March 01, 2021
The global pandemic has had a huge impact on film festivals worldwide. But are there reasons to be optimistic?
Sacrificing the communal thrill: film festivals adapt to a virtual age
In any other year, the first night of the Berlin film festival would see crowds packing into the Berlinale Palast, the giant cinema off the Potsdamer Platz that acts as the festival’s main hub. But like every other film festival, Berlin has been forced to completely rethink itself in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The major festivals have taken different approaches. Sundance and Toronto opted to move most of their activity online – albeit with limited “in-person” screenings – staging digital premieres and events. Cannes, with its commitment to the cinema experience, decided to cancel rather than stream its films, and has pushed its next edition to a more audience-friendly summer time-slot. Berlin has chosen a middle way: this week sees a “virtual” event for press and industry representatives, featuring digital screenings of its selected films, followed by a “physical” event in June, Covid restrictions permitting.
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