Venedig is not the first film festival to take place this year despite the ongoing pandemic, but the Lido is setting clear signals when it comes to safety in and around the cinema. Where in early summer in Cannes you could still see people jostling in front of film premieres to get a glimpse of the stars, on this Wednesday evening in Venice you walk past high walls that block the view of the red carpet in front of the festival palace. Festival director Alberto Barbera wants to bring people back to the cinema, but not at the price of not keeping a distance in front of the cinema.
There was still a red carpet, but only the photographers of the international press – and of course the film crews – were allowed on it. That evening it was the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar who opened the festival with his film “Madres Paralelas”. Penélope Cruz, who plays one of the leading roles of an expectant mother, had also traveled. She beamed on the red carpet as if she had actually just been waiting for this gig during numerous lockdowns, so her outfit turned out too: a floor-length, midnight blue creation with bows and white ruffle accents, plus burgundy lips and lots of kohl – understandable, because who would After the long break, don’t turn up the drama a bit when you can show your latest work in front of an audience again?
The New Zealand director Jane Campion, who is allowed to present her drama “The Power of the Dog” with Benedict Cumberbatch in the leading role in the festival competition, wore a black robe with kimono sleeves to the opening gala. It was covered with glittering leaves reminiscent of the fronds of that (then golden) palm that this director was awarded for “The Piano” at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, mind you, she was the first woman to receive this award at the time.
In Venice, the highest trophy of the festival has the shape of the heraldic animal of the lagoon city. On the opening evening, the first of these Golden Lions will be awarded for the life’s work of a filmmaker. The award went to the Italian actor and comedian Roberto Benigni, who during the award ceremony couldn’t fail to playfully throw his lion into the air – we hope the trophy animal will survive with him for a while.
The South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who chairs the festival jury this year, also emphasized that the pandemic was unable to defeat the desire for cinema, neither among the filmmakers nor the audience. “When you look back on the time now, it feels like a test and it shows the power of cinema,” said Bong.
This year the festival has 21 films competing against each other – and even if the fans are not allowed to cheer for their stars on the red carpet, they all have the opportunity to do so on the screen.