Hosting a Film Festival during a Global Pandemic

The opening night of the Venice Film Festival highlighted the importance of Cinema in our lives.

It was early May when La Biennale stated that, despite the global pandemic, this year’s Venice Film Festival would still go ahead. At a time when other cultural events had been cancelled or postponed, theatres worldwide struggled not to collapse and cinemas were shut, this kind of optimism felt somehow out of place.  

Venice had already suffered enormously when, in November 2019, a massive flood caused permanent damages. Then, the pandemic exploded. There seemed to be no escape from the state of desolation that had invested the city. Venice needed to reborn; it needed its film festival.

I admit I had my share of doubts towards this concept, which showed no solidarity for other cultural institutions on the brink of catastrophe. Yet, while watching the festival opening ceremony on my TV screen, I came to understand that holding such an event during a global pandemic isn’t an act of stubbornness, but one of resilience; and that’s the quality I’ve always admired the most in the human spirit.

A quality I grasped the meaning of while watching End Game by Samuel Beckett just before the virus forced theatres to close. The beauty of the work – and according to theatre critic Michael Billington of the entire Beckett’s vision – lies in the idea that despite the terrible conditions we have to face on earth, a will to go on is instilled in everyone; it’s what makes us humans.

Alongside resilience, another quality works as a means to escape apocalyptic scenarios: the very human need to search for wonder. It’s the necessity to find something that could erase, even if temporarily, the horrors of WW2, that drove thousands of British citizens to the Van Gogh Exhibition at Tate Britain in 1947.

It’s the same feeling that inspired Bob Dylan to write Murder Most Foul, where the songwriter juxtaposes a list of songs and works of art to the tragic assassination of President Kennedy. On the track, Dylan underlines that even when enclosed by inescapable darkness, we can still create or seek beauty.

Seeing jury president Cate Blanchett, actress Tilda Swinton and other guests wearing face coverings during the opening night of the Venice Film Festival depicted an image so absurd that even Beckett would have struggled to conceive. Still, it had an untamable power. As this mysterious journey called life grows ever more unexplainable, we live comforted by what we hold dear. For many, that’s CINEMA.