Venice film festival 2020 roundup – against all the odds, a triumph

At a safe, relaxed festival where big Hollywood films were absent, the hot ticket was a Pedro Almodóvar short – but who will most impress Cate Blanchett’s Golden Lion jury?

In any normal year this might have seemed a pretty decent Venice. But in 2020, the fact that the Venice film festival happened at all seems nothing less than miraculous. Until the last minute, many wondered whether things would go ahead, but they did – and far more than just adequately. The idea of a major film festival happening live seemed almost unimaginable in the time of Covid-19, but while many festivals went strictly online, and Cannes was cancelled altogether, the Venice team managed to attract an audience to the Lido with a varied and impressive slate of films.

True, there were no A-list American movies at an event that has thrived on them of late, notably sparking an international controversy with last year’s winner, Joker. The big studio films weren’t here; neither were the Americans in general, for travel reasons. Asian visitors were also conspicuous by their scarcity. But overall, the absence of Hollywood made this year’s Mostra a film festival of the traditional sort: a taster menu of world cinema at its most diverse. And the best films were a pleasure to watch under well-organised, efficient conditions that made visitors feel safe and relaxed: masks worn in screenings and within the Casino compound, with only alternate seats in use. Press passes were reduced by a third, so that some usually crowded venues felt eerily desolate. But then, it was also easier than ever to get an espresso.

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