The Venice Film Festival is gearing up to take place as a full-fledged physical event in September with a back-to-normal atmosphere and what could be a high-profile selection of films.
While the Toronto Film Festival, which runs Sept. 9-18, is sticking with a combination of digital and in-person screenings, as is Sundance 2022, Venice’s upcoming Sept. 1-11 edition is on track, barring complications, to run as a completely in-person celebration of cinema with hundreds of journalists and dozens of film delegations expected to make the trek to the Lido from all over the world.
That’s the scenario the fest’s parent org, the Venice Biennale, is looking to pull off for its upcoming Architecture Biennale which has the timely theme of “How Will We Live Together?” and opens in Venice on May 22.
Delegations representing more than 100 Architecture Biennale projects are expected to soon arrive in Venice from 46 countries, along with more than 400 international journalists. They will follow prescribed safety protocols in compliance with Italian COVID-19 regulations, say organizers. The Veneto region is currently a lower-risk so-called “yellow zone” where bars and restaurants can stay open throughout the day, though only for outdoor consumption. Masks are still mandatory.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in an effort to relaunch tourism has announced plans for Italy in mid-May to introduce a “green pass” proving that the holder has either been vaccinated, has recovered from COVID, or has tested negative. Thanks to the expected boost in arrivals provided by the Architecture Biennale, there is now hope that 70% of Venice hotels will reopen by the end of May, the head of Venice hoteliers Claudio Scarpa recently told Italian news agency Adnkronos. Prospects are that by September Venice will be quite safe and easy to reach for vaccinated travelers from most countries.
Meanwhile early buzz on film titles going to Venice is starting to spread with Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” reboot (pictured) strongly tipped to launch from the Lido — though both Warner Bros., the pic’s distributor, and the fest did not respond to confirmation requests. Villeneuve was last in Venice with non conventional sci-fi pic “Arrival” in 2016.
Other pics that look Lido-bound include Paolo Sorrentino’s intimate and personal drama “The Hand of God,” which is a Netflix Italian original. Fellow Italian helmer Gabriele Mainetti’s genre bender “Freaks Out,” about four “freaks” who work in a circus and are left to their own devices when the Eternal City in 1943 is bombed by Allied Forces, has also been submitted and is considered a shoe-in.
As previously anticipated by Variety, French auteur Bruno Dumont’s “On a Half Clear Morning” (a.k.a. “France”), toplining Lea Seydoux as a celebrity journalist whose life is turned upside down by a freak car accident, and Xavier Giannoli’s “Lost Illusions,” an adaptation of the Honoré de Balzac classic serial novel, are also likely to be set for a Venice launch.
Venice last year was the only top-tier film fest to pull off a physical edition, albeit with less stars than usual and a smaller contingent of international guests and journalists in attendance.
Though thinner than other years on high-profile U.S. titles, the Lido’s 2020 edition launched Chloé Zhao’s triple Oscar winner “Nomadland,” bolstering Venice’s status a prime awards season kingmaker. Like last year, the festival holds special significance for Italy as a strong symbol of its post COVID restart. The Biennale was just included by the Italian government among the country’s key “cultural magnets” and as such will benefit from a €170 million ($205 million) windfall from the E.U.’s coronavirus recovery fund, destined for infrastructural improvements. So expect the fest’s Palazzo del Cinema and other venues to get an upgrade.
As previously announced, “Parasite” director Bong Joon-Ho will preside over the main Venice jury, while Italian actress Serena Rossi (“Love and Bullets,” “Diabolik”) will serve as master of ceremonies. Multiple Oscar winner Roberto Benigni (“Life is Beautiful”) will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Elsa Keslassy and Brent Lang contributed to this report.