Film Festivals Go Digital

Film festivals around the world are taking their screenings and events online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the world’s biggest film festivals are being forced to screen official selections online due to health risks presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a look at how some of the most prestigious names in festival history are transforming their annual programming: 

Venice International Film Festival

We start off our list with a festival that has no public plans of cancelling their in-person 2020 celebration.

The Venice International Film Festival still lists the first week of September as their in-person event date, according to the festival’s website. This decision comes despite Italy’s coronavirus death toll being one of the highest in the world. 

Sundance Film Festival 

Sundance is hoping for the best — but planning for the worst.

For almost 40 years, Utah has been the home of one of the United States’ largest annual film festivals. Tabitha Jackson Director of the Sundance Film Festival released a statement today on the festival’s website dictating that the 2021 festival could span across multiple cities.

“The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be a grand partnership of communities,” Jackson wrote. “It will take place live in Utah and in at least 20 independent and community cinemas across the U.S. and beyond.”

Stretching the festival across multiple U.S. cities is not the only precaution the festival is planning to take. Festival attendees may also have the option to attend Sundance online, according to the festival’s website. 

Cannes Film Festival

Instead of delaying their festival, Cannes outright cancelled their screenings and events last spring.

The world-renowned festival initially postponed their festival, but was later cancelled. When asked about repurposing the festival for later in 2020 Thierry Frémaux, director of Cannes, said it was “hard to envisage”, according to a press release by Cannes.

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Similar to Sundance, TIFF is taking a multidimensional approach to their 2020 festival.

The Canadian festival, taking place throughout September, will be a mix of in-person screenings, virtual red carpets, industry forums and even drive-in events. 

“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head of TIFF, said in a statement on the festival’s website.

Tribeca Film Festival

Speaking of drive-ins — the Tribeca Film Festival is currently traveling across the country delivering drive-in movie experiences to a number of cities.

Tribeca’s new program arrives optimistically as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The festival’s website says programmers are on a mission to bring communities “back together safely”.  

The New York City based festival was one of the first in the world to feel the impacts of the coronavirus. Their original festival in April was forced online due to cases in NYC rising rapidly last spring.

Berlin International Film Festival

At the bottom of our list is the luckiest of them all — the Berlin International Film Festival was able to host their screenings and award show before coronavirus hit Europe intensely. 

The Berlin based festival can call itself lucky as they only needed to cancel two events: Berlinale Spotlight: Berlinale and Shorts in Berlin.


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