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Venice Film Festival To Return Amid The Pandemic


Get your popcorn out. Just maybe don't share. The Venice Film Festival is the first of its kind to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. Other major film festivals have gone virtual or been canceled altogether. But Venice is about to kick off in person, albeit with a bunch of precautionary measures. Joining us now is Andreas Wiseman of Deadline. He touched down in Venice over the weekend to report on everything unfolding there.

Hey, there. Welcome.

ANDREAS WISEMAN: Good afternoon.

KELLY: So the festival officially starts tomorrow. Tell me what you've noticed so far. I'm just curious how it's unfolding, this typically very glamorous, Bellini-soaked, red-carpet event. Is any of that in evidence this year?

WISEMAN: Venice will always retain a certain amount of glamour because of its venue. It's such a special place. But it's without question an altered festival, a slimmed-back festival in terms of its star power this year with far fewer studios - essentially, American Hollywood studios - sending over their movies due to the coronavirus pandemic. So Venice is having to adapt. And it's a very international lineup this year - very global, a little more independent. And there are protocols in place. I just walked down by the red carpet, and the red carpet has a two-meter wall blocking people from being able to gather and autograph-hunt and look at their favorite actors walking the red carpet.

KELLY: I hadn't even thought about the autograph signing. That's going to be really difficult to do if you're trying to keep 6 feet apart. What else are you noticing, masks everywhere?

WISEMAN: So plenty of masks, as you would expect; social distancing in the cinemas themselves - in the theaters - is probably the biggest difference we'll all notice. But to be honest, other than a couple of very notable things like that, it really is the world as we know it now in this COVID context - masks, gel, distancing where you can. And people are trying to make the best of it.

KELLY: It makes you wonder how Venice has pulled this off when other big film festivals, as we noted, have been canceled altogether or have been only virtual, remote, over Zoom. It must be a funny thing. But I imagine studios and the whole industry is looking to Venice before you've even really kicked off there to say, hey, you know, have they figured this out? Might there be a way forward for the rest of us?

WISEMAN: I think they are. We have Toronto just around the corner. Of course, Sundance takes place early next year. Both those events are going to be hybrid events, online and physical. Venice is really the first and only this year - only major festival that is really taking the plunge in terms of a physical event. And I think, you know, depending on who you speak to, I think some may say it's a little crazy. But I think a lot of people also are sympathetic and want to get this industry back on its feet. And I think you need to look at the very surprisingly strong numbers for the movie "Tenet," Christopher Nolan's movie which just opened, to show that actually there does seem to be an appetite among audiences to get back into theaters.

KELLY: Do you feel safe being there to report on this?

WISEMAN: In general, I feel largely fine here. But when you are in confined spaces, that is when things start to get a little more anxious-making. So of course the flight over here from London was a little strange. And I'm sure when I'm sitting in a busy auditorium tomorrow for the first press screening in the morning with many other journalists from all over the world, that is when I will feel a little anxious about it.

KELLY: Andreas Wiseman, thank you. Stay safe. Have fun.

WISEMAN: Thank you so much for your time.

KELLY: Andreas Wiseman writes for Deadline, giving us a preview there of the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off in-person - not over Zoom - tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.