How Safe Is the Venice Film Festival? Safe Enough, Say Organizers

How Safe Is the Venice Film Festival? Safe Enough, Say Organizers

September 5, 2020

Over the next few days some 350 international movie talents and industry executives will be disembarking on the Venice Lido, coming from all corners of the world, many from countries with high Covid-19 infection rates. 

Those expected to be soon strutting down Venice’s unique coronavirus-era catwalk, which is shielded by an outer barrier, include helmers Michel Franco from Mexico, Ann Hui from China, Majid Majidi from Iran as well as Chaitanya Tamhane from India, which is considered a hot-spot for the pandemic.

They will be traveling with certification that they were tested with a Covid-19 swab shortly before departure, and will do another swab upon arrival at Venice’s Marco Polo airport, courtesy of the Italian government. Then they will possibly do a third test, if staying longer than 5 days. 

Though Italy currently restricts travel from outside Europe, it makes allowances for work reasons, including attending a film festival.

So how safe is Venice, the first major film event to take place physically after the coronavirus crisis?

Days before the fest kicked off on Sept. 2 Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera tweeted that he considered it his duty to hold the event on the Lido. He was responding to local press questioning whether he should have skipped a year due to sanitary security concerns. “For us the answer is that it was our duty to go ahead and hold the festival,” he said. 

Of course there is the risk of an outbreak, but it’s a calculated risk.

Besides swabs for those arriving from areas particularly struck by infection, there are plenty of other security measures in place including thermoscanners at festival entrance points and pre-booked social-distanced seating in screening venues and at press conferences, where everyone must wear a mask at all times. There are sanitary gel dispensers pretty much everywhere, and the shielded catwalk will help avert the risk of frenzied fan gatherings, which Barbara says pose “the biggest risk” of a potential virus spread.

So what happens if there is a Covid-19 outbreak?

“In case someone is positive they will be of course be quarantined and since we are monitoring people’s movements, we will be able to track down and inform other people with whom they may have come into contact,” says Barbera.

“At that point, it’s up to Italian health authorities,” he adds.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said that Regina King would be attending the festival. She is not attending.

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