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The 77th Venice Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, with Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Matt Dillon, and France’s Ludivine Sagnier among international stars expected on the social-distanced red carpet that will open the first major post coronavirus physical film event packed with plenty of symbolic significance.

Just as the release of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster spy thriller “Tenet” is now considered a post-pandemic turning point for exhibitors, Venice is likely to go down in the annals as the pivotal restart moment for film festivals. 

Along with enough stars to keep the 120 accredited photographers happy enough, the fest’s opening ceremony will be attended by artistic directors of seven prominent European film events, including Cannes (Thierry Fremaux), Berlin (Carlo Chatrian) and Locarno (Lili Hinstin). As previously announced, these fest chiefs will be taking the stage to express solidarity toward other fests that have been cancelled or postponed and “especially to express our support for the industry and for filmmakers, talents, and exhibitors who have suffered the most,” Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera tells Variety.

Barbera says strict sanitary security measures are in place involving multiple swab tests for those arriving from outside Europe and also from some European countries, such as Spain. There are thermoscanners at festival entrance points and social-distanced seating in screening venues and at press conferences.

At the Venice airport there is a designated swab spot where Lido organizers are expecting some 350 festival attendees to be tested as they arrive over the next few days.

Barbera and his team have reinvented the red carpet for the age of coronavirus by erecting a wall-like outer barrier shielding the long catwalk entirely that has a dual function. It provides extra space for photographers and “also averts the risk of (fan) gatherings,” says Barbera, who notes that “the biggest risk” of a potential virus spread was definitely connected to the fan frenzy when talents do the red carpet.” So it will basically be a red carpet with no physical fan presence, though the ritual will be broadcast live and streamed on multiple outlets.

The fest’s out-of-competition opener is Italian director Daniele Luchetti’s anatomy of a marriage drama “Lacci” (“The Ties”), marking the first time an Italian film has opened Venice since Giuseppe Tornatore’s Sicilian epic “Baaria” in 2009.

Italian cinema features prominently, but there is no shortage of hotly anticipated titles from around the world, including new works from Hungary’s Kornel Mundruczo (“Pieces of a Woman”); and Norwegian-American indie talent Mona Fastvold (“The World to Come”). They are among talents expected on the Lido, as is “The Crown” star Vanessa Kirby who stars in both films.

Mexican auteur Michel Franco (“Nuevo Orden”) is also expected in Venice, along with Pedro Almodovar, who will present his half-hour Jean Cocteau adaptation “The Human Voice,” starring Swinton.

And Gia Coppola is expected to be arriving from the U.S. to launch her satiric romancer “Mainstream” (screening in the Horizons sidebar), though protag Andrew Garfield is not. Regina King is also planning to fly from the U.S. to present her directorial debut “One Night in Miami,” according to organizers.

The festival’s most-anticipated U.S. title is “Nomadland,” directed by Chinese-born Chloe Zhao, starring Frances McDormand, which will screen at Venice and Toronto simultaneously on Sept. 11, in both cases preceded by virtual introductions. 

It’s another sign of this year’s solidarity among the world’s top film festivals, as Venice spearheads the circuit’s restart.