Venice Film Festival Chief Alberto Barbera On Hollywood’s Lido Return, Oscar Prospects & New Covid Protocols

Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera was feeling upbeat when we caught up with him this evening following today’s reveal of a tantalizing lineup for the 78th edition. Notably, after largely sitting out last year, the studios are back with titles from Universal, Warner Bros and Disney (via 20th Century) as is Netflix, and Barbera said they were all enthusiastic about returning to the Lido. He also expects many more people than last year and “a lot of guests and talent from the U.S.”

That’s not to say 2020 was lacking in quality or excitement. Venice last year was the first international gathering for the industry since the beginning of the pandemic, and it set a high bar for how to organize a festival during a global health crisis. It also introduced the world to Chloe Zhao’s eventual Best Picture Oscar winner, Nomadland. Over the past decade, Venice has hosted the launches of such awards magnets as Joker, A Star Is Born, Marriage Story, The Shape Of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Favourite, Roma, La La Land, Arrival, Spotlight, Birdman and Gravity among others.

When I asked Barbera if he had another Best Picture in the mix this year, he laughed and said, “It’s difficult to predict,” before adding, “I think we’ll see someone go from the red carpet in Venice to the Oscar red carpet next March.”

Were there any films Barbera didn’t nab that he’d have liked to have in the lineup? “Like every year, there is something you can’t get because it’s not ready in time or it’s postponed. My main regret is Guillermo del Toro (with Nightmare Alley). He really wanted to be on time for Venice” where Shape Of Water debuted in 2017.

What has materialized is an official selection that includes the world premieres of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog, Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho, Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature directing debut The Lost Daughter, as well as the previously announced Dune from Denis Villeneuve, David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills and Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers.

Another hope, however, had been that Covid protocols could be somewhat relaxed, but that’s not going to be possible. Italy still has a 50% capacity cap on its cinemas and Venice will again respect socially-distanced seating. The org is maintaining reserved seating which was implemented last year and proved highly efficient. The opening night dinner will not take place for the second year in a row.

Rather than temperature checks that were ubiquitous in 2020, Venice 78 will require a so-called “Green Pass” which displays proof of vaccination, or a negative test result within 48 hours, for access to screenings.

In a welcome sign of efficiency, festival guests will have their Green Pass (essentially the equivalent of the EU Digital Covid Certificate or a similar version issued by non-EU countries) registered the first time it is used to access one of the cinemas. This will elimiate holding up lines as people fumble with their phones or pieces of paper to show the necessary QR code each time. Instead, once registered, it will be recognized the next time a festgoer’s badge is scanned. Likewise, negative tests will be registered in the overall system.

Swab testing (ie not the saliva sample that Cannes ran with) will be available for free in several spots, Barbera said.

The situation for visitors from the UK remains somewhat fluid with a five-day quarantine period the current requirement. However, with proof of a need to enter Italy for work purposes, self-isolation will not be necessary as long as the stay is for no more than five days. Barbera said the situation could evolve in the coming weeks and that festgoers will be kept informed of any changes.

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