Indeed, the organisers of the Venice Film Festival were equally reticent to modify their fare, with artistic director Alberto Barbera ruling out the possibility of a digital event early on and opting to postpone the festival to September instead. Conversely, comparatively young, edgy film festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) are exploring digital avenues, as well as tentatively retaining the possibility of an on-site iteration, which would take place in September. TIFF’s co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente seem to be amenable to the idea of a contactless approach, in lieu of high-risk fanfare, if things haven’t changed significantly by the time the festival is due to begin.
Organisers may need to consider the distinct possibility that something like a red carpet premiere will seem in bad taste, after the considerable devastation and loss of life the pandemic has occasioned. This spate of cancellations has more so compelled people to question whether or not the extravagant spectacle of the festival format is even strictly necessary anymore. As several commentators have pointed out, there is something a trifle unsavoury about debuting films that focus on justice, equality, and environmental issues, in a setting like Cannes, which is fundamentally both elitist and expensive, for all its splendour.
In spite of its disavowal of a virtual Cannes, the festival has announced it will also be participating in “We are One: A Global Film Festival” – a collaborative venture by YouTube and Tribeca Enterprises. “We are One” is a streaming festival, which will also feature entries from Sundance, Toronto, and Venice, as well as Tokyo, London, and Mumbai. Viewer donations will be donated to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 response fund.