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The Venice Film Festival is forging ahead with preparations for the September 2-12 event despite coronavirus concerns, and ruling out the possibility that the fest could go digital — at least not in its entirety.

“The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event,” a Venice spokesman told Variety on Monday. He added that “there is obviously the possibility that we use technology for some initiatives,” but noted that at present “it’s too early for this to be decided.”

The Venice spokesman was commenting on a brief interview given by Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera to Italian news agency ANSA over the weekend, in which Barbera said he is currently not weighing digital options.

Barbera was reacting in the interview to last week’s announcement by Toronto Film Festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey that they were “looking at both on-site and digital innovations” for that event, which is scheduled to run Sept. 10-20, due to “uncertainty about what ‘people coming together again’ will look like come September.”

“Toronto is a different type of festival, not comparable to Cannes or Venice,” Barbera told ANSA, adding that while he and his team “are working just the same as in past years,” at present, “we cannot provide specifics about the future,” besides the fact that Venice does not see scrapping the physical aspect of the event as a possibility.

Meanwhile, in a further indication that Venice is moving forward seemingly undeterred, at least until a clearer September scenario emerges, organizers on Monday announced the call for projects for its Final Cut in Venice co-production workshop dedicated to supporting works from the Middle East and Africa, currently scheduled to be held during the fest.

While Italy is currently in strict lockdown — with a coronavirus death toll of more than 15,000 that currently makes it the world’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 in Italy sooner than some other nations.

Last month, the fest’s parent organization, multi-disciplinary arts org. the Venice Biennale, headed by film producer and former Cinecittà studios chief Robert Cicutto, moved the opening date of its Architecture Biennale, which was originally set to open May 23, to August 29, due to coronavirus concerns.

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

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