Italy’s Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival – which has long seen thousands of heritage film lovers and distributors flock to the city of Bologna in summer – officially kicked off Tuesday with a freshly restored version of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Cronaca di un amore” (pictured). It’s an emblematic opener in various ways. The now freshly restored pic stars late great Italian actor Lucia Bosé who died last March, having contracted coronavirus. Antonioni’s 1950 drama is also among titles in the Venice Film Festival’s Venice Classics section, which has migrated to Bologna this year due to the impact of Covid-19 constraints on Lido screening space.

Variety spoke to Il Cinema Ritrovato chief Gian Luca Farinelli, who also heads the Bologna Film Archives and its globally renown film restoration lab, about this year’s collaboration with Venice and Cannes. Excerpts from the conversation.

How did it happen that you and Venice chief Alberto Barbera decided to move Venice Classics to Bologna? 

The collaboration with Venice was a natural, in that Cinema Ritrovato has always hosted restored classics from all over the world. When it became clear that it would have been tough for Venice to have the same number of sections due to a shortage of screen space (caused by the coronavirus crisis) Alberto and I talked. Bologna of course is ideal in terms of its audience. It was all quite simple.

This seems to be a year of collaboration all the way around for Bologna.

Yes. We also have seven Cannes Label movies, five of which are Cannes Classics. One is a documentary, “Fellini of the Spirits” by Anselma Dell’Olio. And then there is a fiction feature film, Jonathan Nossiter’s “Last Words,” (having it’s world premiere, presented by Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux), which is our closer.

What’s the situation in terms of foreign guests?

We currently have roughly 1,800 accredited attendees, including a robust European contingent from various countries. On Monday evening, as a pre-opening event, we had (Gaumont President) Nicolas Seydoux presenting Claude Autant-Lara’s “La traversée de Paris.” For the closer “Last Words” we will have Jonathan Nossiter, Stellan Skarsgard and Charlotte Rampling on hand.

Last year we had a total 130,000 spectators and lots of big name guests. It’s clear that this year we can’t compete with that. It’s our 34th edition, but I feel like we are starting from scratch because people haven’t been going to the movies for months. So it’s a new life; an attempt to prove that even with Covid-19 cinema and culture have a right to co-exist. That said, the program is top notch and on a par with past editions.

Talk to me about the Venice Classics lineup.

I would certainly single out “Serpico,” an extraordinary film the restoration of which is long overdue. It’s a StudioCanal title. A very timely movie, being the first film that shows that there are bad guys even in the police force, so it’s particularly relevant these days (in the wake of the George Floyd murder) and one of the great movies from the 1970s that was still languishing unrestored. It’s certainly one of the strong titles of the Venice selection.

But there are also some great classics like (Jean-Pierre) Melville’s “Le Cercle Rouge” (also a StudioCanal film), which we will show in tandem with a beautiful doc (“Melville: Le dernier Samourai,” directed by Cyril Leuthy). So that’s an important page of French film history.

Then I must say I am very proud of the restoration we did of Antonioni’s “Cronaca di un Amore.” Besides being a great film, it marks the first major role for the great Lucia Bosé, the first big star to die of coronavirus. We are screening that the first day in remembrance of the many victims of Covid-19. Then there are titles that might seem less flashy, such as John Berry’s “Claudine,” which is a great Blaxploitation title with a fabulous Curtis Mayfield soundtrack. I think it will be the most important discovery in the section.