The 77th Venice Film Festival kicked off today amid a surreal sense of empty spaces, countered by the morale-boosting presence of Cate Blanchett, who during the opening press conference zeroed in on the milestone event’s crucial importance for the global film industry.
Blanchett, in fine fettle, praised organizers for their “inventiveness and resilience” in assembling the first major coronavirus-era physical fest, which she said seems “a miracolo” (Italian for miracle). “I’ve long been looking forward to this,” she added.
She noted that for Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera and his team “these months have been all about canvassing opinions, and the needs and expectations and desires of industry members, filmmakers, all around the world. Those who can be here and those who can’t,” she said.
The fest, which is the first major physical film event after the coronavirus crisis, is having a smaller edition this year, especially in terms of number of attendees, and is being held amid tight sanitary measures. That said, talents and execs are flying in from most parts of the world.
Blanchett pointed out that the film industry, “like all industries, has had some supremely challenging months” due to the pandemic, and will continue to do so, as it re-emerges. “But I think first and foremost I am here — and I say this for all creative members of the industry who are here — in support and solidarity with filmmakers who had to complete their films under very difficult circumstances.”
On a more frivolous note, Blanchett – who presides over the main Venice jury – said she was “very excited about having conversations with adults,” about the films, since “I’ve been talking to pigs and chickens for the last six months.”
Asked about her take on the state of the film industry in the wake of the pandemic, Blanchett noted that “we are coming from a mono-culture of streaming for the past six months.” “And so,” she added “can we reopen cinemas?” That, she noted, “seems a very important conversation to have.”
She went on to say the current restart “is a strong chance to robustly examine things that we haven’t been forced to examine.” A key one being “streaming technology and it’s implications on the cinema and where we view and the way we make it.”
Her comments about the superpower of streaming giants echoed statements made during a preceding presser by Barbera who noted that while Venice historically has a close rapport with Netflix, the quantum leap made by streamers during the pandemic poses issues “that are different from what we have been discussing these last years,” since “we risk having a reduction of the role of cinemas, which would be detrimental.”
Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux, who is attending Venice along with seven other prominent European festival directors in a show of solidarity, noted that movie theaters have been around for more than 100 years, while streaming platforms “have been around for about five years.”
“We’ll see if in 100 years we are celebrating the 105th anniversary of the platforms,” he quipped.