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Venice Chief Alberto Barbera Details ‘Experimental’ Edition, Cannes Solidarity

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Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera is beginning to zero in on the event’s upcoming edition in September, which will necessarily be “experimental,” with far fewer U.S. talent on the red carpet and a greater European presence.

Speaking Tuesday to Italian news agency ANSA — which has become the fest’s unofficial communication tool during the pandemic — Barbera also did not rule out the possibility of “a real collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival.” His comments come a day after Venice Biennale director Roberto Cicutto called Cannes director Thierry Fremaux’s indecision around the French event “disconcerting” in an interview on Monday.

A Venice spokesman tells Variety there is currently nothing concrete on the table between the two festivals.

However, Barbera said a collaboration would be “a form of solidarity towards the (global) film community that is undergoing an unprecedented tough time” and specified that “it would transcend” any form of competition between Venice and Cannes.

Barbera reiterated that organizers are determined for Venice’s 77th edition to take place as a physical event September 2-12 on the Lido, albeit with a strong digital component.

The 77th edition will “necessarily be experimental,” Barbera told ANSA, “with use of surgical masks and social distancing.” There will certainly be less spectators in the fest’s venues and “probably less accredited attendees,” he conceded.

“It’s clear that many films — especially international ones — will not come accompanied by talent who won’t be willing, or able, to come,” Barbera said, noting that online press conferences as well as screenings will be set up to launch these titles.

Barbera in the ANSA interview went on to underline that there will, however, be “advantages” for journalists and festgoers who make the trek to Italy: red carpets, one-on-one interviews and the fest’s “irreplaceable” atmosphere.

Asked whether Venice’s upcoming edition would have a more Italian accent than usual, Barbera admitted that domestic titles will be given an advantage because it will be easier for talent to attend. However, he added that he was “not pessimistic” about the prospect that lots of “European talent” will be present.

While Italy is currently in strict lockdown — with a coronavirus death toll of more than 24,000, making it Europe’s hardest hit country by the pandemic — new infections are believed to have plateaued and, somewhat similarly to China, the hope is that the crisis will subside sooner than some other nations.

Venice, which is considered the world’s oldest film festival, in January announced that Cate Blanchett would preside over its 77th edition.