every second seat in the cinemas will be left empty, and even accredited film critics will have to reserve their seats in advance. The number of films has been reduced, Barbera said, but "not by much".

The main competition lineup for the Golden Lion award for best film will include 18 titles, compared to 21 last year. Just two are U.S. studio productions: "Nomadland", a road drama by U.S.-based Chinese director Chloe Zhao starring Frances McDormand, and "The World To Come", with Casey Affleck.

They will compete against works by Israel's Amos Gitai and Russia's Andrei Konchalovsky, and four Italian films, including Gianfranco Rosi's "Notturno", about the Syrian conflict.

Titles screening out of competition include "The Duke", a crime comedy from Notting Hill director Roger Michell starring Helen Mirren, and "Greta", a documentary portrait of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

"We are not proud to be the first ones. We would have wanted all festivals to take place and this situation not to have happened," said Roberto Cicutto, chairman of the Biennale foundation which hosts the festival. "But we are pleased with what we have managed to organise."

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Peter Graff)